It’s a scenario new parents dread: You’re in public (a nice, uber-quiet book store, for example) and your baby has a complete meltdown; crying her head off and nothing you do works. An inconsolable baby is heartbreaking to hear, and for new moms, it can trigger some serious, hand-wringing anxiety.
Babies cry for all kinds of reasons, but trying to figure out exactly what they need can feel like a painful game of charades: tired, hungry, wet diaper, overstimulated, bored? It can be any number of things. So, if your baby has been fed and changed and is still in tears, here are 10 tips to soothe your crying baby…
Babies spend months in utero listening to a variety of sounds inside and outside of your body—blood rushing, food digesting, muffled voices, music—and all of it together creates a kind of white noise. Once a baby is out of the womb, white noise becomes a big source of soothing and helps them sleep. So pick up a white noise gadget or download an app to calm your baby. If you’re in the car and need a quick fix, try turning your radio to any fuzzy AM/FM station and crank it up—moms swear by it!
“I have a sound machine with white noise and when she was really young, I’d just hold her and hold the sound machine beside her head until she fell asleep. It’s a noise that drowns out all other noise, and she kind of forgot why she was crying.”– New Mom
The 5 S’s
Dr. Harvey Karp’s method fromThe Happiest Baby on the Block is based on recreating sensations that comforted Baby in the womb. Swaddling, side or stomach hold, shushing, swinging, and sucking—done all at once—is a major go-to for new moms and dads. Sucking is a natural soother for babies, so if yours isn’t a thumb sucker, grab a pacifier and give it a go. And don’t worry about creating bad habits at this stage: calm and comfort for your baby is the goal.
The Great Outdoors
Sometimes a change of scenery is all Baby needs to go from crying to calm, so step out on your porch, walk around the yard, or take a stroll around your neighborhood or park. And sunlight has lots of benefits for babies, not to mention the fresh air will do you both a world of good.
“We go outside for a walk with her in the stroller. You get fresh air, the baby gets fresh air, and everyone gets soothed and kind of calms down.”– New Mom
Peace & Quiet
Places (and people!) that are too bright or loud can definitely overstimulate a baby. Signs that she’s on sensory overload: extra fussy, turning her head away from people, jerky body movements, or spacing out. If you suspect Baby has had enough, time to exit the party or find a quiet, dimly lit space to soothe her.
There are lots of hold positions, and babies let you know when they’re not loving something; maybe they prefer to face forward or be nestled into your chest in a side hold. Dr. Robert Hamilton, pediatrician and baby soother extraordinaire, came up with “The Hold,” and his videoshows how you can calm a baby in a jiffy—no wonder it went viral! Also, positions that give Baby gentle hand pressure on his stomach are especially soothing for gas or colic upset.
“You just have to try different things until you figure it out. It may work for a while then you have to find something else. A lot of times, a change of scenery works wonders for them. Take them outside, take them on a walk. Sometimes they just want to feel close to you, skin to skin.”– New Mom
Bright, contrasting colors are fascinating to babies and a great distractor from fussiness. Bust out some colorful fabric or try a crib mobile or soothing device that projects images and plays calming sounds.
If your baby likes being in motion, take a drive, dance around, use a swing or infant seat that mimics a mother’s side-to-side swaying motions, or rest in a rocking chair/glider and see how your baby responds.
“The motion of the rocking chair really did soothe her. I would get frustrated, but if I rocked her it was almost like I calmed myself, as well, because you really do feel like you reach your limit.”– New Mom
Who doesn’t love a relaxing massage or bath? Infant massage has many benefits for babies and regulates their nervous system, and adding in gentle leg movements is really helpful for gassy babies. If warm water calms your baby, draw a bath for both of you or just for Baby. Essential oils are also great for creating a soothing environment.
Little ones love new sounds, and studies show music has heaps of benefit for babies. So, crank up the Mozart or Spotify’s lullabies, and if karaoke is your thing, grab that hairbrush-mic and belt out some tunes!
“We tried white noise—the vacuum, the hairdryer—and swaddling worked with him…but he also loved music; he loved Bruno Mars. That song ‘Just the Way You Are’ worked miracles for him. He would be crying and the minute we put it on he would just fall asleep.”– New Mom
Being snuggled up next to Mom gives babies a safe and secure feeling—it’s immediately soothing. But having a baby on your hip makes it hard to move about and get things done: enter baby carriers or wraps! There are loads of baby-wearing products, so check out this listfor some options. Baby slings/carriers make it easy for moms to stay mobile and allows babies to sleep, eat, and see the world while cozied up to Mom: definitely worth a try!
“Sometimes you just need a minute. My husband and I trade off…sometimes things that normally work just don’t work. So, it’s about communicating: Hey, I need a break. If you ever find yourself in that situation and you’re alone, you can put the baby down in their crib or somewhere safe and let them cry while you take a time out to calm yourself. It’s going to be okay. Their crying hurts us more than it hurts them. It doesn’t make you a bad mom.”– New Mom
And don’t forget to calm yourself…
Hearing your baby cry for long stretches (or what feels like long stretches) can be really difficult and emotional, especially with new-mom hormones in the mix. It’s common to feel frustrated and lose patience, and this is EXACTLY when teamwork with your partner is so important. If you’re with Dad, let him know you need a break and take some time to breathe and feel calm. If you’re alone with the baby, place her in a safe space—crib, bassinet, car seat—and give yourself a time out: no guilt or shame. It’s important to take care of yourself so you’re able to take care of your baby.
“My son had colic, so we went through about ten weeks of it. There were times the baby and I were crying at the same time. Sobbing. I think that’s when it’s so important to refer back to teamwork with your partner, tag teaming. And before your baby is born, just having conversations or coming up with a code word for when you think, ‘I’m going to lose it, and I just need a break.'”– New Mom