How to Get a Baby to Stop Crying so You Can Sleep

Updated on April 27, 2018
kate stroud profile image

Kate is a mother of two boys and also manages a nanny business in the Sacramento area of California.

Feel like you're on the cusp of losing your mind because your baby refuses to sleep? Did you just wake up after a really luxurious 87 minutes total of shut eye only to realize you stuck the milk in the pantry last night and now you're weeping over a cold cup of coffee? Do you feel like you're going to die but know that you can't because you have to care for your baby?

Hang in there.

I'm writing this right now after a solid 8.5 hours of sleep in which my children slept peacefully. When you're in the throes of babyhood, it feels like nothing will ever change but take heart, it does. It gets better and soon enough these miserable mornings of exhaustion will be but a vague memory from which you gained wisdom to pass along to other mothers just as I'm about to do now.

Here's 9 tricks I learned to help my babies get a better night's sleep so I could too.

First: Make Sure the Basics Are Covered

Here are four quick things you should check first to make sure they aren't the reason your baby is crying:

  1. Change their diaper. Obvious, right? But sometimes, in the heat of the moment that may be the last thing you've actually thought to do. While you're changing them, inspect for any signs of a rash. A lot of the time when I thought my baby was inconsolable it turns out they were dealing with rash that was sometimes hidden in a fold down there or that I had just overlooked. They can appear between changes and sneak up on you!
  2. Try more food. If you baby is still in the bottle/nursing stage, try extra ounces or feedings right before bed to help keep them full as they sleep. If your baby is old enough for solids try a thicker meal before bed like a bowl of oatmeal to calm those hunger pains. Babies often wake to eat - they're still growing, after all!
  3. Check for teeth. Like the diaper rash, new teeth can pop up totally out of nowhere and set the stage for some difficult nights.
  4. Give your baby some gas drops. With our first, we had many sleepless nights that probably could have been calmed with a few gas drops or gripe water. Once we caught on to his trapped gas, bedtime went smoother.

If none of these are the likely cause to why your kid won't relax, it's time to progress on to some of the old "tricks of the trade" for moms.

Summary of Methods for Calming Your Baby

1. Use a Pacifier
The sucking action helps to soothe babies. Experiment with different pacifiers to find which one works best.
2. Get Snuggly
Swaddling or wrapping your baby in a towel can create a tight, warm, womb like feeling that will help them to relax.
3. Use Music to Calm Your Baby
Find a genre of music that relaxes your baby or consider quite, soft singing.
4. Utilize White Noise
White noise can relax your baby and drowned out loud noises that might wake them once they are asleep.
5. Get Some Fresh Air
Babies love a little fresh air and change of scenery to look at.
6. Take a Warm Shower or Bath
A warm bath or shower reminds your baby of the womb and can help them to calm down.
7. Give Your Baby a Massage
A soft massage for your baby stimulates the release of oxytocin and will help to promote relaxation.
8. Put the Baby Down and Walk Away
Sometimes this is needed to break the crying cycle. Always make sure they are safe when doing this.
9. Create a Quiet, Dark Atmosphere
Quiet and dark is the definition of relaxing for your baby. A quite white noise machine is still ok.
This is a quick summary of the tips offered here. Read further for more in-depth ideas and information about why they work.

1. Use a Pacifier (Or Something Like It)

With my first baby, I couldn't get them to sleep without a round of comfort nursing, but if your baby is open to a pacifier or even just holding onto a bottle of formula or breast milk that gives you a chance to collect yourself and relax before bed as well. Babies are picky about pacifiers (and bottle nipples for that matter) so you might have to experiment with a few different brands to get the right fit for your babe. Both of mine loved the WubbaNubs which came with an Avent Soothie style paci attached, possibly because they not only liked the shape of the pacifier but also because the stuffed toy attached gave them something to touch and caress as they fell asleep.

