Most babies have periods of crying which can last for 1 – 3 hours, once or twice a day. This usually improves at around 4 months. Waking at night is common. Even at 12 months, 25 – 40% of children wake and may need your help to get back to sleep. It’s hard to settle a baby if you’re upset too! Take some time to calm down, then try the following tips.
Crying Baby Tips
1. Does your baby need comfort or attention?
Pick up your baby and offer some cuddles and soothing words! Wrap your baby if they’re not rolling yet (see our guide on wrapping). Otherwise, calm them by holding them closely and gently.
2. Does your baby need a nappy change?
Your baby may find a wet or dirty nappy uncomfortable. If left unchanged, it could lead to a rash. Use your judgement on whether to change it now.
3. Does your baby need a burp?
Sometimes, but not always, a baby will feel more comfortable if ‘burped’ after feeding. There’s no need to try for more than a couple of minutes. It does not matter if your baby does not burp.
4. Is your baby hungry?
Follow your instincts, but if your baby has fed in the last 2 hours, try some of the tips above to help them settle, before offering food.
5. Is your baby comfortable?
Check that your baby is not too hot or cold by placing your hand on the baby’s chest or tummy. A good rule on how to dress your baby comfortably is to add one extra layer to what you are wearing. In cold weather, warm the room, but make sure it is well ventilated so it doesn’t overheat. In hot weather, cool the room, but don’t direct a fan or air conditioner straight onto the cot, or let the room get too cold.
6. Does your baby want to suck?
Some newborn baby’s have a strong urge to suck and find that it calms them. Allow your baby to suck if they want to.
7. Is your baby overtired?
You might want to check for ‘tired signs’ to understand what your baby might be telling you. Your baby may wake at the end of a sleep cycle and not be able to resettle without your help. Responding consistently to your baby’s sleep needs helps them learn good sleep habits. For more information on sleep cycles see our Understanding Sleep Brochure.
8. Is there too much going on?
Reduce stimulation by making the room dark and quiet. Gentle soft music or quiet background noise can help your baby, if they are having difficulty calming down.
9. Is your baby unwell?
Take your baby’s temperature. It should be between 36.8 and 37.4 degrees centigrade.
10. Do you need a break?
Having a crying baby for any length of time can be stressful. When you are feeling upset, frustrated or about to lose control, the best thing to do is take a break. If possible, get someone else to take over. If this is not possible, place your baby in a safe place, such as a cot (with the sides up). Leave the room and take some deep breaths. A break of 1 – 2 minutes can really make a difference!
Try a different strategy
There are different settling strategies like Settling In Arms, Hands On Settling and other methods.
It is important not to change your strategy every few minutes, as your baby won’t know what is expected and this can be distressing for them.
As a general rule continue with your chosen strategy for 30 – 40 minutes.
However, if your baby is becoming more and more unsettled, then you may need to change settling strategy. Persisting with a strategy that is not working can make your baby more tired and harder to settle.
It is not always easy to know when to persist and when it is best to change strategies, if you would like some help deciding, see Get help!
If you are trying to change how your baby settles to sleep, allow time for your baby to adjust. It may take more than a few days.
For more info, see Settling Strategies.
As a parent, sometimes it’s hard asking for help. It doesn’t mean you are not coping.
Adjusting to being a new parent can be challenging. See About Me for further information if you are worried about how you are feeling and coping.
Call a friend, family member or the Karitane Careline on 1300 227 464 to get some support and encouragement. The Karitane Careline is available from 8AM Monday to 5PM Friday and 10AM to 6PM on weekends and public holidays.
The Australian Government also provides a helpline for parents and carers. You can call Pregnancy, Birth & Baby on 1800 882 436.