How to Soothe a Crying Baby

soothe a crying baby

How to Soothe a Crying Baby

Here are some helpful ideas for babysitters and parents too on how to stop a baby from crying.

It is frustrating enough for the parents when an infant won’t stop crying, so for a babysitter with far less experience, it can actually bring her to tears.  If you are a babysitter, nanny, or other childcare provider who often cares for infants, or even if you are a new parent, here are some ideas to try if you need to soothe a crying baby:

  • Is baby hungry? When you are dealing with a crying baby, look at the time.  Is it anywhere near when the parents indicated the baby would need to be fed or given a bottle?  If it is within a half hour, try the bottle.  Baby’s schedules change so often as they grow that their needs can actually change overnight. Be sure the bottle is the proper temperature.  Some babies will refuse a bottle if it’s too cold even when they are hungry.
  • Could baby be tired? Crying babies are usually trying to tell you something and it could be something as simple as “I’m tired.” If it isn’t anywhere near feeding time, check to see if it could be close to nap time.  If so, you could try rocking the baby for a few minutes in a rocking chair or put her in a rocking swing.
  • Is the baby’s diaper wet or soiled? If so, change it, even if the parent said the baby shouldn’t need her diaper changed until after her nap.  This isn’t always something you can predict.
  • Baby might just need to burp.  Hold the baby upright against your chest with her head just above your shoulder and pat her back gently.  Trapped gas is very painful for a baby, but once it is released the baby usually quiets down immediately. Another position that may help baby to release gas is to lay her across your lap and rub her back.
  • Does baby just need a distraction? Try distracting a crying baby by blowing raspberries, making silly sounds, or making funny faces. Sometimes this is enough to soothe a crying baby.
  • Sometimes babies just want to be held.  If the baby is in an exersaucer, bouncy seat, or swing, try picking her up and holding her.
  • Lots of babies like motion when they are being held.  Try bouncing her very gently by bending your knees slightly and straightening them while holding her, or walk around with her. Occasionally, you may need to combine all of these by holding the baby upright, walking around, very gently bouncing her and patting her back. Try adding humming or singing as well.
  • Some babies want to be held but don’t want to be cradled or have their face in your shoulder.  I haven’t found a baby yet that didn’t prefer to be held facing outward away from your body.  Try holding the baby with his back against your chest, one arm around his torso and the other supporting his bottom through his legs.  Babies are curious and want to see everything!  A crying baby may just be bored. (Warning – this is NOT an appropriate position for very young infants that still need their head supported.)
  • Does baby use a pacifier?  Some babies just have a fussy time of day, when not much makes them happy and the baby won’t stop crying even after you’ve tried all of the suggestions above.  If this is the case, hopefully the parents have left you with some ideas of what to do to make baby happy or strategies for dealing with it.  If the baby uses a pacifier, this may be all it takes to quiet her down.
  • Many babies just go through what is called a “strange period.” During this stage, they cry and scream if anyone other than the immediate family or a very familiar person tries to hold them or talk to them.  In this case, if the baby has older siblings, you may want to employ their help or just ask them to play nearby so the baby can hear and/or see them. Sometimes, just hearing his siblings can soothe a crying baby.
  • Could baby be overstimulated? While a crying baby may be a bored baby, he may also be an overstimulated baby. If the baby has a “sound machine” or “white noise machine” try rocking him or holding him in the room with the machine on and the lights dimmed.
  • Maybe baby needs to feel secure. If the baby is a newborn, you could also try swaddling her to see if that helps.  Many newborns like the secure feeling of being wrapped up warm and snug.
  • Teething is often the culprit. If you’re trying to soothe a crying baby who is teething, a cold teething ring might be your best option. Parents usually know when their baby is teething.  Hopefully if this is the case, the parents have left you with teething rings and other paraphernalia for teething babies.
  • Sometimes when a baby won’t stop crying it’s simply because he is uncomfortable. Touch the back of the baby’s neck to see if he is too hot or too cold. Try adding or removing a layer of clothes accordingly.
  • Something else may be making baby uncomfortable. Try removing all of baby’s clothes to see if perhaps his diaper is too tight or clothes may be digging into him or irritating his skin.
  • A warm bath might help. If you are experienced with bathing babies, try a warm soothing bath.
  • A ride in the car or a ride in the stroller is calming to many babies. It may take a few minutes and baby may start to cry again whenever you stop, but most quiet down after a little while.

When dealing with a crying baby, remember to try to “keep your cool.” Babies can often sense when you are upset or stressed which can make the baby cry even more. Keep trying the suggestions above until the baby stops crying or the parents come home!  NEVER shake a baby.

If you find yourself getting really upset, frustrated, and angry because the baby won’t stop crying and you’ve tried all the suggestions above, then try putting the baby in her crib where she is safe and step out of the room for a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths and think about all the things you’ve tried to be sure you haven’t missed anything.

If you haven’t tried a bottle because you felt it was too soon and the baby is still crying, try the bottle anyway. I have had babies take their bottle up to an hour earlier than the mom predicted. Most babies won’t always be on an exact schedule for eating. If they ate a little more at their last feeding then they might not eat again for a while past their next scheduled feeding and if they didn’t eat enough then they may be hungry sooner. When you are trying to soothe a crying baby, always try a bottle.

If all else fails give the parents a call. They may be able to give you other suggestions over the phone if they know something in particular that usually quiets their baby or makes him happy. If you are unable to soothe the crying baby, you may ask the parents to come home as a last resort. But, often times the baby will quiet down by the time the parents get there depending on how far away they are.

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