Tips on how to soothe and calm a baby crying in sleep

Calm down and learn how to soothe a baby crying while sleeping

By Aey
Tips on how to soothe and calm a baby crying in sleep

A crying baby is never a pleasant sound and especially for parents, their baby crying is a sign of worry. Newborn babies spend most of their time sleeping as much as 16 to 18 hours and therefore if this pattern of sleep is disturbed then it is not good for the baby’s health and wellbeing. A newborn baby is prone to crying because his internal clock is not yet developed and sleep patterns may be irregular.

There are certain steps that parents can take to soothe a crying baby:

1. Hold and bounce to soothe

Hold your baby and bounce them around for a bit as this will comfort them and stop them from crying.

2. Sing a lullaby

Babies recognize voices especially a mother’s voice has a soothing and calming effect on the baby. Singing softly to your baby can help them sleep.

3. Switch off the lights

Sometimes when your baby wakes up at night and the lights are on it can be too much for your baby’s eyes. The best thing to do is to switch off the lights to calm your baby.

4. Take your baby into another room.

Sometimes a change of place can help calm the baby down. Once the baby knows it’s not in the same environment it might comfort him and stop him from crying.

Why is my newborn baby crying in his sleep with his eyes closed

Many new parents complain that their baby is crying in his sleep or making faces and sounds that seem like crying. Often when parents see this happening they panic and try and console their baby. However, it might just be that your baby is not crying but just whimpering a little in his sleep.

It is important to understand that a newborn baby has two sleep cycles, the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle which is basically dreaming in your sleep and Non-REM cycle which is deep and sound sleep. A baby spends 50 percent of his sleep in REM and 50 percent of his sleep in the non-REM cycle. So it is more than likely that when your baby seems to be crying or whimpering in his sleep he might be dreaming and nothing more.

The best thing for parents to do in this situation is to wait and observe their child. If your baby fusses for a bit before going into a deep non-REM sleep then this is completely normal. However, if your baby’s crying is prolonged and makes him wake up then there might be another reason for his discomfort.

The reason why they whimper after crying

There can be a number of reasons why your baby is whimpering in his sleep. Let’s explore some of the most common things that cause you baby discomfort.

1. Gas

One of the most common causes of discomfort for babies is gas. If their bowel movement is disrupted, they are more likely to whimper in their sleep. A baby may arch its back to show gas discomfort which can be a sign for the parent to help their baby. Many babies show signs of discomfort after feeding if they haven’t burped.

2. Diaper change

A wet diaper may make your baby uncomfortable in his sleep. It is important that your baby’s diaper is clean so your baby can remain rash free and sleep comfortably.

3. Sleepiness and tiredness

If a baby is over stimulated or engaged or in a longer non-REM cycle it is likely that he is tired and just wants to sleep. This may cause him to whimper and cry. The best way to console your baby in this situation is to rock or bounce your baby gently to sleep.

4. Hungry

In the initial 6 months, a newborn baby needs to be fed at night. So whimpering in sleep can often be a sign indicating that your baby is hungry and needs to be fed. The best thing to do in this situation is to feed your baby and then burp him before putting him back to sleep.

5. Temperature changes

Babies are sensitive and just like adults they are very in tune with their surroundings. If your baby is fussing or whimpering in sleep you might want to go check the room temperature. Your baby might feel hot or cold which can make him sensitive and make him wake up from sleep or whimper in sleep.

Make sure that your baby is adequately clothed according to the temperature. If it is hot outside then put light, breathable clothes on your baby or wrap him up in a blanket if it’s chilly.

6. Bored

Sometimes a baby wakes up at night without making many sounds and falls back to sleep on his own but in some case he might be bored or under simulated and may start crying or whimpering to get their parents attention. In this case, it’s best to engage the baby for a bit before putting him back to sleep.

7. Dreaming

As mentioned before babies spend half their time in REM sleep which means their brain is active during sleep at times. Vivid dreams can cause your baby to whimper in sleep. You may observe your baby making hand movements, making fussy faces or at times even smiling in his sleep. To determine if your baby is dreaming, it is best to wait and observe before you do something. If your baby is smiling in his dream then its best to leave him be. However, if your baby seems distressed its best to make some body contact and soothe him with soft rocking so he can fall back to sleep.

8. Your baby might be unwell

Even as adults, we tend to whine and complain when we are ill or sick. Sleep patterns are often disturbed and we feel tired more than usual. Babies are just the same. If your baby continues to whimper for long periods without any notable cause then it might just be that they are sick or unwell.  The best thing to do in such a situation is to consult a pediatrician. It is better to be safe and sure of what is bothering your baby than letting it be.

What are night terrors

Night terrors are a type of sleep disturbance that may occur in young children.

A parent may observe their child waking up abruptly at night and crying, screaming, thrashing or visibly upset in bed. In a night terror your child may or may not have his eyes open and may seem awake but in reality, is still sleeping.

When a night terror occurs a child is unaware of his surroundings and may not respond to his parent’s voice or movements as he is still in sleep.  One of the major reasons for night terrors, as was pointed out by research, is your child transitioning from one stage of sleep to another. The transition may be for a few minutes or prolonged and can last for about an hour. So you may see your child in distress for a while. Night terrors are not nightmares since your child is still asleep and most children grow out of night terrors by the age 12.

What can I do to help them sleep better all night

The best thing for a parent to do in case of a night terror is to do nothing.

Since your child is asleep and is mostly unaware of what is happening, it is best to let him be. Your child will have no recollection of his movements or actions during a night terror and waking them up during one would just disturb their sleep. However, if you feel that your child is going to physically harm himself during an episode then you must wake him up.

For a parent, it can be unsettling to watch their child experience a night terror. Make sure that their head is placed comfortably during an episode and away from the headboard. Don’t try to calm your child because it may make him wilder.


I hope this article was helpful because I know how stressful and hard parenting can be. If you think that the problem is getting worse then consulting a professional is the best route if night terrors become frequent as it may indicate some other issue such as exhaustion, sleep apnea, or gastric issues that can potentially cause night terrors.