Take care though not to give a pacifier, especially a Soothie style (the really thin, sort of limp ones) to a baby with teeth because they can chew through them and that poses a choking hazard.

2. Get Snuggly

Snuggling or swaddling your baby can bring them back to those cozy womb days where they were most comfortable up against the soft rhythm of your heart. Babies like to be warm and comfortable. You can wear your baby in a sling or baby carrier, wrap them in a warm blanket, lay with them, or hold them against you to recreate that feeling. Studies show that being close to a parent regulates the heart rate of the baby, decreasing stress for them and in turn, I'd imagine, for you!

3. Use Music to Calm Your Baby

Explore different genres with your baby, you never know what might do the trick! You can play music or sing to them. Trying throwing in a rocking chair with gentle movement or swaying around the room. It's okay if you have two left feet- your baby won't care when he's up close to momma or daddy.

If you don't already have one, invest in a glider or rocker to rock your baby down for naps and bedtime. You'll use it for years to come!
If you don't already have one, invest in a glider or rocker to rock your baby down for naps and bedtime. You'll use it for years to come!

4. Utilize White Noise

I still use this for my kids! When they were babies we used the Cloud B Sleep Sheep on the womb noises setting but as they've grown we've just used rain sounds from YouTube or Spotify to soothe them to sleep on especially tough nights.

You can also download an app like one of these to take your white-noise with you wherever you need it:

  • White Noise Lite (free on iOS and Android)
  • Relax Melodies: Sleep Sounds, White Noise & Fan (free on iOS and Android)
  • Sound Sleeper: White Noise (free on iOS and Android)

5. Get Some Fresh Air

Sometimes a little change of scene is all it takes to calm a baby for sleep. Since you're both probably exhausted, skip the car ride and pop your little one in a stroller for a quick jaunt up and down the sidewalk in front of your apartment of lay out a blanket on the back patio and inspect the blades of grass for a few before hitting the proverbial hay.

If it's too cold, or too late to head outdoors, crack a window and read a story in the fresh draft to give yourself and your baby a dose of good ol' fresh air therapy.

6. Take a Warm Shower or Bath

Back to the womb thing- a bath in warm water can take your baby straight back to the belly days. You can also try holding them in a warm shower, letting the water run on both of you. Sit down in the shower so you don't have to stress about slipping and diffuse a little pure lavender oil while you're at it for some added relaxation.

7. Give Your Baby a Massage

Nothing like a massage after a long day of pooping yourself, eating, and crying- baby life is rough! Massaging your baby stimulates the flow of the "feel-good" hormone oxytocin in both your baby and you, so it's a wonderful way for both of you to relax after a difficult day.

Use gentle strokes on the back, arms, and legs to stimulate blood flow and relax your baby's body. When I did this for my infants, I liked to use Burt's Bees Baby Nourishing Body Oil which is like $5 at Walmart or Target. Once you're done with baby's massage you can give yourself a little one too!

Putting on some gentle jams will soothe you and your little one as you prepare to nod off.
Putting on some gentle jams will soothe you and your little one as you prepare to nod off.

8. Put the Baby Down and Walk Away

Sometimes, you need a break and that doesn't make you a bad parent. In desperate times, especially when we were dealing with teething, I put my babies down in a safe space like their pack n' play and let them cry while I regained my sanity.

I would have a quick snack, use the bathroom, or just text a friend or call my mom for a quick pep talk. Turns out, he started to self-soothe which solved a lot of our problems and it gave me a chance to clear my head and take some time to care for myself.

9. Create a Quiet, Dark Atmosphere

Every baby is different! Some may prefer noise while some may want it to be completely quiet. A very sensitive baby may easily become over-stimulated and have trouble nodding off. So if nothing on this list works for you, try a quiet room, shut the curtains and set a peaceful scene to create a safe space you both can come to when things get overwhelming.

When Did Your Baby Start Sleeping Through the Night?

If you have older children, when did your baby start sleeping through the night?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Kate Stroud


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