Quick Tips to Calm a Crying Baby
A majority of parents can agree that calming a baby can be quite a task. You’ve tried everything you can think of to get them to take an afternoon nap, go to bed for the evening, or just make them feel more comfortable when they might be sick. If you feel you’ve run out of ideas in your own playbook, here are some more time-tested baby calmers to help you and your baby.
Slowly feed and burp; change the diaper.
Softly run your finger around the baby’s face to soothe him.
Offer the baby a pacifier.
Hold the baby against your chest and walk or rock the baby.
Swaddle the baby tightly in a soft warm blanket.
Lay baby tummy-down, across your lap; gently rub or pat his back.
Check for signs of illness. If signs are present, call a doctor.
Take the baby for a ride in a stroller or the car (in a car seat).
Let anger out in a safe way, listen to music, exercise or do housework.
Call a friend or relative and talk out your frustration or see if they can take care of the baby.
If nothing else works, wrap the baby in a blanket and place the baby on his back in a safe place like a crib, close the door and go to another room.
Check on the baby every 10 minutes.
To help your baby and yourself weather the storms, first take care of yourself.
Being a parent is the most difficult, yet most important and satisfying work you will ever do.
During the busy and exciting days that make up the first weeks of parenting, remember to take good care of yourself as well as the new baby.
Parenting can be stressful. Remember:
No child ever died from crying, but many have died from being shaken.
Advice for New Moms and Dads
- Get as much rest as possible. Sleep when the baby sleeps, and moms and dads take turns sleeping late on weekend mornings.
- Eat nutritious meals. If a neighbor or friend offers to help, ask him or her to bring you dinner or do your grocery shopping.
- Join a parenting group. You will learn about caring for your baby, and you will meet other parents who share you interests and concerns.
Read the following articles to find out what else you can do to cope with a crying baby.
What to do when a baby is crying
Crying is how babies tell us what they need, but deciphering those cries is not always easy. Inconsolable crying can be frustrating and worrisome to parents, who often have to be detectives to figure out what the baby wants. Soothing the baby is just part of the challenge; caregivers also must develop strategies for handling their own frustration when nothing seems to stop the crying.
Babies cry for a number of reasons, some related to physical needs and some related to environmental triggers. Here are some common causes and solutions:
- Hungry? Feed the baby.
- Need to burp? Gently pat the baby’s back or tummy.
- Wet/dirty diaper? Change it.
- Too hot/too cold? Change the baby’s clothes and/or blankets.
- Tired? Cuddle/hold your baby.
- Sick (earache, stomachache)? Call your doctor or nurse.
- Too loud? Reduce the noise.
- Too bright? Lower the lights or move the baby to a shady spot.
- Boring? Change the baby’s position. Wear the baby in a sling or baby carrier
- Read a book. Dance or sing with the baby. Take a walk outside.
- Feeling insecure, unsafe? Swaddle the baby. Remove the baby from violentsituations.
Pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, describes the three to four months after birth as the “fourth trimester,” a time when babies are trying to acclimate to life outside that warm, cozy, safe place they just were in for the previous nine months. The techniques he recommends—called “The 5 S’s”—mimic the conditions of the womb:
- Swaddling (tight quarters.
- Side position (where the calming reflex is)
- Shushing (mimicking the sounds of the blood flow)
- Swinging (slight movements)
For some babies, one of these techniques is enough to make them relax and stop crying. For others, a combination—even all five—may be required. And sometimes none of them work.
Sometimes babies just need to cry to settle themselves. When that’s the case, put the baby on his or her back in a safe place, like the crib, and let the baby cry. Check on the baby at least every 10 minutes. Babies shouldn’t feel abandoned; they need to learn to trust that adults will provide care and comfort. It is normal for parents and caregivers to become frustrated when they cannot calm a crying baby. Recognize when your stress level is activated. Your heart rate may
increase, palms may sweat, breathing may be shallow, muscles may get tense. Your body’s signals are communicated to the baby, making the baby feel less secure and safe, which increases crying.
When your baby-crying detective skills have been exhausted, it is time to put the baby in a safe place to cry.
Then do something to relax yourself:
- Drink some cool water, or hot tea.
- Take 10 deep breaths.
- Walk outside for a moment.
- Listen to music or watch TV.
- Call a friend or relative.
- Call your doctor, the 24/7 crisis line at 1-800-4A-CHILD or
- The Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS.
Do not try to calm your baby when you are uptight. In a moment of anger or frustration, you might shake or hurt your baby. Shaking a baby can cause damage to the brain that may result in death, severe and lifelong injury (like blindness, cerebral palsy or seizures) or, at the very least, learning disabilities and behavioral challenges when your child starts school. It is never okay to shake a baby.
Mary Warren is the Never Shake A Baby Arizona Coordinator with Prevent Child Abuse Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to book a presentation to your parent or practitioner group.
Parents are programmed to find their baby’s cries distressing
When your baby cries, you will try hard to meet his needs. Your baby’s crying, and your response to his crying, is your first shared language. When your baby is soothed by your response to his cry, you feel competent. When your baby’s crying is frequent, intense, and difficult to soothe, you can feel frustrated or anxious. The information here will help you understand your baby’s crying.
Here are some additional links to find out what else you can do to cope with a crying baby.
24/7 crisis line: 1-800-4A-CHILD
Birth to Five Helpline: 1-877-705-KIDS
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