Tips to Calm Your Baby and Restore the Peace
If you are a neCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bbaunach/1055569383/w parent, you have inevitably faced a inconsolable, crying baby, especially in the first few months of the baby's life. If you are looking for an "off" button on your baby, you won't find one (I've checked). These moments, or hours, of intense crying are often filled with feelings of inadequacy and stress for parents. This article covers some of the well-known and lesser-known ways to soothe a crying baby, particularly young babies (0-3 months), sourced from popular baby books, personal experience and other parents' accounts.
First, the Obvious Solutions
The first step in soothing your crying baby is to try to understand the source of the fussiness. If the baby is hungry, for example, the fix is pretty simple--feed your baby! Here's the quick list of obvious causes & solutions to think through first:
Baby is hungry - If your baby was displaying hunger cues prior to the meltdown--signals like rooting, smacking mouth, placing hands near mouth, etc.--then your baby is probably hungry. Feeding your baby should do the trick.
Baby is wet - Check the diaper. If it's wet or dirty, change it and see if that turns out to be the magic off button for your baby's crying.
Baby is cold/hot - Does the baby seem to be too hot or too cold? One good way to check for excessive heat is to feel your baby's ears. Are they sweaty? If so, take steps to correct the temperature. If the baby feels hot, it may also be appropriate to check your baby for a fever. Call a doctor if the temperature is above 100.4 F.
OK, The Obvious Stuff is Taken Care Of, Now What
Baby is fed and clean, but he/she is still crying and now you are stumped. Whether it is gas, reflux, colic, or some other mysterious cause, here is the next set of steps you can try:
The 5 S's - There is a popular book written by Dr. Karp titled The Happiest Baby On The Block. In his book, Dr. Karp outlines swaddling, side/stomach positioning, shushing, swinging, and sucking as five techniques to calm a crying baby. You'll need to read his book, buy the DVD or watch some YouTube clips to get the nuances mastered, but those techniques are worth trying right away.
Position the baby upright - If your baby has reflux, maintaining an upright position helps to keep stomach acids where they belong and out of the esophagus.
Burping - The baby might have stomach gas that needs to come up. Use your favorite burping technique and see if you can get a burp out. If so, your baby will likely settle down.
Get on the move - For some reason, many parents find that fussy babies are soothed once they are picked up and walked around. If your hands are getting tired, placing the baby in a sling or carrier might be just the right move. In my experience, the Baby Bjorn worked wonders in soothing our fussy baby.
Rock on - Try sitting in a rocking chair and move rhythmically while holding baby snug.
Noise machine - This technique involves playing white noise or heartbeat sounds for the baby. Using this method in combination with the rocker has worked for many of the parents I've come across.
Bath time - Some babies melt their stresses away in water. If your baby is like that, try a bath.
Car ride - The hum of a car engine and road noise, combined with the "hug" of a car seat has been a baby calming magic trick for many parents over the years. Give this a shot if you can stomach today's gas prices.
Gripe water - There are a number of homeopathic remedies for "colic," such as gripe water. These products are typically designed to address stomach gas, but not reflux.
Baby Swing - I personally did not have luck with this one, but many parents swear by the baby swing as a baby calming method.
Hopefully some of these techniques work for you. Remember that crying is a natural function for babies. If you are over-stressed, put the baby down for a brief time and/or get family members to assist you. At the very least, know that this phase of your baby's life will pass. According to Dr. Weissbluth, in his book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, fussiness begins at 1-2 weeks of life and peaks at age six weeks.