How to Settle a Crying Baby: A Cheat Sheet for New Parents

When you become a parent for the first time, hearing your crying baby can be very distressing. But by observing your baby, you will soon be able to learn what they are trying to tell you and will quickly develop settling techniques to turn your crying baby into a settled one.

Discomfort is expressed by loud and rhythmic whiny sobbing that doesn’t usually stop once you have picked up your baby up. Settling techniques you can try to stop cries of discomfort include offering food or drink, checking baby’s nappy, checking to see if he is too hot or cold and burping him – basically, find the source of discomfort and eliminate it

Pain can be easily distinguished from other baby cries because it involves a very sudden, loud cry of shock or surprise, followed by a period of loud, urgent wailing. These cries can be stopped with cuddles or distraction.  If this fails to work and the cries begin to escalate, it could be an indication of more serious illness or injury. Common ailments contributing to a crying baby include teething, colic and the common cold.

Tiredness involves soft, low, intermittent cries as your baby tries to settle himself to sleep. An overtired crying baby will protest as they try to fight off sleep, usually getting increasingly louder before a complete silence falls as they crash into a deep asleep. The issue of settling techniques for tired babies is a contentious one – you can rock them to sleep, let them cry themselves to sleep or anything in between.

Boredom and loneliness cries sound whiny. It may sound like they are fake-crying, because in a way they are: they are trying to attract your attention to stimulate them in some way. As such, these cries can be stopped with play or cuddles.

Once you have eliminated all of the common causes for crying listed above and you still have a crying baby on your hands, its time to try some of these other settling techniques:

  • Swaddling
  • Wear your baby in a sling or carrier so they feel close to you. Your warmth and heartbeat might be enough to settle a crying baby
  • Change positions, especially after feeding eg place them on their side or tummy; put them down if you are holding them.
  • Noise – talking or singing, music, the sound of a vacuum cleaner or washing machine.
  • Movement – go for a drive, take them for a walk or place them in a baby rocker.
  • Remove anything from their environment which may be overwhelming or over-stimulating them.
  • Sucking – offer a pacifier, the breast or their own fingers.
  • Just sit with them until they stop crying – this way they still know that you are there but they will learn to settle themselves.

If you have exhausted these settling techniques and your crying baby has left you feeling overwhelmed, put them down in a safe place and step back a little until you gather yourself by taking deep, even, calming breaths. One reason you might find it difficult to stop your baby crying is that they might be picking-up on how stressed or anxious you are.

One important point you should always remember, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and you still have a crying baby on your hands, you should consider seeking medical advice.  Any medical professional would rather see a noisy, crying baby and give them a clean bill of health than wait until things have got out of hand.