Settling a crying baby factsheet


Crying is a normal part of your baby’s development. Babies cannot talk, so they communicate their needs by crying.

A crying baby might be trying to communicate a need like:

  • safety
  • comfort and love
  • hunger
  • being too hot or cold
  • teething
  • gas or pain
  • illness
  • overtiredness
  • hygiene or a nappy change.

Some babies cry more than others, sometimes 2-3 hours a day or longer. Babies may cry more, or less, at specific times of the day, or when they are away from their caregiver. This is normal.

Having a new baby can be an exciting but overwhelming experience, especially when you have a baby who seems to cry more than others.

Remember, help is always available for you and your baby if you feel overwhelmed, upset, or you are not sure what to do. Contact your local doctor, child and family health service or any of the services listed under “resources and more information”. 

 Things to consider

PURPLE crying

PURPLE crying is a term used to describe a period for new babies where crying seems to be more than normal and resistant to settling and soothing.

PURPLE stands for:

  • Peak - the peak of crying will usually be between 6 - 8 weeks old, before starting to settle down around the 3rd or 4th month.
  • Unexpected - the crying can seem like it has come out of nowhere
  • Resists soothing – your baby might decide they no longer like the way you have settled them, and they might continue to cry when you try new strategies.
  • Pain – your baby might look like they are in pain or very gassy, with no relief.
  • Long-lasting – your baby might cry for hours at a time.
  • Evening – periods of crying are more common in the evening but can happen at any time of the day.

Speak to your local doctor or child and family health nurse if you think your baby is going through the PURPLE cry period. Let them know what strategies you have used, and they may be able to suggest some other things to try or some checks to make sure your baby is well.

It is important to remember that this is a new period of adjustment, and in the first few months, it is okay to be led by the needs of your baby and yourself rather than following a schedule or routine.

General strategies

Every baby is different. They will like different things and respond differently to soothing strategies. It is important to give your baby time to warm up to different strategies and see if they work. Try not to switch too quickly from one to another.

Sometimes your baby might seem to change what they respond to at random. This can be frustrating, but it’s important to keep an open mind and try different things.

Before moving onto settling strategies, you should always check that your baby’s main needs are taken care of, including:

  • offering another feed if they appear hungry
  • cuddling them close for warmth and comfort
  • checking whether their nappy is wet or dirty
  • making sure they are not too hot or too cold.

If your baby is very young and hasn’t started rolling, you can also try swaddling them.


Holding your baby close is a good way to provide warmth, comfort, and security. Your baby may be calmed by your body heat, the sound of your heartbeat and the sound of your voice.

Try things like:

  • holding them close and still, avoiding excess jiggling or movement
  • facing your baby into you or outwards, they may prefer one over the other
  • keeping the same position and avoiding picking them up and putting them down repeatedly
  • letting your baby fall asleep on you during the day while you are alert and sitting upright, also known as a contact nap
  • talking gently and quietly to your baby about anything, like the weather or how much you love them
  • skin-to-skin contact, where you hold your baby close to your bare skin while they are only wearing a nappy.


Some babies are soothed by movement. Try things like:

  • carrying or gently rocking your baby using slow, rhythmic movement
  • gently patting your baby’s back or bottom using slow, rhythmic movement
  • using a pram, or an approved baby carrier, pouch, or cling to take your baby out for a walk, making sure you can always see their face
  • using a baby swing, rocker, or bouncer for short periods, no longer than 30 minutes at a time – always make sure your baby is strapped in using the safety harness and that it is on the floor and never the bed, table or couch
  • taking your baby for a drive in the car while they are strapped into their correctly installed, Australian standard approved car seat.


Sucking is a natural reflex that your baby has. It can help them to calm, settle and stop crying. Your baby may want to suck on their fist, fingers, or thumb as a way of self-soothing.

Some babies will work their arms out of a swaddle so they can suck on their hands. They might prefer a sleep sack that lets them have their hands upward instead of held down.

Babies who are breastfed can often want to latch to the nipple and suck for comfort. This is normal and is OK if the parent is feeling comfortable.

If your baby is bottle-fed with infant formula, try to avoid giving more formula to satisfy their sucking reflex as they might start to use the bottle as a dummy or pacifier.

Dummies or pacifiers are rubber or silicone teats that babies can suck on without giving any extra nutrition. Some babies respond well to different shapes and styles of dummies, you may need to try a few before you find one that your baby likes.

Bathing and massage

A bath and a massage can be a great way to help your baby calm down and settle. It can be useful to include as part of your routine when going to sleep in the evening, so your baby associates it with settling to sleep. Some babies do not enjoy baths at first but may start to like them more as they grow.

