4 Tips on How to Calm a Crying Baby

Tania K. Cowling
March 9, 2015

Trying to calm a crying baby can be overwhelming, but with a few simple tricks you can soothe your baby fast.

Your baby was crying all night. It's the third night in a row of no sleep, and you're at a loss. Yes, she's communicating with you, but what does she need? Learning how to calm a crying baby takes patience and practice, but it's an art form you'll definitely want to master -- and quick! Dr. Ian Shtulman from the Academy of Family Practice says babies generally cry because something is causing them discomfort. It sounds cliche, but babies usually cry because they are "hungry, overtired, need a diaper change or something is bothering them," he says.

The next time your little one starts to fuss, follow these four tips to calm her cries:

  1. Recreate a Familiar Environment
    Every sight and sound is new to your baby, so try to create a familiar, comfortable setting that reminds her of being in the womb. Rocking and shushing sounds can help calm many babies, and swaddling her with a blanket may quiet her wailing. "Those are sensations babies are used to from being in the womb," explains Dr. Shtulman. "The deep pressure from a swaddle helps calm the nervous system and recreates the feeling of restriction inside the womb. The subtle rocking, swinging or bouncing recreates the sensation of being inside Mom as she moves around. The shushing, or white noise, recreates the sound from mom's blood vessels."
  2. Schedule Feedings
    Your baby may cry when she is hungry. Feeding your baby isn't an exact science, though, and no two babies feed exactly the same. Angela England, an author, childbirth educator, doula and mother of five, says to let your baby take the lead. "When my oldest was born, he easily adapted to his two-and-a-half hour nursing routine, went to sleep and woke up as cheerful as a Gerber baby," she says. "I thought I had parenting figured out -- no problem! When my second baby came, I had a colicky, fussy, very loud cluster feeder."

    Keeping a daily journal makes scheduling meals easy to remember and provides a nice diary of habits and memorable moments to look back on. You can even download a number of apps to track feedings -- that way your information is just a tap away! As time goes on, you will eventually learn your baby's personality and rhythms and trust yourself to try new things. It will take time, but it will happen.
  3. Soothe With Sounds and Smells
    If your baby cries in the crib, pick her up and try singing some gentle, rhythmic tunes to calm her. England says she sang to all her children. "It's very simple to transform a nursery rhyme or children's song and make words relevant to your child and family. Rocking your baby while humming a slow, repetitive song regulates your breathing and creates a soothing, hypnotic effect for the baby."

    You can also try aromatherapy to soothe your baby. Dr. Bella Lauren Cini, doctor of oriental medicine, midwife and massage therapist, says, "I like essential oils of lavender, wild orange and chamomile, placed in a diffuser to inhale." She also suggests rubbing a tiny amount (just a few drops) on baby's spine or the bottom of her feet. Of course, ask your pediatrician before putting any oils directly onto your baby's skin.

    And here's How to Soothe a Crying Baby With Toys and Gadgets.
  4. Nurture Your Bond With Baby
    When learning how to calm a crying baby, consider activities such as reading a book, playing a game or even showing your baby her reflection in a mirror. Spending time bonding with your baby is important, and believe it or not, you'll treasure the memories in years to come. A great way to calm your crying baby while also bonding with her is to give her a warm bath and light massage. "Touch is incredibly important for parent-baby bonding, as well as the feelings of safety and comfort in the newborn," says Dr. Shtulman. "Deep touch pressure, which babies experience in a tight swaddle, helps lower stress levels."

Tania K. Cowling is an author and freelance writer with a background in early childhood education and parenting.

* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither Care.com nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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