How To Calm A Crying Newborn: Proven Techniques

October 11, 2023

Having a crying newborn can be a daunting experience for any parent, especially if you’re unsure of how to calm them down. However, there are proven techniques that can help soothe your little one and bring them comfort. From gentle rocking to white noise, read on to discover effective methods that will help you calm a crying newborn and bring peace to both of you.

Understanding the Reason for Crying

Crying is your baby’s primary means of communication, and it can often leave new parents feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to soothe their little one. To effectively calm a crying newborn, it’s important to first understand the reason behind their distress. By identifying the cause of their discomfort, you can provide targeted solutions to ease their distress.

Identifying hunger or thirst

One of the most common reasons for a baby’s cry is hunger or thirst. Newborns have small stomachs and need frequent feedings, so it’s important to pay attention to their feeding schedule. If your baby displays hunger cues such as rooting or sucking on their hands, it’s a good indicator that they need to be fed. Ensuring they are well-fed and adequately hydrated can go a long way in soothing their cries.

Checking for discomfort or pain

Babies may cry if they are experiencing discomfort or pain. This can be caused by a variety of factors, including a wet or dirty diaper, gas, or a scratchy clothing tag. Regularly check your baby’s diaper and clothing for any signs of discomfort. Additionally, gently inspect their body for any noticeable signs of discomfort, such as a red mark or rash. Addressing these discomforts promptly can help alleviate their distress and provide them with relief.

Recognizing tiredness

Just like adults, babies can become overtired and fuss as a result. Pay close attention to your baby’s sleep cues, such as rubbing their eyes or becoming increasingly fussy. Creating a calm and peaceful environment conducive to sleep can help your baby relax and fall asleep more easily, ultimately calming their cries.

Determining overstimulation

Newborns can easily become overstimulated by their environment, which can lead to crying and restlessness. Loud noises, bright lights, or a cluttered space can overwhelm your baby’s developing senses. If you suspect overstimulation is the cause of their distress, try moving them to a quieter area with dim lighting. Minimizing sensory input can help them calm down and regain their composure.

Addressing changes in the environment

Changes in the environment can cause distress for newborns. Moving to a new home, introducing a new caregiver, or even rearranging furniture can disrupt their sense of security and familiarity. If you’ve recently made changes in your baby’s environment and notice an increase in their crying, try to establish a sense of routine and stability. Consistency and familiarity can provide a sense of comfort and help soothe their cries.

Providing a Comforting Environment

Creating a comforting environment for your baby is crucial in soothing their cries. By ensuring their immediate surroundings are pleasant and secure, you can help them feel safe and secure in their new environment.

Maintaining a quiet atmosphere

Babies are incredibly sensitive to noise, and excessive sounds can distress them further. To create a calming environment, try to minimize loud or sudden noises. Close doors, turn down the volume on electronics, and request that visitors keep their voices soft. Establishing a quiet atmosphere can help your baby relax and settle down.

Creating a warm and cozy environment

Maintaining a warm and cozy environment can help your baby feel more secure and calm. Ensure the room temperature is comfortable, neither too hot nor too cold. Use soft, warm blankets and dress your baby in layers to maintain their body temperature. A cozy environment can mimic the comfort of the womb, easing their distress and promoting relaxation.

Using white noise or gentle music

White noise or gentle music can be incredibly soothing for newborns. The rhythmic sounds can be reminiscent of the womb, creating a familiar and comforting environment. You can use a white noise machine or simply play soft music on a low volume. Experiment with different sounds and find what works best for your baby.

Swaddling the baby

Swaddling is a technique that involves snugly wrapping your baby in a blanket, mimicking the feeling of being in the womb. Swaddling can help your baby feel secure and prevent their startle reflex from waking them up. However, it’s important to ensure that you swaddle your baby correctly, with their hips and legs properly positioned to avoid hip dysplasia. Consult with your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant for proper swaddling techniques.

Providing a pacifier

Offering a pacifier can provide comfort and soothe your baby’s cries. Sucking on a pacifier can help your baby self-soothe, as it satisfies their natural instinct to suckle. Make sure to choose an age-appropriate pacifier and clean it regularly to ensure your baby’s safety. However, it’s important to note that not all babies are receptive to pacifiers, so it may not be effective for every child.

Offering Soothing Touches

Physical touch is a powerful way to comfort and connect with your baby. By employing gentle and nurturing touch techniques, you can help soothe their cries and provide a sense of security and reassurance.

