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Babies 0-12 Months | Your Baby's Wellbeing

3 Practical Steps to Soothe Your Crying Baby

Parents are never quite prepared to deal with a baby that just won’t stop crying. You probably find your baby’s cries rather stressful, as it sometimes feels like they are echoing in your soul and at the same time making everyone in the vicinity tense up. However there is always a reason as to why babies cry. Read through these practical steps that will more than likely assist you in soothing your little one, and rest assured that you will feel a lot less stressed once you’ve figured out what the problem is and once you have calmed your baby down.


Step 1: basic needs

By process of elimination, determine whether your baby is:

  • Hungry
  • Has a wind
  • Uncomfortable: a wet or a dirty nappy, too hot or too cold, clothes are too tight
  • Sick: is in pain or is running a fever

If you’ve checked all of the above and baby is still crying, move on to the next step.

Step 2: baby’s sensory world

Overtiredness and overstimulation
Your baby can only handle a certain amount of stimulation before he gets a sensory overload – also known as a meltdown. Grownups are capable of removing themselves from the situation they’re in if it gets too much, while babies depend on someone to remove them. A meltdown can happen when there is too much activity going on, such as a family gathering or too much time spent under a mobile. Your baby might also be irritated by too much noise as well as strong smells like perfume or aftershave. If your baby shows the following signs of overstimulation, he needs to be removed from his present environment and be taken to his room where it’s calm and quiet:

  • Rubbing his eyes
  • Tugging his ears
  • Looking away, not making eye contact
  • Sucking his hands
  • Fussing

Awake times and sleeping routine
An overtired baby becomes very hard to please. Keep an eye on your baby’s awake times as he won’t be able to cope with much more than what is appropriate for his age:

  • A newborn (0 – 3 months) can only stay awake for very short periods at a time; about 40 minutes during the first few weeks and up to 90 minutes when he approaches 3 months.
  • From 3 months onwards, be consistent with baby’s daytime routine (feeding/awake time/sleeping) as this will prevent crying due to overstimulation.

Try to teach your baby the following self-calming strategies during the first 3 months:

  • Hands to mouth
  • Holding on to a security toy or blanket
  • Sucking a dummy or hand

Learn to distinguish between your baby’s self-calming strategies and other more basic needs. If he is sucking his hands vigorously, for example, he is not teething or hungry but simply trying to cope with the stimulation around him. When you swaddle your baby, wrap him up with one or both hands free and close to his face.

Soothing your baby

  • Nothing will soothe a newborn baby like swaddling. This is definitely a technique that should be mastered, as it will comfort most young babies. It imitates the pressure and safety of the womb.
  • When your baby gets a bit older he won’t want to be swaddled anymore. You can keep on swaddling him but from under his arms and down, and not quite as tight. It also helps to swaddle him lightly with a receiving blanket – with the one free end next to his face/cheek as this brings him comfort.
  • Follow your bath time routine with a baby massage; not only will this relax him but it’s a great bonding experience.
  • Movement similar to what baby experienced in the womb will have a calming effect. A younger baby would love a sling, while an older baby would prefer a pouch or a pram.
  • Soothing sounds can do wonders in calming down a fussy baby. You can mimic the sounds of the womb by playing a CD with white noise, sing a lullaby or play any soothing music.

One solution at a time
Sometimes moms get all panicky and try a few different tricks in a very short period of time. They rock baby slightly, then more vigorously as the crying increases. They try the dummy, sing a song and get baby into burping position just in case there is still a wind. But this will have the same effect as oil on fire. Always remember to try anyone of these solutions for at least five minutes, before you move on to try something else.

Step 3: Breathe in, breathe out

Sometimes you might find yourself doing everything but standing on your head without it having any effect on your crying baby. And there is nothing more demoralising or challenging than a screaming baby, especially if he’s been crying for some time. There are two major burnout realities that you need to look out for; postnatal depression and shaken baby syndrome. Both of these are serious conditions and can have long-term, disastrous effects on your baby. When you feel that you are about to lose it put baby in his cot, or in any other safe environment, and walk out. Take a minute or two to gather yourself and try to relax. Babies are very sensitive and can feel when their mommies are tense, which can cause a snowball effect. Get a close friend, your mother or an au pair to help out every now and then so that you can have some time out. Make sure you take a nap every time baby sleeps, as lack of sleep can add to the feeling of hopelessness.

A crying baby can make even the biggest saint consider saying naughty words. However these practical steps should help you in determining why your baby is crying and how to get him content and calm. Remember that it gets easier as baby gets older, and it will all soon become second nature!


  • M. Faure & A. Richardson: Baby Sense. 2006: Citadel Press, NY.

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