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The first few months

An in-depth guide

The birth of a baby is an exciting time – but often a challenging one too. Parents need to find ways to cope with night waking, a lack of sleep, crying which doesn’t always make sense, and with strong and sometimes overwhelming emotions. It can take time to feel things are back in control.  


Except where health or safety is involved, this leaflet does not try to prescribe the best way to look after a baby. Instead, we aim to provide information which helps parents to choose baby-care methods which suit their baby and themselves. The suggestions here are all based on research evidence about methods which have helped parents to cope. Some of them may work for you. 


Sources of information for coping with older infants’ crying and sleeping are listed at the end of this document. 

  • Is baby hungry?
    Offer breast or bottle feed.
  • Is baby in pain?
    Check for a temperature. Offer breast or bottle. Speak to a pharmacist about infant colic remedies. Try gently massaging baby’s tummy in a clockwise direction. Try changing baby’s position. Pick baby up, walk around with him/her – a baby sling can be helpful. Try gently rocking baby up and down.
  • Is baby tired, but fighting sleep?"
    Offer breast, bottle or dummy. Try rocking baby horizontally in your arms or in a buggy. Try a swinging crib. Try a quieter room. Fussing with a baby can keep them awake, so putting your baby down to cry somewhere safe for a short period can help baby to sleep. Try a softer light or a darker room. Use a baby soother CD or App or sing to your baby. Quiet background noise can soothe babies such as a ticking clock, vacuum cleaner, washing machine etc. Check that baby is comfortable and their clothes are not too tight. Check baby isn’t too hot or cold by feeling tummy to check temperature. Motion can help babies sleep such as a car ride or buggy ride in the fresh air. A warm bath covering baby’s tummy can be soothing.
  • Is baby fighting at the breast?
    Check baby’s position at the breast, most of your nipple should be inside the baby’s mouth. Check baby’s nose is free of the breast (his/her head should be tilted back slightly). Check whether baby’s nose is blocked and if so, consult your GP, Health Visitor or NHS Direct. Try changing feeding position e.g. sitting up or lying down. Is there too little milk? If so, feed more frequently. Consult Health Visitor, GP, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) counsellor or NHS Direct if you are still experiencing problems.
  • Difficulty bottle feeding?
    Try a different bottle or teat. Check the size of the teat hole and change to a different size if necessary. Try offering bottles more frequently for a few days. Leave for half an hour, and then try again. Consult Health Visitor, GP, National Childbirth Trust (NCT) counsellor or NHS Direct if you are still experiencing problems.
  • Is baby uncomfortable?
    Check baby’s temperature by feeling tummy and adjust clothing accordingly. Change baby’s nappy. Try different nappies. Let baby kick, nappy-free. Check for nappy rash – consult Health Visitor. Check for clothing rashes.
  • Sensitive baby?
    Handle and talk to baby gently and quietly. Do not overwhelm baby with stimulation. Try a quieter environment. Try to keep to a routine and limit the number of visitors.
  • Is baby generally cranky?
    Check for temperature. Talk to your baby. Play with him/her: use toys or safe household objects. Let baby kick, nappy-free. Try using a baby sling to carry baby around. Try a bouncing chair or baby bouncer (always follow manufacturers guidelines). Take baby out in a buggy. Visit a friend. Comfort by gentle rocking movement or soothing noises. Offer baby a feed. Massage baby and give warm bath. If you suspect Colic, speak to GP or Health Visitor about infant colic remedies.
  • Does baby have colic?
    Symptoms of colic include: crying in the late afternoon or evening that lasts several hours, baby’s face being red and flushed when they cry and baby clenching their fists, drawing their knees up to their tummy, or arching their back while crying. If baby has colic, try the following suggestions: Try to prevent baby from swallowing air by sitting or holding them upright during feeding. Try to burp baby after feed. Try gently rocking baby over your shoulder. Try massaging baby’s tummy. A warm bath covering baby’s tummy can be soothing. Consult your GP, Health Visitor or NHS Direct for more information.
  • Still Crying?
    Put baby down in a safe place, walk out of the room and shut the door, take a short break. Give baby to a trusted friend or family member for a few hours if possible. Use any time away from baby to look after yourself, make sure you eat well and unwind. Go out with baby. Phone your GP, Health Visitor, NHS Direct, The Cry-sis Helpline, friend or relative.
  • Night-time Crying?
    Make sure baby is not hungry or thirsty. Check that baby is comfortable, that his/her nappy is dry and clothes are not too tight. Is baby too hot or too cold? Check baby’s tummy temperature. Rhythmic movement often settles babies. Gentle rocking in a pram or crib can have a hypnotic effect. Baby Slings are useful as they provide continual movement and the security of Mum/Dad. Some babies prefer the dark, others like a low night light. Soother CDs and Apps may help baby fall asleep. It’s worth trying to get into a bedtime routine. This is best introduced as soon as possible with perhaps a warm bath before bedtime and a quiet feed and cuddle before sleep. From 3 months babies are becoming more aware of their environment, so other methods of settling them to sleep can be considered. Mobiles and soft play things above the cot prevent boredom and make baby’s cot a more enjoyable place to be. Many babies find their own fingers or thumbs to suck for comfort.

This in-depth guide is produced from a paper by prof Ian St. James Roberts, a patron of Cry-sis, gives detailed information and advice on crying and sleep problems, together with references for further reading.

Download keepsake

This information is available as a word doc PDF. Click 'View PDF' below to view this online, from here you can print or download to keep your very own hard copy.

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Top tip

Have you considered keeping a diary to help you monitor your baby's crying and sleeping?

We offer practical advice and printable downloads. 

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