By Raising Children Network
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unsettled baby crying
Rhythmic gentle patting can be calming and relaxing for babies. Patting can also be a good technique for helping babies learn to settle in their cot.

Patting settling steps

Rhythmic, gentle patting can help settle young babies into sleep. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Face your baby away from you, lying on his side.
  2. Place your hand gently on your baby’s shoulder. 
  3. Cup your other hand and pat your baby gently and slowly on the bottom or thigh. 
  4. Make the patting as rhythmic as possible – for example, about the same rate as your heartbeat.
  5. Sing a quiet, soothing song  to help you find your rhythm. Your baby won’t mind if you’re out of tune or don’t know the words! If you think that your singing might disturb your baby, sing or count in your head to help keep your patting steady. Or you could try saying ‘shhh’ on each pat.


Sometimes two hands are better than one. Here’s how to do double-patting:

  1. Keep patting your baby’s bottom or thigh and then start patting baby’s shoulder with your other hand.
  2. Alternate the pats in a rhythmic way.
  3. As your baby starts to settle and relax, slow down your hand movements. Once your baby is quiet, stop patting but leave your hands on your baby for a few more seconds.

More options

You could try patting the mattress beside your baby, or even jiggling the cot slightly. Experiment and see what works for your baby.

If your baby is crying, you can still try patting. If she’s very upset, it’s OK to stop and give her a cuddle.

If nothing seems to be working, and you start to feel angry or distressed, it’s best to leave your baby in the cot. Walk away and take a moment to calm yourself. It won’t hurt your baby to cry for a short time.

Video How to settle a crying baby

This short video demonstration takes you through essential tips to help settle a crying baby. It outlines a checklist of common things that can upset a baby and cause crying. You can check whether your baby is hungry, tired or uncomfortable and whether the conditions are right for settling.
You might also like to check out our illustrated guide to calming a crying baby.
  • Last updated or reviewed 27-02-2013