A lot of times when a baby is crying, it can mean they are hungry, tired, or wet.

Breastfeeding, if possible, is a great way to feed and bond with your baby. If you have tried to feed your baby, settle them down for a nap, or changed their diaper, and they are still fussy, there are other soothing activities you can try:

  • Changing positions: Try picking your baby up from a lying position and putting them on your shoulder. There are lots of things that happen with this simple movement:
    • Your baby gets a “new view” of the world
    • You get some eye-to-eye contact with your baby
    • The body contact between you and your baby is soothing
  • Closeness: Skin-to-skin contact is a wonderful way to bond with and comfort your baby. Holding a baby close and snuggling with them can be calming. 
  • Repeating: It can be soothing to repeat comforting sounds, sights, touches, or smells. Notice how almost all lullabies have parts that are repeated, either the words, the musical tunes, or both.
  • Rhythms: This occurs when a sound, sight, or touch is repeated in a pattern; that is, rhythmically. For example, when a mother sings a lullaby, the music has a rhythm (in addition to words and musical tunes that are repeated). When mothers speak to babies, they often tend to use a higher tone of voice and exaggerate certain words. This special way of talking to babies is referred to as “motherese.”  This exaggeration adds a rhythm to the words that mothers use.  When sounds, sights, or touches that have rhythms go on for a period of time, they can be even more soothing.
  • White Noise: White noise mimics the sound a baby hears while in the womb and can help them to calm down and sleep better. Examples of white noise are sounds from a fan, a hair dryer, a vacuum cleaner, rushing water, the chatter of lots of voices at the same time, and the noise of a busy street. There are free recordings of white noise available online on YouTube.
  • Movement: Going for a walk with your baby in a stroller or carrier, going for a drive, or even swaying gently while holding them can be comforting.
  • Involving Many Sensations: “Sensations“ can mean sounds, sights, touches, and smells. Each of these is a different way of sensing the environment. If you do more than one of these things at the same time (e.g., reading a book to baby while they are on your lap), it can be more effective than something that just includes touch.
  • Human Sights, Sounds, and Smells: Human interaction is important to human babies. Studies have confirmed that a human voice (compared to non-human sounds) and human figures (compared to objects) are soothing to babies. Human versions of sounds and sights become even more effective as a baby ages.

All of these techniques can work preventively if the soothing activities are done when the baby is not crying, rather than just in response to crying.

It’s important to remember that some things work some of the time, but nothing works all of the time. If you have tried all that you can and your baby continues to cry, and you feel yourself getting frustrated, the best thing you can do is to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away to take a break.  Take a few minutes to calm yourself and take a break before you check on your baby.