Want to know how to calm a crying baby?

The first step is learning the basics of the 5 S’s: Swaddle, Side-Stomach Position, Shush, Swing and Suck. Once you’ve mastered how to swaddle a baby, it’s time to add swinging (or rocking) in the mix to really improve your baby-calming game.

Why does rocking calm babies? 

Life in the womb is kind of a wild ride! Every time you run up the stairs or take a workout class or simply go for a walk, your baby is bopping around your belly. So, when babies are born, they’re used to a lot of movement. Swinging or rocking calms babies because it mimics those much-loved womb sensations that babies crave. But the back-and-forth swing isn’t the only movement parents have in their toolkit. In fact, while gentle, slow rocking may placate quiet babies, you may need to use faster or smaller movements to soothe a crying infant mid-squawk. Here are some swing and rocking variations to help calm a fussy baby.

1. The Milkshake

Most parents are amazed how well this method works!

  • Sit with your baby on your lap.
  • Place one hand under your baby’s chin like a helmet strap and slip the other under the buttocks.
  • Lean your baby forward—his head a few inches in front of his body—and lift him straight up—a foot or so—into the air.
  • Now, bounce him up and down with fast (two to three times a second), tiny (one-to-two-inch) movements, like you’re making a milkshake.

This is also a great way to burp your baby—and tone your arms.

2. The Jell-O Head Jiggle

The Jell-O Head Jiggle is a great way to calm squawking babies: 

  • Swaddle your baby and cradle him in the classic breastfeeding hold. Let the back of his skull rest on your forearm. 
  • Then jiggle your baby in your arms in a very small motion—move no more than 1/2 inch back and forth from your body, and have your jiggle be rapid. The goal is to have your baby's head quiver, like Jell-O on a plate.

Related: The Difference Between Calming Motion & Shaken Baby Syndrome

3. The Windshield Wiper

Carrying your baby is one of the sweetest treats of being a new mom, but by the end of the day, it can leave you exhausted. How can you jiggle your baby without wearing out your back, your carpet or your sense of humor?

The windshield wiper combines all the 5 S’s for a perfect soothing experience. It’s one of my favorite ways of switching on the calming reflex.

  • Swaddle your baby (1st S), then sit in a comfy chair with your knees touching and your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-distance apart. Sitting forward works best.
  • Place your baby on his side . . . in the groove between your legs (2nd S). His cheek and head will be in your palm and outstretched fingers, on top of your knees, and his ankles on your hip.
  • Slide your other hand under his head so your two hands overlap and his head is cradled in a loose, open grasp.
  • Roll him towards his stomach, soften your shoulders, take a deep breath and let your body relax.
  • Lean over his body and shhh by his ear (the 3rd S). Shush as loud as he’s crying.
  • Now, swing your knees side to side – like a windshield wiper (4th S). If he’s crying, make faster (two to three beats per second) smaller moves (one inch from side to side) and open your hands to get that same Jell-O head jiggle described in move #2
  • Finally, offer a pacifier (the 5th S).

Note: The windshield wiper motion actually comes from the feet...not from the shoulders or hips. Bouncing your knees up and down doesn’t work as well as swinging them side to side.

Don’t get discouraged if the movement seems complicated. You’ll soon see it’s one of the easiest ways to soothe your baby when you’re feeling totally pooped. It’s hard learning anything when someone is yelling at you! So practice the windshield wiper when your baby is already calm or sleeping.

Final Thoughts on How to Calm a Crying Baby

When you combine the proper swinging technique with the rest of the 5 S’s, you may be amazed at how quickly your fussy baby calms down. But even parents who have all the right moves down can use a hand sometimes—and that’s why SNOO is so helpful! SNOO baby bassinet was created to calm a baby by combining gentle rocking with soothing white noise and snug, safe swaddling. Learn more about SNOO here.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.