Tips for Child Care Providers to Soothe a Crying Baby

Child Care September 15, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Crying baby close up

Caring for a baby who cries constantly can be exhausting and overwhelming for child care providers. It's easy to get frustrated and angry when nothing you do seems to calm the baby down. Here are some ways to calm a crying baby (or several babies) in a group setting. But never shake a baby! If you shake a baby you can cause permanent damage or death. Babies have large heavy heads and weak neck muscles. When a baby is shaken, the movement bounces the brain back and forth within the skull, rupturing and tearing blood vessels, nerves and brain tissue. Many babies who are shaken die. Children who survive often have permanent damage including blindness, hearing loss, seizures, developmental delays, speech and learning difficulties, and paralysis.

Suggestions to Soothe Crying Babies

To calm a crying baby, child care providers might try the following.

  • Check to make sure that a baby’s basic needs are met. Crying may be a sign of hunger or a dirty diaper.
  • Make sure their clothing is not pinching or tight. Undress the baby to check for marks of pinching.
  • Try swaddling or wrapping the baby up snugly. This is comforting and helps babies feel secure.
  • Hold the baby against your chest. Babies often feel more comfortable if you hold them close.
  • Try feeding the baby more slowly. Remember to burp often.
  • Rock the baby. You can do this in a rocking chair or by sitting with baby and swaying back and forth.
  • Go for a walk or ride. Sometimes a stroller ride in fresh air can work wonders.
  • Give baby a warm bath. Water can be very soothing.
  • Give baby a gentle massage. Rub on lotion or a light oil, such as almond oil. Gently massage baby’s arms, legs, toes and tummy.
  • Try singing softly. Humming works well too.
  • Play a CD with pleasant gentle sounds. Soft piano music or ocean sounds seem to work well.
  • You can also try using a pacifier (if parents approve). Sometimes a baby is not hungry but just needs to suck.
  • Discuss formula choices with parents. Sometimes a formula can cause tummy aches.
  • Ask parents about baby's typical day at home and what parents do to calm him.

If nothing works, take a break. If you find your frustration level climbing, ask for help. See if another child care provider can take over for a few minutes. If you are in a center, ask a director for help. If you are a family child care provider, see if a neighbor or friend can come over and help out for a few minutes. If all else fails, put the baby down in a crib and let him or her cry for short periods (10 – 15 minutes).

Call the parents. If the crying continues and nothing you do soothes the baby, or he seems sick or feverish, you may need to call the parents. Explain the problem, and suggest that parents take the child to a doctor just to make sure there are no serious problems.

For More Information

To learn more about how child care providers can provide infants' needs, take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles: