Parents can get very stressed and feel very helpless when their baby is crying. It’s good to know that holding her close and being there is a huge support for your baby.
Be there for them
The important thing to remember when your baby is crying is that she is comforted to have you there with her. Your sensitive and empathic presence is the most important thing to your baby. Sometimes when you soothe your crying baby she will stop crying in moments, but sometimes whatever you do the crying continues. Try not to feel like you have failed if your baby continues to cry; you are helping by simply soothing.
Try to ‘solve’ their problem
Often your baby will stop crying quickly when you work out why she is crying and remove the source of her distress. See our article on ‘Why do babies cry?’ for the top reasons why babies cry and how to spot the other underlying reasons, eg, hungry babies display ‘feeding cues’.
So if you’ve tried to get the to the bottom of the problem and she’s not hungry, doesn’t have a dirty nappy and isn’t tired… she will need some TLC so you can focus on soothing her. Wanting to calm a baby is a very strong instinct within us. Human beings are very caring and attentive parents within the animal kingdom.
Soothing is for everyone!
Soothing your baby does three wonderful things:
- Calms your baby and makes her feel loved
- Calms you down and makes you feel useful and more in control of the situation
- Calms down other people who are anxious, angry or frustrated by your baby’s crying
How do I soothe my crying baby?
Soothing babies is a very instinctive thing for most adults. There is also a large element of social learning and experience, so new parents from cultures where children and teenagers have caretaking roles often have lots of experience soothing their younger siblings. Anthropologists have reported the same basic and effective soothing behaviours all around the world. So do what comes naturally:
- Cuddle your baby to your chest in skin-to-skin contact. She will be soothed by the familiar smell of your skin and the beating of your heart
- It can help to move around with your baby so put her in a soft sling and take her off for a walk or cuddle her in a rocking chair – rhythmic movement is the key
- Sing and coo to your baby
- Tell her that you know that she is sad/angry. She will hear the sympathetic tones
- Gentle ‘shush-shush-shushing’ comes naturally to us and some doctors think we might have instinctively stumbled on a noise that sounds similar to the way a mum’s heartbeat would sound to a baby in the womb
Every parent hates it when their baby cries, and it’s impossible to think about anything else. But it’s reassuring to know that just by soothing them and being with them you are helping them.
If your baby will not stop crying, you need to first rule out an underlying medical problem by taking her along to the GP.
Take measures if you are overwhelmed by your baby’s crying
A baby’s cries have evolved to make us jump up and help them, so when a baby cries and cries and cries it is emotionally difficult to cope with. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your baby’s crying, get help straight away. Ask an adult family member or friend to take over so you can calm yourself over a cup of tea or a walk in the fresh air. If there is no one there, it is safer to put your baby down in their cot where no physical danger can hurt them, then try to take time to calm down. Call the Cry-sis helpline or talk to a friend, partner or health visitor.
It is normal to feel frustrated with your baby’s crying and even feel angry towards her, but it is not OK to shake her or be rough with her, even for a moment. Babies do not try to provoke us, they are not manipulative and they love us unconditionally. However, they are extremely vulnerable and shaking a baby can cause them severe brain damage and can sometimes be fatal. It’s better that your baby is safe, albeit alone in her cot for five minutes, while you call someone or have a cup of tea in another room rather than you getting angry with your baby.