Using infant massage techniques

Infant massage involves using gentle strokes and pressure on your baby’s body. The nurturing touch can help relax your baby’s muscles, release tension, and promote better sleep. There are various infant massage techniques that you can try, such as gentle strokes on their back or circular motions on their tummy. It’s important to use a gentle touch and be attentive to your baby’s cues to ensure their comfort and safety.

Skin-to-skin contact

Skin-to-skin contact, often referred to as kangaroo care, is an excellent way to calm a crying newborn. Holding your baby against your bare chest can provide them with warmth, security, and a familiar heartbeat, similar to their time in the womb. Skin-to-skin contact has numerous benefits, including regulating their body temperature, stabilizing their heart rate and breathing, and promoting bonding between you and your baby. Engaging in this practice regularly can help soothe your baby and strengthen your bond.

Rocking or swaying the baby

Rocking or swaying your baby gently is a classic method to calm their cries. The rhythmic motion can be incredibly soothing and reminiscent of being in the womb. You can rock your baby while holding them in your arms, in a rocking chair, or using a baby swing. Experiment with different movements and find the one that works best for your little one.

Providing gentle motion

In addition to rocking or swaying, babies often find comfort in various gentle motions. You can try using a baby carrier or sling to walk or go about your daily activities while keeping your baby close to your body. The movement can provide a soothing sensation and help them relax. Another option is using a baby bouncer or a vibrating mat, which can mimic the feeling of being in a car or on a stroller ride. However, always ensure that the equipment you use is safe and age-appropriate for your baby.

Engaging in Calming Activities

Sometimes, engaging your baby in calming activities can help divert their attention and soothe their cries. By incorporating enjoyable and relaxing activities into their routine, you can create a comforting and soothing experience for both of you.

Offering a warm bath

Bathing your baby in warm water can be a calming and soothing experience. The water mimics the warmth and security of the womb, helping your baby relax and unwind. Use mild, baby-friendly bath products and make sure the water temperature is just right. Gently supporting your baby’s head and body, move your hands in soft strokes to cleanse their skin. A warm bath before bedtime can also promote better sleep.

Taking a walk outdoors

Sometimes a change of scenery can work wonders in calming a crying newborn. Step outside and take a gentle stroll with your baby in a stroller or carrier. The fresh air, natural surroundings, and gentle motion can help relax your baby and provide a tranquil environment. Additionally, the distractions of outdoor sights and sounds can help redirect their focus and calm their cries.

Using a baby swing or bouncer

Baby swings and bouncers can be great tools to soothe a fussy baby. The rhythmic back-and-forth motion or gentle bouncing can lull your baby into a more peaceful and content state. However, always ensure that the swing or bouncer you use is safe and age-appropriate for your baby, and never leave them unattended.

Playing soft music or lullabies

Soft music or lullabies can have a calming effect on babies. The gentle melodies and soothing tones can help create a comforting and peaceful environment. Experiment with different genres or songs and pay attention to your baby’s cues to find the music that resonates with them.

Reading or singing to the baby

Engaging in quiet and soothing activities, such as reading or singing to your baby, can provide a sense of comfort and security. The rhythmic cadence of your voice can be incredibly soothing, and the act of reading or singing can create a calming and familiar routine. Choose age-appropriate books with simple, repetitive patterns, or sing gentle lullabies to help soothe your baby and create a peaceful atmosphere.

Providing Nutritional Support

Hunger and feeding-related issues are common causes of a baby’s distress. By providing proper nutrition and ensuring a comfortable feeding experience, you can help ease their discomfort and calm their cries.

Offering breast milk or formula

Breast milk or formula provides essential nourishment and hydration for your baby. If your baby is displaying hunger cues, ensure they are fed promptly. Breastfeeding offers numerous benefits, including immune system support and emotional bonding, while formula feeding can provide a convenient and nutritious alternative. Speak with a healthcare professional to establish a feeding plan that suits both you and your baby’s needs.

Ensuring a proper feeding position

The position in which you feed your baby can greatly impact their comfort and digestion. For breastfeeding, ensure your baby is properly latched onto your breast, with their mouth covering the areola. If you’re bottle-feeding, cradle your baby’s head and ensure the bottle is angled to prevent excess air intake. By positioning your baby correctly, you can minimize discomfort and reduce the likelihood of excessive crying.

