Settling baby: 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 her 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.
Sleeping on his back is the safest position for your baby. After settling, always gently roll your baby onto his back before you leave the room.


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 for settling baby

Here are a few more options to try:

  • Gently stroke your baby’s forehead.
  • Pat the mattress beside your baby.
  • Hold your baby firmly at shoulder and hip and gently rock her back and forth.
  • Jiggle the cot slightly.

If your baby settles better when wrapped, you can try wrapping your baby in a lightweight cotton or muslin wrap before you use the patting settling technique.

If sucking on a dummy soothes your baby, you can use one in your settling routine. Gently hold it in place if you need to.

If your baby is crying, you can still try patting. Sometimes babies will seem to reach a crying ‘peak’ before eventually settling off to sleep. If he’s very upset, it’s OK to stop and give him a cuddle.

Experiment and see what works for your baby. But after settling, always make sure your baby is lying on her back for sleep.

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.

You might also like to check out our illustrated guide to calming a crying baby.