Soothing a crying baby or toddler
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Rebecca Chicot PhD
Child development expert with a Phd from Cambridge University. She has worked on several best-selling books and BBC documentaries. She is the proud mother of three children.
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Baby crying

Soothing a crying baby or toddler

It's useful to understand the main causes of crying in babies and toddlers and the best ways to deal with them. You can learn to distinguish between a cries of pain, which are urgent and high pitched, and everyday cries, including hunger, tiredness discomfort and just plain fed-up!
Video Tutorial
In Short
Check why your baby is crying using the process of elimination and try to anticipate her needs before she cries.

A ssshhhing sound - like being in the womb - is very soothing for a baby.

If you feel over-whelmed, it's very common and a sign you might need some support. In the short-term, put your baby somewhere safe like their cot, and move away from them for a break so you can calm down.

Crying babies

Parents hate to hear their baby crying, and humans have evolved to make it difficult to ignore this signal of need.In our video, our midwife Alison Ross shows you the main causes of crying in babies and what they sound like.As a parent, you need to learn to distinguish between a cry of pain, which is urgent and high pitched, and a hungry cry, a tired cry and a fed-up or uncomfortable cry.We have filmed babies having their vaccinations, before a feed and with a dirty nappy to show you what those babies sound like, and, as you get to know your baby, you will learn to identify your baby’s different cries.

Preventing crying

Quite a lot of crying is preventable – you can minimise it with a few simple parenting tricks.Your baby loves to be near you and next to your skin. Having your baby in a sling means they’ll feel very supported and attached to you. You will also be very aware of when they become hungry or need a nappy change. This will help prevent a lot of crying.

Sleeping close to them also means that they do not have to cry really loudly to get your attention from another room. You will also be able to feed them more quickly and more frequently. These ancient parenting techniques can help you to respond quickly and sensitively to your baby.

Why do babies cry?

Try to go through the reasons your baby might be crying in a process of elimination – like a Midwife would do.


  • Might my baby be hungry?
  • Might she be tired or over-stimulated?
  • Might she have a dirty nappy?
  • Might there be something bothering her – like a clothes label that’s rubbing her?
  • Might she be too hot or too cold?
  • Might she be very bored from being stuck in the pram for too long?
  • Might she just need a cuddle?

Usually if you work through this list in a systematic way, you’ll find the reason.

Might the crying be from colic?

If your baby is constantly crying, and there really seems to be no reason for it, she may be suffering from colic, and you should take her to see your Midwife or GP/ Doctor.

Soothing a crying baby

There’s a sound that Mothers make all over the world when they are soothing their babies. It’s a Ssssssshing sound. They also gently rock their babies, or rub them. The reason these sounds and movements are so effective is that they mimic the sounds and movements of being in the womb.

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your baby’s crying?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your baby’s crying you should speak to your GP or health visitor.If you are desperate and at home by yourself, remember it’s better for you to leave your baby safely in his cot and to step outside for 10 minutes to calm down, than to shout at your baby or shake them. This will make the crying worse and could possibly harm them. Making sure they’re safe, and then stepping away for a short while can really help.

If you are feeling depressed and stressed you should know that this is very common for a new Mum or Dad. The first step is to talk to someone – friends and family if you think they might help – and/ or healthcare professionals like your Midwife or Doctor.

For further advice and support go to the charity Cry-sis, which offers support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies.If you are worried that you or your partner may be suffering from postnatal depression you should speak to your GP or Doctor to get further advice and treatment.If you’re feeling stressed it does not mean that you do not love your baby and with support you can begin to recover.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.