If your baby is very young, try loosely swaddling them in a light muslin cloth before holding them in the water. This can help them feel warm and secure.

Always check the water temperature using a baby bath thermometer or the skin on your wrist and swirl the water around to distribute the heat evenly.

Never leave your baby alone in the bath, even if it is just a second. If you need to look away to grab something like a towel, take your baby with you.

After a bath, you can massage your baby using lotion or pure, food-based oil like almond or apricot seed. Rub your baby’s tummy, back, legs and arms gently and firmly in circular motion.


Sometimes a change in environment can make your baby unsettled.

Try things like:

  • adjusting their clothing or the temperature of the room if it is too cold or too hot
  • playing white noise or soothing sounds
  • singing to your baby, or recording yourself singing to play at a low volume
  • using soft nightlights in different colours
  • using baby gadgets that vibrate or shake, always under close supervision.


What to do when nothing seems to work

It is very hard to cope with a baby who seems to be crying a lot. Sometimes it may seem like nothing is working and you may feel upset, overwhelmed, and helpless. Remember that you can’t always stop your baby from crying, but you can still comfort your baby and try to keep yourself calm.

Call in support

If you have support at home, through a partner, family, or friends, you might try taking shifts or turns settling and comforting your baby. This can be a good way to make sure parents and carers are getting enough rest and are looking after themselves.

Separate yourself

if your baby continues to cry and you are starting to feel overwhelmed and distressed, it is okay to put the baby down in a safe place, like the bassinet, and walk into another room for a short break. If possible, ask somebody to take over the settling for a while, or phone someone to talk to.

Separating yourself from your baby for a few minutes can help you to clear your mind and regulate your own emotions. A cup of tea or coffee, some deep breathing and even using some light earplugs can help you get back to a place where you feel able to try settling your baby again.

Be with your baby

You may also find when all strategies have been used, that just lying next to your baby and speaking gently to them while they cry can help. Tell your baby that you know they are having a rough time, that you love them, and that things will get better.

Never shake or hit your baby. Shaking or hitting a baby is abuse and can cause serious injury, lifelong disability, and death.


Self-care can seem like a rarity when you have a new baby. Parents and carers must make time to fill their own basic needs so that they can safely care for the needs of their baby.

There are simple things you can do to help you relax and take time out to feel less stressed. If you can, ask your partner, a friend or relative to help. You can also include your baby in self-care activities to make it easier for you.

Bathing or showering

Bring your baby into the shower using a secure, reclined bath seat or place them in a bouncer or on a playmat nearby while you have a bath. Your baby will be able to see you and enjoy the water while you freshen up. Showering with your baby can also be a great way for dads and non-birthing parents to get some skin-to-skin bonding time.

Carriers and Slings

Some parents and carers feel anxious and overwhelmed when they are stuck in one spot, settling their baby all day. For some babies, a safe sling or carrier can be a great way to stay close and drift off to sleep while you go for a walk or get some things done around the house.

Music and lighting

Gentle music and dimmed lighting can create a soothing environment for both you and your baby. You still have some time before your baby will want to listen to children’s music, so put on your favourite easy listening or classical playlist and rest. Dim lighting and soft music can also reduce stimulation for your baby, which helps them to settle.


Think of different ways you can include activities you enjoy in caring for your baby. This might be enjoying a tea or coffee, reading a chapter of your favourite book, or scrolling on TikTok while you are breastfeeding, putting a podcast on while your baby is having play or tummy time, or catching up on your favourite TV show while your baby is napping on you.

Filter information

Well-meaning friends and family might offer you advice on everything from new gadgets to herbal remedies and old-school strategies that might now be considered unsafe. Too much information can be overwhelming and confusing, so it’s important to get advice from a trusted source like your local doctor or child and family health nurse. Try to avoid large Facebook groups as they can be filled with conflicting and sometimes unsafe advice that doesn’t take your individual circumstances into account.

When to seek help

Crying is often normal, but in some cases, it can cause issues or be a sign that something is wrong.

Speak to your local doctor if:

  • the sound of the baby’s crying changes
  • there is a sudden onset of unusual crying
  • your baby seems to be sick, or unwell
  • your baby has new symptoms such as fever or vomiting
  • your baby is refusing to feed
  • the crying is affecting your relationship with your baby or your partner
  • nothing you try is working
  • you are not coping with the stress of crying
  • you are worried something might have happened to them, or there has been any kind of injury.
Last updated Wednesday 13th December 2023


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024