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Soothing Techniques for Fussy Babies
A crying or fussy baby can really be frustrating. You don’t know exactly why your little one is crying, and all you can think of is that you want to make him feel better. You’ve heard all of these tips and tricks from your friends, but how do you know which ones are right, and which ones will work for your little one?
When it comes down to it, babies are very easy to please, despite the fact that they cannot voice their words of concern. All that most infants need are the most basic of soothing methods, after you’ve checked that their most basic needs have been met, of course. Without these, you’ll be left high and dry on how to soother your little one.
Every parent needs to have an arsenal of soothing techniques under their belt. These will work in just about every situation, except if there’s a real problem like hunger, tiredness, the need for a diaper change, or pain of some kind. (Check out my article on Soothing a Crying Infant for more information on what your infant’s cries mean.) Many times though, your little one just wants your comfort and attention, and here are some really great ways to give it!
What was the best solution for your baby's crying?
Checking the First Four
Before you do anything else, check for hunger, a needed diaper change, tiredness, and the need to be held close. These are the normal reasons why your baby may be crying. If none of these are the culprit of the crying, here we go into soothing territory.
The amount, and even the type, of motion that is soothing varies from child to child. So you may need to try different things to see what works for your baby. Walking around is an easy one. Pop your little one into a sling or front baby carrier and go on with your business. Your normal movements will lull him into a wonderful state of calm.
If your little one needs more, try one of these motions:
Bouncing – up and down movement, usually pretty fast
Swinging – vigorous side to side motion, like your baby is on a swing
Swaying – slowly twisting from side to side with baby against your body
Rocking – a slow back and forth, like in a rocking chair
Vibrating – in a vibrating bouncer or swing, or in his car seat (monitored) on the clothes dryer
Many parents swear by going on a drive. As this is perfect for some little ones, it does take more effort, it takes you leaving the house, and it takes gas. You may want to try some of the above movements before resorting to this one.
Your baby was used to it being pretty loud in your belly for nine months. And sometimes it’s these same sounds that may be able to calm your infant and stop the crying. Therefore, many babies are comforted by monotonous background noise (white noise), especially sounds that mimic the sound of the womb. (WebMD)
The growl of a vacuum cleaner might not seem very soothing, but many babies are calmed by a steady flow of "white noise" that blocks out other noises. Also try make loud shhhhhh sounds close to your baby’s ear, as this is the most commonly used. It could also just be your voice that she wants to hear. Coo, talk about your day, talk about how beautiful she is and how much she means to you, or you could even read her a book.
Try playing music, singing a lullaby or your favorite song, and dancing around the room. Experiment with different kinds of music to see what your baby responds to. For desperate parents, try the oven vent on high, a hair dryer near but not facing your baby, or even the bathroom fan.
If there is a particular sound that seems to comfort your crying baby, consider making a recording of the sound to play when your baby is upset. This will keep you from running unneeded electricity, risking an electrical fire, disturbing others in the house, or wearing out your shusher.
The first thing any parent, and you should too, tries is simply to pick their infant up and hold them close. As this is usually what your baby wants, she should settle right down. If this doesn’t work, she may want to be swaddled.
Swaddling is a technique where you take a blanket and wrap it tightly around your baby to simulate the close squeeze she experienced inside the womb. There are swaddling blankets with Velcro on the market to make this easier for you. Read through my article on How to Correctly Swaddle an Infant to get some pointers, as this will take a little practice before you get it just right.
After nine months in a warm, dark environment, the world can be a scary place to a newborn baby. Your touch stimulates receptors in the brain that calm your baby, and research shows that touch can be very healing and soothing. Try caressing your infant's cheek, back, legs, or stomach. Take your time and enjoy your little one, and she should reward you with a smile and maybe some coos. (Parenting)
Most babies love to be touched, so maybe a massage might be just the thing. It can be just as comforting to you as to your little one, and it will provide some extra bonding. Don't worry about not knowing the perfect movements. As long as they're gentle and slow, they should bring comfort.
A warm bath may also help comfort your crying baby. Many newborn infants enjoy the feel of warm water against their skin. And even better, if you get into the bathtub or shower with your infant, not only do they get the feeling of the warm water, but they also get your skin-on-skin contact, which might have been what they wanted all along.
Finally, it might just be that your infant wants to suckle. If you are breastfeeding, it’s not always necessary for your infant to get nutrients from you when he suckles. Sometimes infants just want the comfort that suckling gives them, and being that they get to be near you can make all the difference. If this is not something you have chosen to do and are instead bottle-feeding your little one, offer him or her a pacifier.
If nothing else is working for you, sometimes simply opening the front or back door and stepping outside with your baby stops the crying instantly. If it works, savor the moment. Look around, look up at the sky, talk to your baby about the world around your home. And if you've tried everything and your baby is still upset, consider letting your baby cry it out. Crying won't hurt your baby, and sometimes let it run its course is the only way to make it stop. (Mayo Clinic)
If, at any time, it all becomes too much to handle, don’t feel guilty, embarrassed, ashamed, or that you’re doing anything wrong. Set the infant down somewhere safe, like buckled into her swing, and walk away for a few minutes. This might just give you the boost you need to get back in there and keep on going.
One way to make this whole process easier for both you and your baby is to create a schedule for him. Although from the moment he is born his needs will change slightly over time, a schedule can and will still work for you.
This begins with simply writing down what you do and when you do it, along with the results of your actions. Write down when he eats and how much, when you change his diaper and what you see, when he cries and what works, etc. Pretty soon you’ll start noticing trends, like she eats 3 oz every hour and a half and has a diaper change 10 minutes after feeding every time.
This will allow you to anticipate her needs and be able to give her exactly what she wants before she even knows she wants it, almost eliminating the crying altogether. Ideally your infant should be on a 3 hour cycle of sleeping (1 to 1 ½ hours), eating (20-30 minutes), resting (30 minutes), and playing (1 to ½ hour). Of course, newborns will sleep and eat great deal more in the beginning.
Babies are definitely a new experience when you first begin taking care of them. Especially if you have had no experience with infants before, you might feel a little lost and very frustrated. Every new parent is in the same situation so don’t feel like you’re alone.
Like I’ve said, there’s nothing wrong with simply setting your infant down in a safe place (like strapped in a baby swing) and walking away to regain your composure before coming back to comfort her once again. If you really feel like you can’t handle it, consider jumping online, or joining a group, and talking to other mothers/fathers/parents in the same situation. They may have some suggestions that they use that will give you some peace of mind.
Once you get to know your little one better, you will start to learn his cries and anticipate his needs. You will soon know exactly what to give him or do for him every time, and you’ll be the expert!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness