After all that feeding and diapering duties, soothing a fussy baby can seem like it takes up the bulk of your day and most of the night. Babies and crying go hand in hand since being fussy is the only communication skill they know. Yet, a baby’s cry can quickly overwhelm, especially if you can’t figure out what makes the baby upset.
An inconsolable baby can make a new parent feel powerless. But you will surely get better at interpreting and responding to your baby’s cries. Once you’ve ruled out all the obvious reasons why your baby could be crying (hunger, fatigue or sleepiness, wet or poopy diaper, overdone nap) and she doesn’t seem sick, try these time-tested techniques to help clear the tears and make you both feel better.
Swaddle your baby.
The snug wrap of a blanket can keep your little bundle feeling secure. Swaddling soothes babies because it creates the cozy feeling that babies were used to when in the womb. Many parents of newborns find swaddling helps babies settle down faster and sleep longer. Ask a nurse, your child’s doctor, or search the web on how to do swaddling correctly using a large, thin blanket or a receiving blanket. You can also buy swaddles, so you can simply put your baby’s body in a ready-made wrap.
However, this technique is only applicable for newborns up to three months old. When your baby can roll over their side, swaddling can be dangerous for them.
Let the baby suck.
Non-nutritive sucking – the kind of sucking that doesn’t fill their tummies – can calm a baby’s nerves. Babies often soothe themselves by sucking on their thumb, finger, or fist. If you don’t know why your baby is crying, help her find her hands, and she’ll know what to do. A pacifier does this trick well, but consider waiting until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing one to avoid nipple confusion.
Wear your baby.
If your baby only calms down when you hold her, it can be really touching. Babies enjoy the feeling of closeness and the sound of their heartbeat. But at the same time, it makes it harder for you to finish your to-do list. To calm the baby while keeping yourself productive, wear your baby using a carrier or a sling. These are helpful devices that can make carrying your baby more convenient since your hands remain free for multitasking. Have your baby face your body using a front-pack carrier with extra head support for the first three months. You can also use a sling if you want something a little less bulky. A sling is also great for on-the-go nursing, and you can convert it to a side or back hold when your baby grows older.
Rock, sway, bounce, or glide your baby.
Try holding your baby while you sit on a rocking chair or glider, or place her in a baby swing or a vibrating bouncy seat. When using these devices, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions regarding the proper use and restrictions. These devices are not necessary, though – you can simply carry her by armor with the help of a carrier and move. Rock, sway, bounce, or glide your baby – discover what works. These calming motions remind babies of the movements they felt when they were in the womb.
Sing a song.
Like movement, music has the ability to calm the baby’s nerves and decrease their heartbeat. Sing to your baby, and don’t limit yourself to lullabies. Try all different genres of songs, including what you like. Don’t underestimate the power of your own voice – babies are especially soothed by the sound of their mom’s voice because her voice is familiar, and the rhythm is calming. The baby won’t know whether you sing off-key or with a perfect pitch; what she’d know is that you’re showering her with song and love. The next time she feels cranky, sing a classic lullaby, a cheesy ballad, or whatever suits your fancy.
Record your baby fussing and let them hear it.
Sometimes, babies get so distressed that they have difficulty calming down, even when something that made them cry the first place has been taken care of. They can literally get “stuck” crying. But a surprising distraction, like recording their own voice, can jolt them out of being upset. They are so interested in the world around them that simply introducing a new thing can help break their cycle of crying. When your babies fuss and cry over something you can’t figure out, try to record it on your phone and play it back so they can listen. They will be fascinated by the sound of a crying baby – even if it was them all along – and they will get distracted and forget what they were crying about.
Put the baby in a dark room.
Sometimes, babies get fussy because they are overstimulated by all the noise and lights of everyday life. After all, babies are used to the darkness of the womb. Try closing all the lights or go to a completely dark room to soothe them. Pull down blackout shades if you need them. Blocking out anything that can stimulate can calm them down.
Turn on white noise or a calming sound.
Here’s another trick that parents swear by – white noise. Turn on a fan or a vacuum cleaner, a white noise machine, or use an app. Sounds that remind them of being inside the womb calm them down. The plus side is that white noise also masks other sounds like dishes being put away or siblings playing in the other room. Just keep the volume low because if it’s too loud or too close to the baby, it may result in hearing loss.
Change the scenery.
If your baby is fussy, a new location to focus on maybe all that she needs to change her mood. If you’re trying to put her to sleep or simply trying to stop her from crying for what seems like hours in her nursery – try moving to a different room. Go to the kitchen, the living room, or the patio. Show new sights to the baby, which may be enough to snap her out of the crying spell.
Get out of the house.
When strolling indoors isn’t working, try going out to calm the baby down – and you too. If you need to walk outside to keep yourself sane, take your baby with you. Strolling down and basking in the sunlight, fresh air, and temperature can help calm your baby down. The new sights, sounds, and smells can help improve everybody’s mood.
Entertain your baby.
Babies can get bored too, and if they do, it can cause them to fuss. Keep your little one entertained by playing with him, showing him how his toys rattle and spin, read him a book, or turn on some tunes and dance around. If you’re busy, you can put your baby where he can see you and narrate your actions, replete with some animated expressions and silly noises.
Massage your baby.
Massaging the baby can be a relaxing activity for both you and the baby, and it’s a nice way to calm them down. Use a gentle touch that’s firm and not ticklish. Just be receptive to your baby’s cues – some of them find massages overwhelming. You can use lotion or baby massage oils, though neither is necessary.
Try the colic carry.
When your baby is crying inconsolably, check if she needs relief from some pressure on her tummy. Do the colic carry to help relieve gas and colic. Lay your baby on her tummy on the forearm of your while cradling her head on your hand. Then, use your other hand to stabilize her while rubbing her back.
Alternatively, you can lay the baby on her back and gently bicycle pump her knees up to her tummy for 10 seconds. Release and repeat. To avoid an accumulation of gas, always burp your baby after feeding.
Get some comic relief.
If the baby cries around the same time each day, have something to look forward to when you tend to them. You can turn on Netflix and watch a funny series during your baby’s fussy time. Laughter is helpful for anyone who is encountering uncomfortable emotions. It gets you out of your head and away from feelings that can make you anxious or depressed.
Soothe yourself first.
If your baby’s fussiness gets you anxious and stressed out, it won’t help the baby. Sometimes, you can place your baby in the crib for a while and let her cry for a moment. Then, go to another room, close the door, and breathe. You can use noise-canceling headphones to clear your head from all the crying and listen to a song or music that can calm you down. Relaxing for a while can give you the patience that you need so you can go back to your baby and try to calm her down. Shutting out the crying for a few minutes can help de-stress yourself a bit and stop your head from spinning.