How to Calm a Crying Baby

Crying is your baby’s only way of communicating with you. At first it can be difficult and distressing for you but remember a large part of parenting is trial and error and you will soon learn to anticipate and interpret his needs. It is important to remember that no baby has ever cried himself to death. You need to know how to interpret what each cry means and you will know this very quickly if you spend time with him.

Reasons why babies cry:

  1. I am hungry
  2. I am wet or dirty
  3. I am cold
  4. I am hot
  5. I want to be cuddled
  6. I am not comfortable
  7. I don’t feel good
  8. I can’t take it anymore
  9. None of the above

If your little one is wailing, just work your way down the list and you should find the cure.

  • Hungry cry. Usually stops once food is in the mouth but some babies will continue complaining so keep on feeding. Sometimes baby will cry instead of closing the mouth so you may help him by gently pushing the lower jaw up to close the mouth.
  • Wet or dirty. Some babies will let you know when the nappy is full and need changing especially when they poo. Others are not bothered until you smell it or when you pick them up.
  • Too cold or too hot. All babies do not like to be naked and they cannot sleep if they are cold especially when they have cold feet. Sometimes swaddling or just putting a cloth over the feet will stop them crying. Sometimes a pacifier may help. Most babies are less likely to complain about being too hot so you will only recognize this when you see that his face is flushed or that he is sweaty.
  • Need to be cuddled. Babies need a lot of cuddling and they vary a lot in how much they want to be held. There is no such thing as spoiling your baby by cuddling her. They grow up so fast and before you know it they are too big to carry and cuddle. Some babies just want to be by your side without being held.
  • Not comfortable. This is usually due to position or something that’s irritating him. As the baby grows bigger he can push himself until he is wedged against the cot and needs to be repositioned.
  • Don’t feel good. The cry of a sick baby is very distinct from the cry of hunger or frustration and you will recognize when your baby does not sound right and needs to be taken to the doctor.
  • Can’t take anymore. Babies can become over stimulated from the noise and being passed from hand to hand and crying is the only way to say “I have enough.” Some babies may even have nightmares during the night from over stimulation.
  • Too silent. Babies do not live in a silent world in the womb. Many new parents try to make it so silent that they whisper and tiptoe when baby is asleep then they wonder why baby wakes up crying. They sleep better when there is soothing sounds so keep the radio on and let the DJ bore him to sleep.
  • None of the above. Many newborns have periods of fussiness when it is difficult to soothe them and you just cannot figure out what to do. This has happened to me a couple of times and my last resort was to take Marie to her doctor. The moment we walked through the door she smiled and cooed at the doctor who looked at me as if I was an idiot; and, I had to pay him RM75.00 to be told that there was nothing wrong with her especially when I am a so-called ‘expert’ on baby care.

Cecilia Koh is a British trained nurse/midwife with over 30 years experience working with mothers and babies in England and Malaysia. If you need more information on postnatal confinement and baby care please go to

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