Soothing

Author: Ronald G. Barr, MDCM, FRCP(C)

Because of the normal increase in crying that occurs in the first months of your baby’s life (see Crying page), parents and caregivers usually have two obvious questions:

  1. What is the crying due to; and
  2. How can I soothe my baby?

When I refer to “soothing,” I am referring to “quieting” or “calming” your baby when they are upset or crying.

The answers to the question of what the crying is due to are addressed in detail on the crying section of this website, and so we will not talk about that very much in this section. It is relevant to point out here, however, that almost all of this increased crying is not due to sickness, illness or disease, but is part of the normal early behavioral development of your baby. If your baby does have an illness or a disease, then of course it is important to take whatever measures are appropriate for that condition in order to treat it. But here, we will assume that you have had your baby examined by a doctor or a health care professional and that there is no disease or illness that is causing the crying.

The answers to the question of how you can soothe your baby may turn out to be more varied and more interesting than you imagined. In the pages that follow, we are going to talk about these answers in three sections. We will:

  1. Describe the common features and principles of all soothing techniques;
  2. Describe some common sense and well-tried soothing techniques; and
  3. Consider some inappropriate advice and inappropriate soothing techniques that can make things worse  rather than better.