Burping the baby

Babies commonly swallow air during feedings, leading to discomfort and gas. Burping your baby after each feed can help release trapped air and prevent potential discomfort. There are various burping techniques you can try, such as gently patting or rubbing their back, or holding them in an upright position. Experiment with different methods and observe how your baby responds to find the most effective way to burp them.

Trying different feeding techniques

If your baby continues to display signs of distress during feedings, consider trying different feeding techniques. Some babies may benefit from paced feeding, which involves providing frequent breaks during feeding to mimic breastfeeding. Additionally, you can try using a different bottle nipple that matches the flow your baby prefers. Be patient and observe how your baby responds to different approaches to find the one that works best for them.

Seeking Medical Attention

If your baby’s crying persists despite your best efforts to soothe them, it’s important to consider seeking medical attention. While crying is a normal part of infant development, persistent or excessive crying can sometimes indicate an underlying issue that requires professional evaluation.

Checking for signs of illness

Sometimes, a baby’s cry can be indicative of an underlying illness or discomfort. Monitor your baby for any additional symptoms, such as fever, irritability, or changes in appetite or behavior. If you notice any concerning signs, it’s essential to seek medical attention promptly. Your healthcare provider can evaluate your baby’s condition and provide appropriate treatment if needed.

Consulting a healthcare professional

If your baby’s crying is persistent or unexplained, consulting a healthcare professional can provide valuable guidance and reassurance. They can evaluate your baby’s overall health, rule out any medical conditions, and offer advice tailored to your baby’s specific needs. Never hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your baby’s well-being.

Considering reflux or colic

Reflux and colic are common conditions that can cause excessive crying and discomfort in infants. Reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, causing irritation. Colic, on the other hand, refers to episodes of intense, inconsolable crying that last for hours on end. If you suspect either of these conditions may be causing your baby’s distress, consult with your healthcare provider for proper diagnosis and management strategies.

Exploring allergies or sensitivities

Some babies may experience allergic reactions or sensitivities to certain foods or substances, leading to excessive crying or discomfort. Common allergens include cow’s milk, soy, eggs, and gluten. If you suspect your baby may have an allergy or sensitivity, discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. They can recommend appropriate tests, such as an elimination diet or allergy testing, to identify and address any potential triggers.

Engaging in Soothing Rituals

Establishing soothing rituals can provide a sense of security and predictability for your baby. By incorporating these comforting routines into your daily life, you can create a soothing environment that promotes relaxation and minimizes distress.

Establishing a consistent routine

Babies thrive on routine and predictability. Establishing a consistent daily routine can help your baby anticipate and prepare for different activities throughout the day. Aim to establish regular feeding, sleeping, and play times. By following a predictable routine, your baby can feel secure and calm, knowing what to expect from their day.

Using baby-wearing techniques

Baby-wearing involves carrying your baby in a secure carrier or sling close to your body. This practice allows you to have your hands-free while keeping your baby physically connected to you. Baby-wearing has numerous benefits, including soothing your baby with your presence and movement. However, it’s essential to choose a carrier that provides proper support for your baby’s developing spine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure their safety.

Implementing baby yoga or exercise routines

Baby yoga and exercise routines can provide physical and mental stimulation while promoting relaxation and flexibility. Gentle stretching exercises or engaging in baby yoga can help calm your baby’s nervous system and release tension. You can find age-appropriate baby yoga or exercise routines online or consult with a professional who specializes in infant development.

Creating a calming bedtime ritual

A calming bedtime ritual can help signal to your baby that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Establish a consistent routine that includes activities such as a warm bath, gentle massage, quiet reading time, or singing lullabies. By creating a peaceful and predictable routine, you can help your baby transition into a calm and restful sleep.

Utilizing Distraction Techniques

Distraction techniques can be effective in diverting your baby’s attention and calming their cries. By engaging their senses and providing gentle stimulation, you can help shift their focus and alleviate their distress.

Using a mobile or toys

Mobiles or age-appropriate toys can capture your baby’s attention and provide a source of visual stimulation. Hang a mobile above their crib or attach a toy to their car seat or stroller. The gentle movement, colors, and shapes can distract your baby and redirect their focus, comforting them in the process.

