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What to Do with Crying Babies

What to Do with Crying Babies

By Emmy Gay, from a lecture with Anna Tardos at the Pikler House in Budapest

Crying is a common and essential part of infants’ and toddlers’ lives. Understanding how to respond to a crying baby is crucial for caregivers. Through crying, the child communicates their need for help in a difficult situation.

Understanding the Triggers

While we aim to minimize the triggers that cause a child to cry, our goal is not to stop them from crying. Crying can be challenging for both the child and the adult. As caregivers, we often feel frustrated, helpless, confused, or anxious when a child cries. It’s natural to want to alleviate these feelings, but some caregivers may become desensitized, attributing crying to transitions or other causes.

Avoiding Indifference

Ignoring, denying, or becoming indifferent to a child’s cries is akin to abandoning them. When a child cries, they are asking for help, whether they are looking at the caregiver or turning inward. Caregivers must always be within hearing distance to respond to these cries.

Offering Presence and Support

Simply telling a child to stop crying is not helpful. Imagine saying that to someone in grief. The best thing we can offer is our presence and support. How do we convey that our presence is our greatest offering? It’s a conversation we can have.

What to Talk About When a Child Is Crying

When a child is crying, acknowledge their distress, mention the reason (if known), and provide information about their mother’s return if that is the cause. The most helpful thing is to offer information and support the child’s focus on something else during their crying.

Providing Emotional Support

We can console the child, show empathy, offer a perspective that eases their sadness, and show interest when they step out of their sadness. This involves a balance of acknowledging their interest and waiting for their response.

Using Gestures

It’s not necessary to try to stop the crying through words alone. Gestures can also provide support. During transitions into a new care situation, remember that the child seeks comfort, but the caregiver is not yet the source of that comfort. Building a bond with the new caregiver takes time and positive interactions.

Observing and Understanding

When a child is crying, observe their behavior to understand the meaning behind the crying. Recognize that there are many underlying emotions. Remember that crying is a dialogue, a way for the child to communicate with us. Be patient and recognize that the child might go back and forth between crying and calmness.

Strategies for Caregivers with Crying Children

  • Respond compassionately and empathetically.
  • Discuss the child’s feelings and what is happening.
  • Don’t aim to stop the crying.
  • Have faith that your positive actions will have an impact.
  • Remember that every situation and every child are different.

Patience and empathy are key to supporting a child through their pain. We can see the results of our efforts when the child calms down on their own.


The main point is to offer genuine empathy and calmness. The confidence to stay calm can be developed over time.