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Babies cry as a way of communicating their needs. It can be stressful if your baby is crying a lot and difficult to settle. Crying usually increases around 6-8 weeks and reduces by 3-4 months of age. At 6-8 weeks babies may cry for a total of 2-3 hours in a 24-hour period. 

The most common reasons babies cry include: crying baby

  • Being hungry or thirsty 

  • Being too hot or too cold 

  • Feeling scared 

  • Being tired 

  • Being uncomfortable – because of a wet nappy or getting used to sensations of digestion 

  • Needing a cuddle 

Your baby may be crying because they are sick, it is best to see your doctor or child health nurse if: 

  • Your baby seems unwell. 

  • Your baby is not feeding well or weeing enough. 

  • The sound of your baby’s crying changes. 

  • Your baby has symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, or a rash. 

Settling techniques 

There are a few techniques that you can use for setting your baby: father settling baby

  • Cuddling or holding 

  • Patting 

  • Gently stroke your baby’s forehead 

  • Pat the mattress 

  • Rocking 

  • Jiggling the cot 

  • Wrapping 

  • Quiet talking, singing, or whispering 

  • Offer a dummy or fingers if your baby wants to suck 

  • Reduce stimulation (light and noise) 

You may need to try a few things to work out what works best for you and your baby.

Please visit Settling a crying baby or Settling 3-6 months to view some practical settling techniques. 

If you have any concerns about sleep or crying, talk to your Child and Family Nurse. There are several support services available that can help with sleep and other challenges of parenting. See the links below for more information. 

Settling babies 0-6 months

Responsive settling is a way of comforting your baby while helping them settle and sleep. This will help your baby feel safe and secure. It involves settling your baby in your arms, hands-on settling and speaking to your baby to provide reassurance to them.  

It is important to make sure that your baby is comfortable before you begin trying to settle them. This means checking for tired signs, making sure that your baby is fed, and they have a clean nappy. It may also help to keep your baby’s sleep environment calm, quiet and dimly lit.  

Settling in arms: mother settling baby in arms

This technique involves holding and soothing your baby in your arms when they are ready to sleep. Try the following: 

  • Gently rock your baby in your arms, or sway from side to side.  

  • Pat your baby’s bottom in a consistent rhythm 

  • Make gentle “ssshhh” sounds 

Once your baby is asleep in your arms, you can gently put them in their bassinet/cot ensuring they are safely on their back.

Hands-on settling

This technique is used to settle your baby to sleep in their bassinet/cot and can be useful to re-settle your baby when they wake up during the night. This will usually involve rhythmic, gentle patting. Try the following:  

  • Lay your baby on their side, facing away from you 

  • Gently hold your baby’s shoulder 

  • Pat your baby consistently and gently on their nappy or upper thigh 

  • You can sing softly or “ssshhh” while patting 

  • Once your baby is relaxed and asleep, gently roll them onto their back.  

Some other options that you could try: gently stroking baby's forehead

  • Holding your baby’s shoulder and hip and gently rock your baby back and forth 

  • Gently stroke your baby’s forehead 

  • Pat the mattress beside your baby 

  • Gently joggle the bassinet/cot 

If you have tried some of the settling tips, and your baby still isn't settled, you could try: 

  • Using a soft night light in their room 

  • Wrapping your baby in a swaddle to help calm their startle reflex. Remember that if your baby can roll, this is not safe for your baby.  

  • Visit Pregnancy, Birth and Baby for information on dummies and comforters.  

For more tips on responsive settling, please visit Tresillian

Settling babies 6-12 months

If your baby still needs your help to settle, you can continue with the above tips. However, if you want to reduce the help you provide your baby you can try the following: 

  • Talk quietly to your baby and cuddle them to help calm them 

  • Put your baby in their cot when they are drowsy but awake. You can use any of the above hands-on settling techniques if you need to when your baby is in their cot 

  • When your baby is calm, try to leave the room. If they become distressed, you should return to their room to comfort your baby and use your settling techniques again. Your baby may need you to stay in the room until they fall asleep, this is normal. You can progressively distance yourself as they become better at self-settling.  

If your baby needs more help to settle at this age, please visit Tresillian for helpful tips on parental presence.  

At this age it may help to implement a calming bedtime routine. This will show your baby that it is time to settle and get ready for bed. Ideally you should begin this 20 minutes before bedtime. Visit Sleep Routines for more information. 

Related Articles:


Sleep Routines

[Pregnancy, birth and baby, 2020; Tresillian, 2022; Karitane, 2022; Raising Children, 2022.]