Several techniques may help calm a fussy or crying baby. Swaddling, gently swinging, or making soothing sounds may help settle a baby and reduce stress for caregivers.

People may need to practice each calming technique to find which ones the baby responds to best.

This article looks at tips for calming a fussy baby, including swaddling, placing them on their side or stomach, shushing, swinging, soothing sounds, and allowing them to suck on a pacifier or a caregiver’s thumb or finger. It also looks at self-care tips for parents and caregivers.

A parent swaddling a fussy baby to calm them. -2Share on Pinterest
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If a baby is fussy even though a caregiver has tended to their immediate needs, such as changing diapers and feeding, they may require soothing.

They may be overstimulated or uncomfortable, which a caregiver may be able to remedy with one of the following techniques:

The “S” method

A good way to remember several ways of soothing a fussy baby is the “S” method, which involves the following techniques:

  • swaddle
  • side or stomach position
  • shush
  • swing
  • suck
  • sounds

Swaddling involves wrapping a newborn baby securely, but not too tightly, in a blanket. This technique may help reduce stress and soothe a newborn baby, as it may mimic the feeling of being in the womb.

People need to ensure that the baby is not too warm or wearing too many layers for swaddling and that their face is uncovered.


Do not swaddle a baby who shows signs of being able to roll over, which can occur as early as 2 months of age.

This is because there is an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) for babies who can roll onto their stomachs while swaddled.

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How to swaddle a newborn baby safely:

  1. Spread a thin blanket flat, with one corner folded down.
  2. Lay the baby facing up with their head above the folded corner.
  3. Gently straighten the baby’s left arm and wrap the left corner of the blanket over their body, tucking it in between their right arm and the right side of their body.
  4. Gently straighten the baby’s right arm against their body. Fold the right side of the blanket across their body and tuck it under the left side.
  5. Loosely twist or fold the bottom of the blanket and tuck it under one side of the baby.
  6. Ensure the baby can move their hips and they are not swaddled too tightly.
  7. Place the baby on their back on a firm, flat surface to sleep.

A baby should only sleep on their back, as sleeping on their stomach or side can increase the risk of SIDS.

However, holding a baby so they are positioned on their stomach or left side may help soothe them while they are fussy. Supporting the baby’s stomach in this way may also help with digestion.

Follow the steps below to use this technique:

  1. Find a comfortable position: A caregiver can hold the baby in their arms and place them on their left side or stomach. Alternatively, they may lay the baby over their shoulder.
  2. Ensure the baby’s face is not covered: Make sure the baby can breathe freely and is comfortable.
  3. Gently rub the baby’s back: This may help with calming the baby.
  4. Lie the baby on its back to sleep: The caregiver can place the baby on a firm, flat surface on their back when they are ready to sleep.

Shushing sounds can mimic the comforting sound of blood rushing in the womb. They may help calm a fussy baby in a similar way that a white noise machine or the sound of the ocean can help an adult relax.

A caregiver can try:

  • making a consistent “shhh” sound near the baby’s ear while they hold them
  • playing a white noise sound from a device
  • turning on a fan or another calming, consistent sound

They may also want to combine shushing with swaddling or a side or stomach position.

Swinging, swaying, or rocking movements may also remind a baby of the feeling of being in the womb, mimicking the movements they felt in utero.

Movement may help calm babies, help them fall asleep more quickly, and induce deeper sleep.

To swing a baby, a person will need to support the baby’s head and gently move them back and forth in their arms. They can also wear the baby in a body carrier and walk around to provide gentle movement or gently rock them.

The action of sucking can help calm a baby. If it is not time for feeding, a caregiver can let the baby suck on their thumb or finger or give them a clean pacifier.

Young babies have a strong sucking reflex and are often comforted by sucking, even when they are not hungry.

However, with prolonged or excessive use of pacifiers, a child may grow to rely on them. Sucking on a pacifier of thumb beyond the age of 2 to 4 years may also affect the development of a child’s teeth.

Soothing sounds can help calm a fussy baby. Gentle noises can distract them from distress and put them at ease.

Examples include:

  • quiet singing or talking in hushed tones
  • soft music from a device or mobile above the cot
  • a television playing at a low volume

A baby may remain fussy even though they are clean, dry, fed, and not in pain. Sometimes, they may not respond to soothing techniques and continue to fuss and cry.

If a baby calms within a few hours, there is generally no need to worry. If not, a caregiver should check for signs of illness or discomfort, such as a rash or fever.

Consulting a doctor

It is important for anybody who suspects their baby might be unwell to contact a doctor.

If a baby fusses more than is typical with no clear cause, it may be helpful to record their behaviors to present to a pediatrician, noting the times at which the baby does the following:

  • sleeps
  • wakes
  • eats
  • cries

Crying that lasts throughout the day or night in an otherwise healthy baby may be due to colic, which is common, generally short-lived, and does not require treatment.

However, it is important to consult a healthcare professional if a baby experiences frequent distress.

Calming techniques for caregivers

Trying to comfort a fussy baby can be highly stressful.

People may wish to try the following steps if they feel overwhelmed while caring for a fussy baby:

  1. Place the baby in a safe position in a safe environment, such as their crib or playpen, without blankets or other objects.
  2. Take a few deep breaths before trying a stress-relieving technique, such as a longer breathing exercise.
  3. Reach out to a friend or family member for support, if possible.
  4. Reassess stress levels after 10–15 minutes and check on the baby to ensure their safety.

It is important not to pick the baby up again before feeling calmer. If needed, a person can then try the soothing techniques again.

If the baby continues to cry, the person may need to contact a pediatrician to rule out a medical reason for their distress.


Though it can be challenging to find time for relaxation as a parent or caregiver, it is important that people have time to recharge while caring for others.

This can even be something small, such as taking a walk or listening to music, that people do as regularly as possible to boost their emotional well-being.

Learn more about examples of self-care.

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Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on pregnancy and parenthood.

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If a baby is fussy even though they are clean, dry, fed, and not in pain, soothing techniques may help calm them.

Soothing techniques for fussy babies include the “5S” techniques, which are swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking. A person can also play calming sounds or softly sing or speak to the baby.

If the baby does not respond to the soothing techniques and continues to fuss, a caregiver should check for signs of illness or discomfort. Where there is no obvious reason for the baby’s distress, the caregiver may wish to take a moment to destress before attempting to soothe them again.

Caregivers should contact a pediatrician to rule out medical causes of distress if a baby does not calm.