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 want 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.
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, buggy or floor mat (before they are rolling) and go and sit down, make a cup of tea, or call someone for support. You could call our support line on: 0300 330 0700, which is open between 8am and midnight, seven days a week.
"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
Many of you will have learnt breathing techniques as part of birth preparations. These can be used once your baby is born too.
Either step away from the baby then take a few minutes to try 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 those deep, rhythmical breaths. You are so closely connected this may well calm them too.
4. Keep your emotional strength up
Lack of sleep, hunger and feeling alone can all make it harder to cope with your baby’s tears. Try to build your resilience up by napping when your baby naps, ensuring you eat often and leaning on your support network. That means you are better able to face those cries and respond to your baby’s needs.
5. Don’t hide away
Don’t be too afraid to venture out if your baby cries a lot. The fresh air and social interactions can be a wonderful respite for you and them. Your family, and mum or dad friends you’re out with 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. Link
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.
Mums and dads we know have been offered staff areas to feed their babies in. They’ve been lent a spare pair of hands when they’re trying to juggle a baby and normal life. They’ve even been handed the keys to holiday cottages to go and change nappies in.
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 we speak to say people are very happy for you to soothe your crying baby wherever and whenever.
7. A new normal
As time goes on, your baby’s cries will become part of the soundtrack to your day. That’s not to say you should ever ignore the cues they give you. But you’ll gain a new perspective on what’s out of the blue and what’s part of their everyday conversation. 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, GP, or our support line (0300 330 0700). Especially if you’re afraid your frustration is getting too much and you’re at risk of harming your baby.
The NSPCC’s Coping with Crying film is useful, as are the PURPLE crying website and the Raising Children Network. Make sure you reach out before it gets too much. Extreme cases where parents shake, throw or roughly handle their baby can lead to death and long-term disability for those babies (Sidebotham and Fleming, 2007).
This page was last reviewed in August 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our Early Days 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.
The Purple Crying website looks in detail at the stage in your baby’s life when they cry more than at any other time.
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 helpline provides help and support to thousands of parents and families.
The Lullaby Trust has lots of useful information and support for parents about safe sleep.
Sidebotham P, Fleming P (eds) (2007) Unexpected death in childhood: a handbook for practitioners. Chichester: Wiley.