Crying babies

Think you’ve tried everything to soothe their tears? We’ve asked the experts – mums and dads – to share their nuggets of wisdom on how to stop babies crying.

Use your powers of observation

Keep a close eye on your baby’s mood. We all know what it’s like to get to the point of just having had enough: 
‘If they seem overwhelmed, maybe they need some peace and quiet.’
(Maggie, mum of three grown-up children; health visitor and sleep and parenting specialist) 

Rules of distraction 

Babies are both complex and simple creatures. One common theme in the tips you gave us was to distract your baby. They might be crying as if the world is about to end and then...oooo who is that funny baby I can see in the mirror...they flip straight to giggles. Why not try these distraction techniques:

‘Walking around the room explaining what things are – lots of pointing. Handing them a cuddly toy they like. Or taking them outside (this works every time for us).’
(Charlie, mum to Zack, 14 months)

‘He likes to look out the window and it seems to calm him when he’s upset.’ 
(Beth, mum to Reece, six weeks)

‘Looking in mirrors, going outside, and singing – it is all about distraction – well and maybe a cuddle too!   ‘
(Andrew, dad to Zack, 14 months)

Watch our video to hear from mums and dads about their tips for coping with a crying baby

Keeping your cool 

Don’t shoot the messenger for asking the impossible of you, but babies can pick up on your stress, and lack of patience (so our parents say):

‘Don’t panic, they can smell your fear! Try to keep calm yourself and they can follow your cues.’ 
(Alex, dad to Evelyn, 14 months)

‘Give each position at least a few mins. I think people (myself included) can want switch too quickly when baby doesn’t immediately stop crying but they often they just need a few minutes to calm down.’ 
(Becca, mum to Jackson, 21 months)

‘Calming baby can begin with calming you – breathe deep and slow to relax yourself – so you can better hear baby and respond to their needs. Connect with them through eye contact and touch, these techniques calm babies time and time again in class.’  
(Laura, founder of an infant massage company)

Repetitive movements 

Just like those nursery rhymes going round and round in your head, try repeating the following:

‘My daughter, now two, loves having her bum patted.  It's a sure fire way to get her to calm down. It was cute when she was tiny, less so now she is a grumpy trumpy toddler.’ 
(Sarah-Jane, Facebook)

‘The best thing I do is make my own breathing go very deep and slow. Kinda like I’m sleeping. When you’re really calm it helps the baby calm down. Then I hold their whole body really tight, pinning arms and legs down so that they’re contained. Like in the womb.’ 
(Rosie, mum to Anna, 7 weeks)

‘If you’re able to get to their feet, holding their heels in your hands is very calming and relaxing. They feel very secure and safe like this. Hold as long as you like - it’s an instant calmer! 

‘Gently stroke from the side of the big toe, following the bone to the heel. This is the equivalent of giving a back rub and is very soothing to the whole of the nervous system.’ 
(Barbara, Reflexologist)

Keeping them close 

We hear this time and time again from parents. Babywearing, or just plain old cuddles seem to do the tricky to stop those cries:

‘Sling, every time.’ 
(Skye, Facebook)

‘Put baby in a sling and carry baby.’ 
(Emma G, Twitter)

‘Gentle shhhh and hushing while holding them close so that they feel safe and secure.’
(Claire, Instagram)

‘Slings all the way. And cuddles, and understanding and patience – and lots of tea/coffee for the grown ups  .’ 
(Michelle, Facebook)

‘I make sure we’re both naked, calm talk continuously, and I hum so my chest vibrates.’ 
(Janice, mum to Dot, 4 months)

Read all about it 

There are plenty of books out there that can help. Why not check out your local library or go online to find more golden nuggets of advice.

Think about their environment 

It is a strange world out here for your baby. Often, trying to replicate elements of the womb environment can soothe your baby, as these parents can vouch for:

‘Loud white noise and a cuddle. ❤’’’
(Natalie)

‘White noise and lights out.’ 
(Sarah, mum to Amber, 21 months)

Is it mealtime yet? 

We get hangry (angry when we’re hungry) and so does baby. A full tummy, or a good old suck on a dummy, a finger or their own thumb can work wonders:

‘If it’s mine [my baby] 95% of the times boobs will fix the problem. If they don’t then something is seriously wrong!’ 
(Tara, Facebook)

‘Pinky in mouth for a while if he’s crying and can’t get himself to sleep – he often then crashes out instantly.’ 
(Tessa, mum to Johnnie, 2 months)

‘Crying takes a lot of energy, so a baby who cries a lot may be even hungrier than usual.  So ignore the clock, and feed your baby when she seems to want it.’ 
(Kathryn, NCT practitioner)

‘People sometimes comment on my daughter being a thumb sucker as a bad thing, others say I’m super lucky. I know which I’d rather – she has always used her thumb to calm down and soothe herself – it is a dream. Sometimes in those early days I’d even encourage her thumb towards her mouth to prompt her  .’ 
(Zara, mum to Flo, 12 months)

Have you got the moves? 

Your stress and tiredness levels might mean partying isn’t top of your to do list. But why not give it a go – an impromptu dance around the living room, or another crazy move might be just the ticket to soothe those cries:

‘I dance with him! Or walk him around the flat and talk to him....nothing ground-breaking but they work!’ 
(Polly, mum to Leo, 10 weeks)

‘I’ve always found gently cuddling/rocking a baby while standing up to be pretty effective.’ 
(Laura, Twitter)

‘We got an exercise ball and bounce on it gently with him, which pretty much always works - my I call it The Neutraliser!’  
(Grant, dad to Kai, 2 months)

Get out of the house (and your pyjamas) 

‘I heard a heartbreaking story of one mum who didn’t go out to baby groups because her baby was always crying.  However, babies are very sociable, and are often much better out of the house than at home.  And even if your baby does cry at baby group, everyone else will understand, and someone might even take your baby for a bit so you can have a cuppa and a break.’ 
(Kathryn, NCT practitioner)

Further information

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.

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