All babies cry since it's their way of communicating that they need something. Sometimes it's easy to work out what it is, but sometimes it isn't. Trying to soothe a crying baby can be tiring and stressful.
Why babies cry
How much crying
All babies are different. At 6 to 8 weeks, babies often cry for a total of 2 to 3 hours in a 24-hour period. Some babies seem to cry more than others. Crying can last for 5 hours in a 24 hour period, or more. When a baby is crying a lot it is sometimes called colic.
The crying usually peaks at 6 to 8 weeks and lessens by 3 to 4 months of age. By 4 to 5 months, most babies have become more settled although some may continue to cry for longer.
How to settle a crying baby
Try not to let your baby become really distressed before you respond to their cries. You cannot ‘spoil’ a baby by being responsive or by cuddling them too much. Here are some ways to settle a baby.
First, consider whether your baby is hungry. Try offering a breastfeed or if the baby is formula fed, you could try giving the next bottle a little earlier. Your nurse or doctor can advise you on feeding and the amount of milk your baby needs. If you are breastfeeding, you can also call the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s helpline on 1800 686 268.
If your baby has fed in the past 2 hours, you can offer something to suck, like a dummy. Some babies may suck on their fist, fingers or thumb.
Cuddling or holding
Try holding your baby close to you so they can feel your heartbeat. You can also try talking or singing gently and quietly to your baby to soothe them.
If your newborn baby has been awake for a while, try swaddling to help them feel secure. Try to make the room dark or quiet to reduce stimulation.
Changing their nappy or clothing
Check if your baby has a wet or dirty nappy that needs changing. Also check if they are too hot or too cold and whether their clothing is comfortable (not too tight, for example).
Gentle movement can help pacify some babies. Try gently rocking your baby in your arms, but avoid fast or rough movements, which can be dangerous. Or, you can put your baby in a pram or approved sling and walk around outside.
If your baby likes it, a warm bath may help them calm down.
You can try giving your baby a massage with a nut-free oil. Keep the room warm enough so they are comfortable.
Tips to settle a crying baby - video
Video provided by Raising Children Network.
What to do if nothing is working
It can be very upsetting and frustrating if nothing you try seems to be working. Never shake your baby since it can cause bleeding in their brain and could result in brain damage. If you feel like you are losing control, put the baby down in a safe place for a few minutes while you calm down. If possible, ask somebody to take over the settling.
It may also help to phone a friend, or call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 for advice or support.
Where to get help
Talk to your doctor or child health nurse if you are concerned about your baby, or if you find it difficult to cope or feel positive about your baby. You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436, 7 days a week.
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Last reviewed: December 2019