How to settle a crying baby

Settling the Unsettled Baby

As inevitable it is that your baby will feed, sleep, grow and need changing, your baby will cry. Babies cry for many reasons, as their main way to tell you what they want.

Crying is a survival mechanism and we recommend a crying baby isn’t ignored (this is different to monitoring a crying baby!) We’ve compiled a list of different things you can try, to identify and meet your baby’s needs when they’re unsettled.

We’re always looking for fabulous tips that worked with settling your baby – add your ideas at the bottom of the page!

Why Settle?
An unsettled baby will be grumpy, upset, whinging or crying. That doesn’t make for a pleasant time for baby or her parents, so identifying what is upsetting her is the first priority.

Is your baby:

  • Wet or dirty and needing changing?
  • Hungry?
  • Windy (needs to be winded)?
  • Overtired?
  • Overstimulated?
  • Sick or unwell with teething?
  • Any other reason to explain her crying?

Change, feed and wind your baby where necessary. Remove her to a quiet room away from excessive noise, people and activity if she is overstimulated.

If you think she is unwell, has a fever or any kind of rash, get her seen by a doctor.

Ideas to Settle:
If you have fed, changed and winded your baby, if your baby is overtired or just very unsettled, you can try the following ideas to settle a crying baby. You may find your baby prefers some ways over another; keep trying different things until something works!

  • Rocking -the rhythmic motions of gently jigging your baby (while supporting her head and neck) may soothe her to sleep!
  • Colic Hold -laying your baby across your arm may help bring up some of those windy bubbles trapped in her tummy
  • Music -cranking up the BabyDub or even a bit of Enya or Meatloaf may calm your baby – she may just turn into a music connoisseur!
  • Heartbeat Tapes -Recordings from within the womb may be calming for your baby, who has listened to this for 9 months in your belly. You can buy these on CD, or incorporated into baby mobiles or other toys/gadgets.  Or you could tune the radio station to static for a constant buzzing noise.
  • White noise – White noise is said to be particularly effective. Perhaps leaving the vacuum cleaner on outside her room, placing the bassinet next to the dryer or dishwasher running, or tuning the radio station between stations may be soothing to your baby! There are loads of baby CDs and items that play the ‘wooosh woosh’ recording that is similiar to your womb, to help settle babes.
  • Use of Front and Back Packs -carrying your baby leaves you with your hands free, most front and back packs require your baby to have control of their head/neck muscles first.
  • Use of a sling -slings can be used from birth and hold your baby tightly against you, providing her with warmth and comfort, your heartbeat and movement, and also leaves your hands free!
  • Singing -Turn up the Celine or Aretha and sing to your hearts content – your baby is your biggest fan! She may be soothed by your voice, or the music, and you may feel better for it as well!
  • Swaddling -Wrapping your baby firmly reminds her of the womb and makes her feel safe and secure.   Check out our swaddle wraps
  • Driving in Car -Most little babes will fall asleep in the car so maybe a little drive around the block will be enough to convince your babe to sleep! Don’t leave your babe to sleep in the car for any length of time, as the position is not good for growing little bodies.
  • Pushing Pram over bump or go for walk – The join where your tiles/lino meets the carpet, or maybe a power cord, provides a little bump for you to gently rock the buggy over. Being in the buggy may settle your babe and if you can keep your pushchair inside, you wont have to move her when she is finally asleep!
  • Baby on your tummy – placing your baby on your tummy is soothing for her and particularly skin-to-skin. A great idea for dads to try.
  • Have a bath or shower with baby –  Warm water is soothing for babes, and a bath followed by massage, feed and cuddle may be very effective for bringing on a restful night. If you have an extra pair of hands to help, you may find a shower easier.
  • Give baby to someone else – If nothing else works, hand baby to someone else! Perhaps your tension is also stressing your baby, or perhaps the smell of milk is upsetting her. Often just handing the baby to someone else can help – frustrating but it works!

Print out this list and place it on your fridge or in baby’s room, to remind you of different ideas to try!

Listening to your baby cry and scream for ages can be very hard. It can make you very upset or angry. If you feel very overwhelmed, place your baby in a safe place (the cot or playpen) and walk away. Make yourself a cup of tea, hang out the washing or have a shower. By the time you have finished, your baby may have finally fallen asleep! And if she hasn’t, you can tend to her with a fresh mind.

If you ever feel like hurting yourself or your baby, again, walk away. Call a friend, your doctor, healthline or a family member and ask for help.
If your baby cries for over two hours, or the cry becomes high-pitched, your baby develops a fever or you are feeling overwhelmed, call Healthline on 0800 611 116 or take your baby to the doctor.
Doctor visits for babies are free – better to check and be sure than to get to 2am and wish you had been!