Children's Hospital Colorado

Calming Techniques for a Crying Baby

How to calm a crying baby

Check physical needs first:

  • Is the baby hungry or thirsty?
  • Does he/she need to be burped?
  • Is it too hot or cold?
  • Is their diaper dirty?

Once you've made sure they are comfortable for all of the above, check for signs of illness or fever. If you think the baby may be sick, seek medical attention immediately. If you do not have a primary care provider or they are unavailable, call our ParentSmart Healthline to speak with pediatric registered nurses 24/7. They are available at 720-777-0123.

The Fussy Baby team is also available to talk by phone via our "Warmline" to listen and provide support and resources. Call the Fussy Baby Network at 1-877-627-9227 (877-6-CRYCARE).

If your baby is healthy

If your baby isn't experiencing any physical needs, try one of these tips to calm your crying baby:

  1. Rock the baby, hold the baby close or walk with the baby. 
  2. Stand up, hold the baby close and repeatedly bend your knees. 
  3. Sing or talk to the baby in a soothing voice. 
  4. Gently rub or stroke the baby's back, chest or tummy. 
  5. Offer a pacifier or try to distract the baby with a rattle or toy. 
  6. Swaddle the baby with a soft blanket. 
  7. Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or in a car seat in the car. 
  8. Turn on some music or noise, such as a vacuum cleaner or clothes dryer.

Try each of the above for a few minutes before trying something else, or try a few together.

If nothing works, it is okay to leave the baby in a safe place like a crib or infant seat and take time to calm yourself down. Leave the room. Shut the door. Take a few deep breaths. Call a friend or family member.

Crying can be frustrating

Caring for a baby is hard work and that little baby may cry more than you ever expected. You should always respond when your baby cries. But sometimes, no matter what you try, you might not be able to stop the crying. If you're feeling overwhelmed and your baby won't stop crying, remember:

  • All babies cry — it's how they communicate, and your baby may cry a lot.
  • Babies start to cry more frequently around 2 weeks of age.
  • Crying increases and peaks in the second month of life, but can increase until your baby is 4-5 months old.
  • Babies often cry more in the evenings.
  • Crying can last 30-40 minutes and even longer. Infants may spend up to 4-5 hours a day crying, even for healthy, normal babies.
  • Babies often cry intensely when they are not in pain, even though they may look like they are in pain.
  • Sometimes your baby may need to cry to relieve stress, and it's okay to let him or her cry.
  • Crying may come and go, and you won't know why.
  • Crying may not stop for an extended period of time, no matter what you try.
  • The crying will eventually stop.

It is normal for a baby to cry and it is normal to feel frustrated when he or she won't stop. Sometimes, in that moment, you might feel like you are going to lose control. In that moment, do not shake the baby. As a parent or caregiver, you are human. You have limited energy, patience and tolerance. It's normal to feel overwhelmed, helpless and even angered by the constant demands of a baby. No matter how bad it gets or how tired and frustrated you feel, shaking the baby, putting the baby down roughly or throwing the baby is never the answer. Instead, calm yourself and calm your baby.

The crying will eventually end.

Why babies cry so much

Crying is how babies communicate. While it can be challenging to distinguish between the types of cries of a newborn baby, as babies get older, parents can sometimes differentiate an "I'm hungry" cry from an "I'm tired" cry.

Babies cry because they are:

  • Hungry
  • Uncomfortable
  • Frustrated
  • Tired
  • Lonely

Sometimes, cries can easily be satisfied with food or a diaper change. Always respond to your baby's cries. You cannot "spoil" babies by picking them up when they cry. Being held is reassuring and comforting when a baby cannot express herself any other way.

Although babies cry to communicate, this crying can continue for a long time for no apparent reason. Crying can be a mystery and it can stop as quickly as it began. Your baby is not mad at you, nor is your baby trying to make you look like a bad parent.