How to Calm a Crying Baby

Contributed by Lori Strong, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

Newborns cry a lot! In the first three months of life, some babies appear to cry for no reason at all, and it seems that there's nothing you can do but let them cry. We often refer to these babies as "colicky," and parents are told that their child will just grow out of it.

But, you can help your baby when they are crying by following "The Five S's" from The Happiest Baby on the Block. These techniques can be done by anyone - and dads are especially good at doing them!

First, go over the usual checklist...

  • Is the baby hungry, sleepy, or wet?
  • Is he too cold or too hot?
  • Does he need to be burped?
  • Are the baby's clothes too tight or uncomfortable in some way?

If not, try The Five S's

  • Side/Stomach Position: A holding position that helps to trigger the calming reflex. Try holding your baby in a reverse-breastfeeding position (baby's face is away from the chest) or in a "football hold" (baby on the side and your arms underneath... dads are great at this position!) Always put your baby down on their back to sleep.
  • Shushing: White noise, or a low hiss in the background, imitates the constant noises heard in the womb. Match the level of the white noise and shushing to the level of your child's cry. Or try singing softly, gentle talking or quiet music.
  • Swinging: Short, gentle motions can help calm your baby. Try sitting in a rocking chair or standing and swaying slowly. If using a baby swing-set, turn the speed to a higher setting and then lower it once your child's crying has subsided. Sometimes even putting the baby in a carseat and going for a short drive may help.
  • Swaddling: Gets your baby's attention so that you can help suppress the "moro reflex," which is when arms jolt in the air. Dads are fantastic swaddlers!
  • Sucking: Pacifiers and breastfeeding are great ways to calm a baby, but try the other S's first.

If you find yourself getting frustrated when your child is crying...

Get help from a friend or family member or put your baby in their crib (on their back) and take a brief break - wash your face, get a drink of water, take deep breaths - then come back and try again. Never shake or hit your child.

Lori Strong

What if the crying goes on for hours?

Call your pediatrician. Sometimes babies cry for long periods of time for no reason, but do make sure that your child is not sick or injured.

For More Information

Download and print Fussy Baby, a colorful tip sheet from our Parent Resource Library.

About the Expert: Lori Strong is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Certified Happiest Baby Educator. She works with families in Texas and around the country to teach them about sleep and to help children and their parents get the sleep they deserve. For more about her work, visit the Strong Little Sleepers website.