Keeping calm with a screaming baby is easier said than done. Tensions and emotions run high during those first few days, weeks and months.
The need to soothe your little one – and frustration if you can’t – can be overwhelming. But it is important to try to look after yourself during these challenging times too. A calm baby can begin with calm parents.
Crying is normal behaviour for babies and there are lots of reasons why they might cry. Watch our video to find out more.
Try the following to keep your tension levels down and navigate through their tears (and yours).
1. Take a break
Ask for help. From your partner, your family or a close friend. A support network is vital in those early days and people will love to come over to help. They are often itching for you to reach out and invite them for baby cuddles.
If you don’t have a partner or friends and family nearby, try prioritising your own needs when your baby is sleeping or settled. That way you can revive yourself too.
2. Step away from the baby
If you’re unable to soothe their cries and feel yourself getting increasingly upset or agitated, take some time out. Put your baby in a safe environment, such as their crib, pram or floor mat (before they are rolling) and go and sit down, make a cup of tea, or call someone for support.
A baby crying for just a few minutes like this isn’t going to do them any harm. It can actually help you reset to be able to respond to their needs better.
3. Think back to birth breathing
Perhaps you learnt breathing techniques as part of birth preparations. These can be used once your baby is born too.
Either step away from the baby and take a few minutes to breathe deeply or employ this deep breathing while holding your baby. Think back to a pregnancy yoga class or a favourite calming song or experience, and breathe deep, rhythmical breaths. You and your baby are so closely connected that this may well calm them too.
4. Keep your emotional strength up
Lack of sleep, hunger and feeling isolated can all make it harder to cope with your baby’s tears. Try to build your resilience by napping in the afternoon when possible and ensuring you eat well. Boosting your emotional wellbeing means you are better able to face your baby's cries and respond to their needs.
5. Don’t hide away
Some parents are afraid to venture out if their baby cries a lot. But the fresh air and social interactions can be a fantastic respite for you and them.
Your friends, family, or other parents you meet are bound to understand – they’ve been there too. You’ll also find numerous baby-friendly parks, cafes and play spaces where crying babies are the rule not the exception.
6. Attend to their needs, wherever you are
Don’t be afraid to stop, wherever you are, and attend to your baby. Perfect strangers can often turn into best friends during your time of need and offer to help in the most wonderful of ways.
New parents up and down the country, right now, are feeding/burping/changing their babies in car parks, car boots, side roads, restaurants and a thousand other places. More often than not, parents tell us that people are very happy for you to soothe your crying baby wherever and whenever.
7. A new normal
As time goes on, your baby will cry less as you learn to anticipate their needs. You’ll also learn what’s normal for them and when to be concerned. Take comfort in the fact that like every stage, this crying phase won’t last forever.
8. Your network is broader than you think
New mums and dads can access a number of resources, although some are not immediately obvious. As well as friends and family, don’t be afraid to call your health visitor or GP. This is especially true if you’re afraid your frustration is getting too much and you’re at risk of harming your baby.
Extreme cases where parents don’t cope well with a crying baby and shake, throw or roughly handle them, can lead to death or long-term disability (Reijneveld et al, 2004).
This page was last reviewed in March 2022.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0333 252 5051.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Watch our coping with crying film.
Understanding childhood also have a range of resources available online and to download, developed by child psychotherapists, including a leaflet on crying.
There’s also useful information on the NHS website.
The NSPCC website provides information and advice to parents and families.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.