Providing visual stimulation

Babies are naturally curious beings, and offering visually stimulating objects can help capture their attention and engage their senses. Introduce toys with contrasting colors or patterns, or hang colorful pictures within their view. Avoid overwhelming them with too many stimuli and observe how they respond to different visual cues.

Engaging in interactive play

Interactive play can divert your baby’s attention and provide an opportunity for bonding and connection. Gently play with your baby, making eye contact, smiling, and speaking to them in a soothing tone of voice. You can use toys that make soft sounds or textures that provide sensory input. Engaging in interactive play can help soothe your baby and create a positive and enjoyable experience.

Distracting with gentle movement

Gentle movement can be an effective way to distract your baby and calm their cries. You can try softly bouncing them on your lap or gently swinging them in your arms. Alternatively, go for a ride in a car or stroller, as the gentle motion can help lull your baby into a more serene state. Always ensure the movements are gentle and within a safe range for your baby’s age and developmental stage.

Managing Parental Stress and Fatigue

Caring for a crying newborn can be emotionally and physically taxing for parents. It’s essential to prioritize your own well-being to ensure you can provide the best care for your baby. Managing parental stress and fatigue is crucial in maintaining a calm and nurturing environment for both you and your little one.

Seeking support from partner or loved ones

Raising a baby requires teamwork, and leaning on your partner or loved ones for support can be immensely helpful. Communicate openly with your partner about your needs and concerns, and work together to share the responsibilities of caring for your baby. Reach out to family or friends who can offer assistance or simply lend a listening ear when you need to vent or seek guidance.

Taking breaks and practicing self-care

It’s important to prioritize self-care and take breaks when needed. Make time for activities that help you recharge and relax, whether it’s taking a leisurely walk, indulging in a hobby, or simply taking a few moments for yourself. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup, and taking care of your own well-being is essential for providing the care your baby needs.

Utilizing relaxation techniques

Incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine can help manage stress and promote a calm state of mind. Deep breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle stretching can be effective in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Consider attending a yoga or mindfulness class specifically designed for new parents to learn and practice these techniques.

Joining parent support groups

Joining parent support groups can offer a valuable source of support and camaraderie. Interacting with other parents who are going through similar experiences can help normalize the challenges you may be facing. These groups often provide a platform to ask questions, share advice, and learn from other parents’ experiences. Look for local support groups or online communities tailored to your specific needs and interests.

Seeking professional help if needed

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Reach out to your healthcare provider or a mental health professional for support and guidance. They can offer strategies to manage your emotional well-being and provide appropriate resources or interventions if needed.

Tips and Precautions

While every baby is unique, certain tips and precautions can help guide you in calming a crying newborn. It’s essential to approach these techniques with a combination of patience, observation, and flexibility, as what works for one baby may not work for another.

Remaining calm and patient

Babies are sensitive to their caregivers’ emotions, and your calm presence can have a significant impact on their well-being. Remember to stay calm and composed, even if you feel exhausted or frustrated. Taking deep breaths, practicing patience, and reminding yourself that this is a temporary phase can help you navigate the challenges with a positive mindset.

Avoiding overstimulation

Overstimulation can exacerbate your baby’s distress and make it more challenging to calm them down. Pay attention to their cues and avoid overwhelming them with excessive stimuli. Create a calm and peaceful environment, and observe how your baby responds to different levels of sensory input.

Using caution when trying new techniques

When trying new techniques to calm your baby, it’s important to approach them with caution and observation. Introduce changes gradually and observe how your baby responds. Not all techniques will work for every baby, so it’s essential to remain flexible and adapt based on your baby’s preferences and comfort levels.

Considering the baby’s individual preferences

Every baby has unique preferences and needs, so it’s crucial to pay attention to their individual cues and responses. Observe what soothes your baby and how they respond to different techniques or environments. By getting to know your baby’s preferences, you can tailor your soothing strategies to be most effective for them.

Monitoring the baby’s safety at all times

Babies require constant supervision and care, so it’s important to remain vigilant and ensure their safety at all times. Whether you are using a baby carrier, swing, or any other equipment, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines. Always keep an eye on your baby and ensure they are secure and comfortable in their surroundings.

Sandra McNeil, PhD.
Sandra McNeil, PhD.

Sandra has over 13 years of experience as a child psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has a Bachelor's in child psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and then she did her master's in Psychology in Education (focused on Children & Families) at Columbia University, NY. She has been writing for health and child-related publications for over 5 years now.

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