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Responding to your baby’s crying

Having a baby provides us with a huge learning curve in the understanding of what our baby is telling us. In understanding that how we respond to them might impact on their brain development, both now and in the future, we learn about responsive parenting. Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative provides us with research-based information that considers how to build close and loving relationships with your baby in a responsive manner. Babies have a strong need to be close to their parents, as this helps them to feel secure and loved. As parents often we have a strong need to be near our baby also.

Unicef happy baby leaflet

Here we share some myths that are commonly repeated in our society

Myth Truth
Babies become spoilt and demanding if they are given too much attention When babies’ needs for love and comfort are met, they will be calmer and grow up to be more confident
It’s important to get babies into a routine as this makes your life easier Young babies are not capable of learning a routine. Responding to their cues for feeding and comfort makes babies feel secure, so they cry less, which makes your life easier too
You should leave babies to settle alone so that they learn to be independent When babies are routinely left alone they think they have been abandoned, and so become more clingy and insecure when their parents return

What to do if your baby is crying and you are unsure what to do:

Babies do sometimes cry. Here is a quick checklist to help you in those early days.

  • Is your baby needing comfort, feeling lonely, or wanting to be close to you?
  • Is your baby overstimulated and need a little quiet time with Mum or Dad?
  • Is your baby hungry or thirsty for breastmilk or first formula milk?
  • Is your baby uncomfortable with wind or need a nappy change?
  • Is your baby too hot or too cold?
  • Do you think your baby is unwell?

Soothing your baby

There are many things you can do to sooth your baby.

  • Hold your baby in skin to skin contact. The feel of you close by and the sound of your heart beating impacts on their hormones and may calm them. This goes for you Dads as well
  • Breastfed babies often feed for comfort as well as nutrition. They obtain hormones within the milk that calms them – breastfeeding is always an option for calming your baby if unsettled
  • If you are formula feeding your baby, is your baby hungry? Remember, babies grow at different rates at different times and are all unique – rely on their feeding cues rather than the instructions on the formula tin for frequency of feed and amounts (always follow the preparation guidance)
  • Talk, sing or hum to your baby – baby’s love the sound of their parent’s voice, as it is familiar from even before they were born
  • Go for a walk with your baby – a change of scene can sometimes make a difference and fresh air is great for everyone
  • Do you need to remove/add some clothing?
  • Change their nappy

Sometimes it takes a combination of these to sooth your baby, and sometimes only one.

Coping with crying

Babies cry for a variety of reasons. Many parents worry that they might not understand what their baby wants. It’s recognised that not every baby is easy to calm, and for some parents it can feel as if they are doing something wrong. Parents sometimes describe a crying baby as being completely and utterly overwhelming.

This ICON website gives you lots of ideas about how to cope with crying.

If you are a parent with a young baby that won’t stop crying, please watch this video. It is from the perspective of the dad and shows how to use the ICON resources.

If you are struggling with cyring and feel overwhelmed:

  • Stop
  • Don’t get angry with your baby or yourself
  • Place your baby in a safe place nearby where they can still hear you and take a couple of minutes to calm yourself down
  • Once calm, return to your baby and go through the above steps again, rocking your baby and re-engaging
  • Remember, this phase won’t last forever, and your baby needs you – you are their world
  • Never Ever Shake your baby!
  • Do not leave your baby to cry for long periods on their own, without you nearby and responding to them by voice, as this increases the stress hormone cortisol to the brain
  • Call a relative or friend – to give you support through this time
  • Call the Public Health Nursing service – we can support you with strategies to manage this.

Further help and support

We have a duty health visitor working from our public health nursing hub Monday to Friday 9 – 4.30. Please do contact them if you have any additional questions.


Have your say

Help us improve the local information on this website and give us feedback about any contacts you have had with our service by completing the Devon Public Health Nursing feedback form.

ChatHealth Logo

Devon County Council runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called ChatHealth. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens. You can also call our Public Health Nursing hubs on the numbers listed below.

If you are concerned about the safety of a child in Devon, contact our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 0345 155 1071 or email with as much information as possible.

This page was last reviewed on 29-04-2022

This page will be next reviewed on 29-04-2025