Soothing your crying baby

All babies cry and some cry more than others. Babies cry when they're hungry, bored, scared, need a diaper change or want to be held. Sometimes, they may cry for no reason. And sometimes they may cry because they don't feel well. Crying is one of the few ways your baby can communicate with you.

If your baby cries often, it doesn't mean you're a bad parent. It can be very frustrating when your baby keeps crying even after your best efforts to make him feel better. But as you get to know your baby, you'll learn how much crying is normal for him and what you can do to soothe him.

How can you soothe your baby when she cries?

It's important to respond quickly when your baby cries during the first few months of life. Don't worry about spoiling your newborn baby. If you respond quickly to your baby's cries, she may cry less overall.

If your baby cries, try the following:

  • Check to make sure he isn't hungry.
  • Check to make sure he has a clean diaper. If not, change it.
  • Look for signs of illness or pain. Check if he has a fever over 100.4 degrees, swollen gums or an ear infection.
  • Rock the baby or walk with him.
  • Sing or talk to the baby.
  • Offer him a pacifier or a toy.
  • Take him for a ride in a stroller.
  • Take him for a ride in the car. Be sure baby is secured in the car seat.
  • Swaddle the baby by wrapping her snugly in a receiving blanket.
  • Play soft music or turn on TV. Be sure the sound is low and soothing.
  • Run the vacuum cleaner, put on the clothes dryer or run water in the bathtub or sink. Some babies like these rhythmic noises.
  • Hold the baby close to your body. Breathe calmly and slowly.
  • If nothing else works, put the baby in his crib on his back, close the door and check on him in 10 minutes.

If your baby cries longer than usual and nothing you do soothes him, call your baby's health care provider to see if there is a medical reason or if he's sick. If he pulls up his legs or passes gas often, he may have colic (intense crying for more than 3 hours a day).

And remember, NEVER shake your baby. If you begin to feel very frustrated, call a friend or relative for help. Not only does this give you a break, but having a new face can sometimes calm your baby.

Do premature or NICU babies cry more often?

Some studies show that premature babies are more likely to be fussy than babies who are born full term. They may be harder to soothe, cry often, and have trouble eating and sleeping. If your baby is fussy, it may be comforting to know that you are not alone. Your baby will soon outgrow this difficult phase.

Some babies who have been in the NICU have trouble getting used to the quiet of home. Your baby may sleep better with some background music or a low level of noise.

Last reviewed September 2012

 

Most common questions

How can I soothe my baby if she has colic?

About 1 in 5 babies develops colic - usually between 1 and 4 months of age. They cry constantly, often extending or pulling up their legs or passing gas. Sometimes their tummies are enlarged with air and gas from crying. There's no one cause of colic, but there are many different ways to ease your baby's discomfort. One way is to walk her in a soft-sided baby carrier that you strap to the front of your body. You can also try laying her tummy-down across your knees and gently rubbing her back. The pressure against her tummy may relieve her discomfort. Breastfeeding moms can ask their baby's health care providers about a change in food choices or eliminating specific foods that may cause your baby's colic. Keep in mind that colic usually disappears by 4 months of age, no matter what treatments you try.


How should I take my baby’s temperature?

If your child is younger than 3 years, taking a rectal temperature gives the best reading. Here's how:

  • Clean the end of a digital thermometer with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Rinse it with cool water.
  • Put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the end.
  • Place your child belly down across your lap or on a firm surface. Put your palm against his lower back, just above his bottom. Or place your child face up and bend his legs to his chest. Rest your free hand against the back of the thighs.
  • With the other hand, turn the thermometer on and insert it 1/2 inch to 1 inch into the anal opening. Don’t insert it too far. Hold the thermometer in place loosely with two fingers, keeping your hand cupped around your child's bottom, until you hear the beep. Remove it and check reading.

What do I do if my baby is constipated?

Your baby's bowel moments depend on her age and eating habits. Every baby is different. Some babies have a bowel movement right after each feeding. Others have it only once a day. It also is normal that a breastfed baby (3 to 6 weeks of age) passes stools only once a week. Formula fed babies should pass stools at least once a day. If your baby is having irregular bowel movements but her stools are soft (no firmer than peanut butter), this isn't a sign of constipation. But if your baby's stools are firm, she seems fussy or cries when having a bowel movement, she might be constipated. Talk to your baby's health care provider.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).