6 Proven Ways to Calm a Fussy Newborn Baby or Infant

Oct 12, 2021

If you’re a new parent, you’ve probably noticed that babies can cry a lot.  Crying is how your baby communicates frustration or discomfort since they aren’t able to speak!  Whether they are overly tired, overly stimulated, hungry, have a dirty diaper, are bored, (or have other possible reasons), they will let you know by crying! 

Understanding your newborn baby’s needs and cues is the ideal option for preventing crying (i.e. is your baby hungry? Tired? In need of a diaper change?); but sometimes it’s inevitable to have a fussy baby on your hands, even when you believe all their needs have been met! Here are 6 tips for soothing a crying, fussy baby: 

Tips for Soothing a Crying Baby

1. Wear baby in a wrap or sling

Babywearing has been around for hundreds of years, and for good reason.  Not only will it help soothe your baby, and allow you to do things hands-free (which comes in extremely handy when you’re alone with your baby!), but there are so many other benefits!

  • Decreases risk of Postpartum Depression [1] 
  • Helps prevent flat head syndrome 
  • Good for baby’s emotional and intellectual development [2]

2. Skin-to-skin or bath with baby

Skin-to-skin contact is a really easy way to help soothe your little one while also benefiting them (and you!) both short-term and long-term. Practicing skin-to-skin with your newborn has been proven to boost maternal moods by decreasing anxiety and stress, and aids in the physical recovery from delivering your baby [3].  It has also been proven to benefit babies by helping them cry less and get better sleep. Long-term, skin-to-skin has been shown to aid in babies’ physical growth as well as social-emotional capacities, and cognitive and motor capacities [4].

Skin-to-skin also initiates the process of co-regulation. Your baby has multiple emotional and physiological processes that they learn to regulate in their first few years of life (hunger, emotions, pain response, etc.) [5].  As a newborn, your baby relies on you to help support and stabilize their emotions and behavior. Co-regulation takes place when your baby signals to you their need and you meet that need by providing accurate, prompt, supportive, and sensitive caregiving as best you can at that time [6].

Once your baby’s umbilical cord has healed completely, practicing skin-to-skin with your little one while taking a bath is encouraged!  If you do choose to do this, just be sure to do this safely!  Have someone hand your baby to you while in the bath, and keep your baby warm (also check that the water is not too hot for your baby!).  The presence of the water and you will both help your little one to feel secure and comforted. 

3. Motion - stroller, car ride, bouncing, rocking

Have you ever wondered why a car ride seems to put your baby to sleep? Keeping your baby in motion; whether it’s on a walk in the stroller (make sure to use a bassinet feature for babies who can’t yet sit up on their own), going for a drive (do not leave your baby sleeping in their car seat once removed from the car), bouncing on a yoga ball, or rocking will help soothe them because the motion reminds them of the comfort of the womb. 

4. Switch up your environment - go outside for a walk

Getting outside will not only benefit your baby, but you as well!  Going for a short walk outside is a perfect way to boost your mood, which is usually needed the first few weeks of postpartum. 

5. The 5 S’s 

  • Swaddle: Swaddling your baby will help them settle as the feeling of being snug will remind them of the womb. It also helps soothe your baby’s startle reflex, which can often wake them too soon and lead to them becoming overly tired. 
  • Shush: Complete silence is not ideal for babies.  Rather, white noise or shushing sounds help calm a fussy baby. If you’ve been looking for a white noise machine that delivers a similar rumble to the womb, I recommend this sound machine. If you want to try a different approach instead of a sound machine to soothe your baby, the Baby Susher is another great option for this step!
  • Side:  Hold your baby on their side facing in towards your body, as this can feel more soothing to them than being upright or on their back. It’s also a great way to transition a sleeping newborn to their bassinet or crib - as placing them directly down on their back can activate the startle reflex on the way down.  Just be sure to maneuver your baby onto their back for sleep, as this is the safest sleeping position for babies to help prevent the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
  • Swing: Just as keeping your baby in motion will help soothe, holding them securely and gently swinging (while being sure to support their neck and head) back and forth will create a rocking sensation. You’ll want to keep this movement fairly quick and bouncy (not shaking!) as this will be the most effective in calming your fussy baby!
  • Suck: The sucking sensation is very soothing for babies.  If your baby will take a pacifier or you are breastfeeding, use either in addition to the other “4 S’s” to help them calm much faster.  

6. Combination - try layering soothing techniques

If one soothing technique on its own does not seem to do the trick, try picking a couple of different ones and layer them!  A great rule of thumb is to try to replicate the feeling of being in the womb as best you can. Your little one is adjusting to life outside the womb and layering soothing techniques like darkness, shushing sounds, skin-to-skin, activating the sucking reflex (with a pacifier or breast), and motion are ideal for a fussy baby. A more simple example for an older baby more accustomed to life outside the womb might be going for a walk while babywearing - keeping your baby close to your body and moving! This example works twofold, as your baby will feel secure and comforted, while you’ll both be getting a dose of fresh air (and hopefully some sunshine!). 

All babies are different when it comes to having their needs met, and as a new parent, it can take time to figure out your baby’s needs and how you can best meet them.  With consistency and practice, you’ll find what works and what doesn’t work for your baby.  But the best tip of all? Use your parent-gut! Listen to yourself - you know what your baby needs best.

Expecting a newborn and looking for lots more tips for everything from how to set up your postpartum stations to basic newborn care and sleep education? Make sure to download my FREE Expectant Parents Guide

If you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Download one of my comprehensive sleep guides or schedule a call with me for some personalized support. 



[1] https://www.jognn.org/article/S0884-2175(15)31144-8/fulltext

[2] https://www.hss.edu/article_babywearing.asp 

[3] [4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles

[5] [6]  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article

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