Health Library

How to Comfort a Crying Baby

You've fed, burped, changed, and rocked your baby, but he or she is still crying. And crying. Your nerves are frayed, your sleep is ruined, and you’re losing confidence as a new parent. Now what?

It's common for infants to have fussy periods during the day, especially between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight.

Some babies 3 to 12 weeks old cry for long stretches. During this time, there are steps in development when their sleep is less settled.

Babies who cry nonstop for more than 3 hours a day and more than 3 days a week are thought to have colic. It is thought they these babies have a built-in tendency to overreact to any stimulation, such as a bowel movement or slight temperature change. In short, they don’t easily adjust to the world outside the snug womb. Colic usually disappears around age 4 months.

Every baby has a unique personality. Just as some babies are laid-back, some babies cry more than others. And the longer a baby cries, the harder it tends to be to get them to stop.

Give these tear-stopping methods a try:

  • Wrap the baby like a burrito. Swaddling babies snugly in a soft blanket helps keeps their arms and legs from flailing and can switch on relaxation. If the weather is hot, beware of overheating. Be careful to wrap the legs loosely so that they are free to move. Wrapping the legs too tightly can cause a condition called hip dysplasia. There are special swaddling blankets that are designed to make swaddling your baby easier.

  • Wear your baby. Babies who are carried more cry less. Wearing baby in a sling for several hours a day also cuts crying and gives constant sound, temperature, and motion that signal comfort. Special slings and carriers allow you to wear your baby while having 1 or both hands free. Babies like being close to you because they stay warm, they can hear your breathing and heartbeat, and they like the motion. It is very important to make sure that your baby’s face isn’t covered and that you can see his or her mouth and nose. Placing your baby naked against your bare chest (called skin-to-skin contact) can be very soothing to a crying baby. Some find that a warm bath can calm a baby who is upset.

  • Switch on a quiet, meditative noise. A running shower, a whirring fan, a white noise machine, or a recording of the vacuum cleaner helps block outside stimulation and may imitate the steady sounds of the womb. It's important to keep the volume low. Constant loud noises can damage your baby's hearing.

  • Get moving. A quick car ride, swinging the baby gently in your arms, or dancing can also soothe a fussy baby.

  • Drape your baby. Drape your baby along your forearm with his or her head in the crook of your elbow. It gives warmth and pressure to relax a tense, fussy baby.

  • Shushing noises. You can also try making a shushing noise in the baby’s ear. This copies the sounds inside the womb and can be very calming.

  • Pacifiers and nursing. Babies find sucking very soothing. If you are breastfeeding, nursing the baby is a great way to offer comfort. Pacifiers can also be used to help the baby self-soothe.

  • Take a stress break. If you have tried everything and your baby is still crying, put your baby in a safe place (like a crib or swing) and go into a quiet room for a few minutes. Never shake your baby. If you feel yourself losing control of your emotions, take a few minutes to calm yourself before returning to care for your baby.

  • Ask for help. Have your partner, family member, or neighbor care for the baby while you take a break. Having some time to walk, take a bath or shower, or take a short nap can be very beneficial. This time allows you to “recharge” and return to your baby with calm emotions. A colic support group can help you cope until your baby outgrows the crying. And they all do!

If your baby doesn’t respond to the above suggestions, call your healthcare provider to make sure there are not health concerns that need to be addressed.