Comforting a crying baby

Miserable babyAll babies cry. It's just that some do it more than others, some do it a lot more than others - and a lusty-lunged few do it so much, you're driven to tears yourself.

Experts - and smug mums whose babies barely even whimper - will tell you that your baby's crying because it's the only way he can let you know that something's up. And, as soon as you sort it, the crying will stop.

Sometimes, it just ain't that easy to work what that 'something' might be. Is it tiredness? Wind? Colic? And by the time you have worked it out, your baby may well have screamed himself into such a state that no amount of something solutions will do.

What you need at this point (apart from a big hug) is some tried-and-trusted advice from mums who've been there and borne the hollering brunt before you - mums who can tell your run-of-the-mill crying jag from your full-on bout of colic, and pull some ace comforting tricks from up their parenting sleeves. And, since that's what Mumsnet does best, here you are...

Comforting a crying baby

Right, let's start with the basics. Your baby's crying because that's what babies do.

Actually, rushing around is probably not a great idea in this case. It'll probably only make your baby cry more. What you really need to do is stop, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the most common reasons small babies cry.

  • Hunger. Even if you've only just fed him.
  • Tiredness. If just putting him in his cot doesn't work, see our tips for settling a newborn.
  • Dirty nappy. Some babies really are clean freaks.
  • Wind.
  • They need a cuddle. Small babies often have a real need for close physical contact. 

If you've worked your way through that list and still got a hollerer on your hands, it might be worth wondering if your baby is ill. Has he got a temperature? Does his cry seem more urgent or higher-pitched than usual?

If you're at all worried, give your GP or health visitor a ring. Always seek medical help if your baby has difficulty breathing as he cries, or if the crying is accompanied by vomiting, diarrhoea or constipation.

Not ill? Stop trying to work out what the matter is - some babies do just seem to get patches of fretfulness for no obvious reason at all - and concentrate instead on cranking things up a comforting gear or two.

Good ideas to try include a spot of rhythmical movement, either indoors...

  • Put your baby in his pram and rock it up and down the hall. Colditz
  • I found that patting my baby at a heartbeat rhythm-pace seemed to work. Mollipops
  • A swing worked for my son. We started using it when he was six weeks. It stopped him crying and then sent him to sleep. Alli

Or out...

  • I take him out for a drive in the car to settle him - even at 1am! GRC
  • My husband used to walk the streets in the evenings with my son in a sling. The walking motion soothed them both - and gave me a break! Notquitegrownup
  • I just used to stick my daughter in the pram and take her for a walk, and she'd calm down in just a few minutes and then conk out. whomovedmychocolate

Or, for babies who've had quite enough bustling about, thank you, there's always the Zen option:

  • I think the 'white-out' method is very successful for soothing a crying baby. Basically, I hang a white sheet over the hood of the pram/pushchair so that is all the baby can see. Holding baby over your shoulder and standing with your back to a white wall has the same effect. It's especially useful when they seem overstimulated and fretful. Lellie

It's hard to underestimate the nerve-shredding-ness of trying to comfort a crying baby, particularly if you're severely sleep-deprived.

But even if your baby's crying jags make you feel incompetent (or like joining in and having a good old sob), remember you're more attuned to your baby than anyone else and you'll soon be able to tell every gradation in your baby's crying, from hungry howl to fed-up grizzling.

What Mumsnetters say about comforting crying babies

  • It's normal for babies to cry - they only kick around peacefully in books. And it's normal to feel distressed about it. That's because you are his Mummy. Your job is to rush around after your baby for the next 21 years. morningpaper
  • The usual back-patting didn't do it for my middle one. He'd go all red and angry. We had to jiggle him about quite a bit before he'd finally burp and calm down. Porpoise
  • My daughter did a lot of grizzling/cluster feeding in the evenings when she was about seven weeks old and then she put on a ton of weight and stopped. If you're breastfeeding, you could just let your baby go from boob to boob until he passes out. JoyS
  • Get a sling. Cry-y babies often really like being in a sling. morningpaper
  • I have to change his nappy as soon as it's wet or dirty. Umlella
  • My daughter was incredibly miserable and unsettled for the first few months of her life and used to scream for hours. I was exhausted and depressed. I tried every remedy on the market but, in the end, time was the only real solution. It does pass - I promise. Your little one will get better. Just take each day at a time, use Mumsnet for support, and try to look after yourself as best you can. JessicatMagnificat



Last updated: over 1 year ago