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How to Soothe a Crying Baby

When your newborn cries, try to attend to them as soon as possible. A hysterical infant is much harder to soothe. As your baby gets older, you may opt to let your little one fuss for a bit in the crib at night, to see if he can soothe himself back to sleep.

Regardless, when trying to stop the crying, check first to see if your baby is hungry, cold or in need of burping or a clean diaper. If the crying continues, and your baby doesn’t appear to be sick or in pain, try the soothing techniques below. Over time, you’ll discover which methods work best.

Soothing Techniques


Newborns respond well to being wrapped snugly in a blanket (the swaddling method you were likely taught while still in the hospital). Swaddling recreates the continuous tactile sensation of being in the womb. It’s a great soothing technique, though some infants don’t like the feeling of confinement. Just remember:

Always put a swaddled baby down to sleep on their back (not their stomach) and monitor the infant periodically to make sure they stays on their back.

Once your baby reaches 2 months of age, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends stopping the swaddling practice—well before the baby starts to try to roll over. A swaddled baby who can roll over is at higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


Picking up your baby also works, though not by calming them down. Rather, they become more visually alert and distracted, especially from the vantage point of your shoulder.

Other movements to try:

  • Hold and gently rock your baby while you stand, walk, dance or sit. Or try rocking her in an infant swing, cradle or stroller.
  • Take a walk outside with the baby in a stroller or sling.
  • Put the baby into a car seat and go for a drive.


Some babies like to be massaged. Try lying on your back, placing your baby on his stomach on top of you, and gently massaging his back.

If you think your baby may be suffering from gas, lay him on a firm surface and gently massage his stomach in a clockwise motion. Then gently press his knees toward his stomach to expel any air.


Sing softly to your baby, speak gently or play soft music. Babies are often comforted by nearby rhythmic, repetitive sounds and white noise, such as washing machines, dishwashers, vacuums or fans.


Give your baby a warm bath. Or hold her skin-to-skin and lay her face down on your lap on top of a safely wrapped hot-water bottle. (Never place your baby in direct contact with the hot-water bottle.)


Try getting your baby’s attention with a soft rattle or brightly colored toy. Change the environment around you both; walk into a different room.

Why Do Babies Cry?

Babies cry. Some babies cry more or less than others, but, on average, they cry 1 hour and 45 minutes a day when they’re 2 weeks old, and 3 hours a day when they’re 6 weeks old.

Sometimes babies cry because they are hungry, tired or uncomfortable, or because they want to be close to you. Sometimes babies cry for no reason at all.

Most babies have a fussy period each day, usually in the early evening. It starts when they’re about 3 weeks old and continues until they’re about 12 weeks.

Evening crying is sometimes seen as a tension-release, the result of a full day’s worth of sensory overload. Crying shuts down your baby’s senses and eventually tires them out so that they falls into the deep sleep they need.

Infant crying can be stressful for parents. You feel they are calling for your help, you respond, yet sometimes they continue to cry. Usually you can soothe them and quiet the cry with feeding, walking or holding, but know that sometimes they will cry no matter what you do. It’s all part of being a baby.

"PURPLE" Crying

Understanding the Period of "PURPLE" Crying

You can ease that helpless feeling when your baby cries no matter what you do simply by understanding that even intense and extended bouts of crying are perfectly normal for young infants.

“The Period of PURPLE Crying,” is an educational program created by developmental pediatrician Ron Barr, MD, and Marilyn Barr, founder and former executive director for the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome.

The program has been helpful in preventing Shaken Baby Syndrome, the potentially life-threatening infant brain damage that can occur when frustrated parents or caregivers shake an inconsolable baby to try to stop the infant from crying.

What is "PURPLE"?

PURPLE is an acronym for the way in which healthy babies cry for the first several months:

P = Peak PatternCrying increases in the first couple of months, and this increase isn't the fault of you or the baby; all babies go through it.

U = Unpredictable: Crying bouts "just happen" at unpredictable times for no apparent reason.

R = Resistant to soothing: When a baby starts a bout of crying, it has to work itself out. You often can't fix it, regardless of what soothing measures you use.

P = Pain-like face: During crying bouts, it often appears as if the child is in pain. The baby scrunches up his face, turns red and howls. This can be frightening and frustrating because you don't know why it's happening, but the crying is not from pain.

L = Long bouts of crying: The afternoon and evening bouts are the longest and can last for hours. Again, this is normal for some infants but difficult for caregivers who have to live through it.

E = Evening clustering: Often crying bouts happen when parents are the most tired, making it hard to find the internal resources to cope with a fussy baby.

Caregivers who are at risk of overreacting can use this tool to stop, think, step back and understand that crying is normal and natural. This information provides clues to normal crying characteristics that can help all parents and babies through difficult bouts of crying.

What is Colic?

All babies can cry or fuss for long periods of time, particularly in the first months of life. But persistent crying is more typical in infants popularly considered to have “colic.” This type of crying behavior is defined as occurring for at least 3 hours a day, at least 3 days a week, over a 3-week period.

Clinicians once theorized that colic was a symptom of a physical ailment, such as gas or even lactose intolerance, which required treatment. It was also once believed that a colicky infant would become a child with a difficult temperament.

Colic Is Normal

Based on research into infant crying, we now understand that even the endless tears of the “colicky” baby are perfectly normal, though no one is really sure what causes this more pronounced crying.

Studies have shown that colicky babies’ crying patterns and the time of day they cry is no different from those of babies without colic. They just cry more. Among researchers' findings:

  • There are no developmental differences between infants with and without colic.
  • Babies with colic do not have more allergies than babies without colic.
  • Babies with colic do not have a higher incidence of asthma.
  • Colicky babies do not weigh less than babies without colic.
  • Babies with colic are not more likely than their peers to have difficult temperaments as they grow.

A new parent's confidence can be shaken by inconsolable crying. Try these tips for soothing your wailing infant. And talk with your partner, family, healthcare provider and even other parents about how the crying, though temporary, is affecting you. Your baby needs comforting, and you need support!