Soothe Your Crying Baby With These Parenting Tips

It’s the age-old dilemma for parents – how best to soothe your crying baby. Unfortunately there is no secret answer but here are some tips that can help both you and your baby.

Babies cry for a host of reasons – they could be too hot, too cold, scared, tired, lonely, hurt, hungry, or simply frustrated. Whatever the reason, it can be upsetting when nothing you do seems to calm your bub.

Dr Susan Nicolson is an Infant-Parent Mental Health Clinician and a senior medical staff member at the Centre for Women’s Mental Health at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne.

“Some parents think that if their baby is really unsettled, they are letting their baby down and failing as a parent,” she says.
Nicolson says that the main thing to remember is that you likely know your baby better than any other person does. When your baby is crying they are trying to tell you something. If they are fed, warm and dry and not hurt or sick, they may just need a cuddle.
“You may not instantly know what’s happening for your baby and how best to fix things,” Nicolson says, “but take time to read your baby’s cues, stay interested and be okay with not always knowing.

In time you’ll become good at working out with them what’s wrong and what particular things help them re-settle, even in difficult times.”

Practical settling strategies

  • Use sounds that tell your baby that you are there. These sounds can help soothe you and the baby. You might softly hum your favourite lullaby, or repeat “There, there,” or murmur their name.
  • Use patting, rocking or skin-to skin warmth.
  • Baby massage can be a good way to soothe your baby. Put on some soft music, make sure you won’t be disturbed and that the temperature is comfortably warm. Use gentle strokes and regularly check in with your baby’s face to make sure they are enjoying the massage.
  • Swaddling or wrapping – either loosely or firmly – can comfort your baby. ‘Read’ your baby and do what works for them and for you.
Baby sleeping

Soothe yourself

Nicolson also points out the importance of soothing yourself while settling your baby. “Think about what things help you feel settled,” she says. “This could be going for a walk together, or sitting in a rocking chair with a warm blanket around your shoulders with baby tucked inside.”
If you do need a break, Nicolson advises giving your baby to someone you trust for five minutes. “This way you’re filling up your petrol tank at the same time as ensuring your baby knows they are not alone.”

If you’re worried that your baby is crying because they are sick or in pain, speak to your GP or paediatrician. If you really struggle emotionally when your baby cries, turn to your GP, maternal and child health nurse, or other healthcare professional for support.

For help with reading your baby’s cues check out the Newborn Behavioural Observational (NBO) system, used to support families at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Victoria. The program is funded by the Liptember fundraising campaign, held annually in September.

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