Alberta Network
For Safe & Healthy Children

Coping with crying

By the fourth month of life, all babies, including colicky babies, cry a lot less. Long bouts of crying and crying that can’t be soothed are rare by the time an infant is five months of age. In the meantime, here are some ideas about what you can do to soothe a baby:

  • Make baby as comfortable as possible, e.g., check temperature and diaper.
  • Provide gentle motion such as swaying, rocking or sit with them on a excercise ball and bounce softly.
  • Provide quiet music or other relaxing sounds, such as a white nosie machine.
  • Feed baby slowly and burp often.
  • Sometimes babies get overstimulated with too much noise and light. Try soothing them in a quiet, dimly lite room.
  • Repeat a sound such as “Shhhhhhh” or “hmmmmmm” while you hold them.

For more ideas on how to soothe a baby, click here

Things to keep in mind about infant crying:

  • Different ways of soothing may work at different times.
  • A comforted baby doesn’t always mean a quiet baby.
  • Try learn their unique cries. Crying is how babies communicate. Listen to thhe difference in their cries and you will get to know your baby well.
  • Even if your attempts to soothe your baby don’t stop your baby from crying, your baby is still benefiting from your attention. You are building your baby’s trust in you. Remember; you can not spoil a baby by providing loving affection.
  • Keep in mind that sometimes a baby just has to cry—crying doesn’t always mean that something is wrong.
  • When you have done everything you can to meet your baby’s needs and your baby keeps crying, you may feel tired, alone, or frustrated. You might feel that you are not doing a good enough job or that your baby is purposely making things hard. It is normal to have strong feelings in response to inconsolable crying; however, you must never shake, throw, hit or be rough with a baby.

If at anytime you start feeling tense, frustrated or angry, remember:

  • It is more important to stay calm than to stop the crying
  • Take a break, NEVER shake
  • It’s ok to leave the room briefly if you need to calm down
  • It’s OK to ask for help

When you can’t soothe your baby, remember that it is more important for you to stay calm than to stop the crying. Knowing how, and practicing ways, to keep yourself calm will help you through the challenging times now and in the future as your child or children grow up. Different self-calming strategies work for different people. Here are some ideas that might work for you:

  • Breath. Take 10 deep breaths. 
  • Count to Ten, or 20 or 100 if you need to.
  • Stretch.
  • Put on ear phones or listen to music
  • Close your eyes and imagine you are somewhere relaxing
  • read or write down your feelings and thoughts
  • take a shower or bath
  • yell into a pillow
  • hit a punching bag or weight bag

For more ideas on how to stay calm, click here.

It’s OK to ask for help, in fact sometimes it is the best thing to do.

All parents and caregivers need help, and it is important for you to have a support system in place. Make a list, and keep it handy, of the names phone numbers of people who can help when the crying is too much. You can use the Crying Plan to record that information and then post it on your fridge. Helpful people may include:

  • a neighbour, relative, or friend that can come over right away and help
  • Health Link Alberta. Anyone in Alberta can phone Health Link Alberta, anytime day or night, to receive free health advice from a trained nurse. You can phone Health Link Alberta about any health concerns, not just about crying babies:
    • In Calgary call (403) 943-5465
    • In Edmonton call (780) 408-5465
    • Or call toll-free in Alberta 1-866-408-5465

Take a break, NEVER shake 

  “Take a break, don’t shake” is a strategy to help you and other caregivers cope with crying. When the crying is too much:

  • Put the baby in a safe place, like the crib.
  • Shut the door and take a 10 – 15 minute break in another area of your home. Use a timer to help you keep track of the time. Letting your baby cry for a few minutes will not hurt your baby.
  • Actively try and calm your nerves and your mind. Breath deeply. Count to Ten slowly.
  • When you are feeling calm, you can try again to soothe your baby. If you don’t feel like you can handle things, ask for help. Call someone.

The most common reason given by people who shake a baby is that the baby is that the baby wouldn’t stop crying or fussing. For more information about the dangers of shaking and Shaken Baby Syndrome, click here.

Parents, know you can trust your baby’s other caregivers

Not only can crying be frustrating for parents, crying can be frustrating for the other people who look after your baby as well. So, even if you have an experienced caregiver, be sure to discuss:

  • Babies cry for many reasons.
  • Ways you have found helpful to settle your baby
  • It is NEVER OK to shake a baby.

Ask other caregivers what they will do when the baby can’t stop crying. Ask what they will do if they get frustrated or upset with the baby. Tell them that if something happens that they can’t handle, it is OK to place the baby in the crib, leave the room and take a break. Let them know who they can call for help, such as:

  • The names of close-by neighbours
  • The number where you can be reached – assure them that you will return immediately if they feel they are unable to calmly care for the child
  • Health Link Alberta
  • Distress Line 211

Talk to every person who will look after your baby about crying and the dangers of shaking. It can be hard to ask people if they might get frustrated with your baby, try using the When your BABY can’t stop CRYING brochure and the Crying Plan as conversation starters. These will help you talk about infant crying and the importance of never shaking a baby with the other people who live with and/or look after your baby. Don’t forget to include older brothers and sisters who may babysit for you or other parents. Try to remember that the period of increased crying will come to an end! As a baby grows he or she becomes more settled. By the fourth month of life, all babies, including colicky babies, cry a less.