A baby’s cry is the most distressing sound any parent can hear. As a new mum I was shocked at how much my baby cried. And it is so hard to know what else to try after the initial process of checking that they are not hungry, wet or tired. My third baby had colic and cried for about four hours every evening for weeks. It left me feeling helpless and frustrated when after hours of trying I would sit exhausted and listen to her crying in her cot. The only thing that helped was putting her in a baby carrier and walking up and down using big, bouncy steps – but there is only so long you can keep that up and after three hours I was shattered. Eventually seeing an osteopath worked and the colic stopped when she was 9 weeks old.

For ‘normal’ crying there are a whole range of things you can do to help calm your baby, and I have listed them here. Gradually you will find what works for your baby – but it is nice to have a few options when you want some ideas to soothe your baby.

  1. Feed the baby
  2. Change the baby’s nappy
  3. Put the baby in their cot or crib. Rub gently or pat them rhythmically. Or just leave them to settle for a few minutes in a quiet room.
  4. Hold them up against your shoulder and gently rub or pat their back to see if they need burping
  5. Check the temperature – put your hand on their stomach and feel their hands and feet. if too hot remove some clothing, if too cold wrap in a blanket or hold the baby close against you and rub gently to warm them.
  6. Movement -Hold your baby and swing from side to side or bob up and down. Or swing them backwards and forwards in their car seat. A baby swing with automatic movement may be a good investment if your baby need to be rocked.
  7. Wrap the baby up tightly in a light blanket leaving the head uncovered
  8. Pick the baby up and cuddle them
  9. Put in a sling or baby carrier strapped to your front
  10. Play the baby some music –soft and soothing classical music, a relaxation CD, fun children’s songs, lullabies or Abba. Whichever works.
  11. Dance with the baby in your arms
  12. Take the baby outside. A trip in a pram or buggy may help
  13. Lay the baby on its side or stomach. Some babies are comforted by a large laminated picture or line drawing of a face next to them in their cot.
  14. Make gentle shushing noises. Or talk to the baby face-to-face in animated or comforting tomes
  15. A long continuous loud note coming from you will stop the crying. It stops the baby hearing itself cry. Try it. It works!
  16. Let the baby suck on something (dummy / finger / own fist)
  17. Let them chew on something if you think they may be teething, such as a chilled teething toy or cold carrot. Rub your finger on their gums or apply some teething gel
  18. Take the baby for a drive in the car or for a buggy or pram ride.
  19. Give them skin-to-skin contact by putting your naked baby against your bare chest where they can hear your heart-beat. Wrap a blanket around you both if you need to keep warm
  20. Generate some ‘white noise’ using the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, a hairdryer, womb tape or a white noise CD –buy one or make your own!
  21. If you think your baby may be in pain, give them a homeopathic remedy or paracetamol or nurofen for babies if they are old enough
  22. Try baby massage. In a warm room, rub some almond oil on your hands. Use gentle but firm strokes and circular rubs on the stomach, back shoulders or legs
  23. Give the baby a warm bath
  24. Consider using an over-the counter medication for colic if the crying is persistent and continuous for hours in the evening.
  25. If the baby has a comfort blanket or special toy let them cuddle it. (My babies loved their amazingly soft, long-wool sheepskins and silky fabric)

If the crying does not stop, and you are concerned that the baby may be ill, see your GP, talk to your Health visitor or call NHS direct (0845 4647). Parentline Plus (0808 800 2222) are available 24/7 to talk about how the crying is affecting you. An osteopath or cranial osteopath may be able to help with a baby who persistently cries – but exclude any medical problems first.
Please let me know of anything else you have tried that works. It would be great to be able to add to the list.

The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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