Baby is fed, his diaper is changed, but he’s still crying! What else can you try? As a Let Mommy Sleep nurse, I’ve had the chance to work in homes with all types of parents and have tried several techniques for soothing babies. I’ve figured out which of the time-tested methods actually work, which ones don’t, and even discovered some new, unique ways to calm little ones! Here are my top ten favorites:
1) White noise: Make some noise…white noise that is! The rhythmic monotonous whooshing sound reminds baby of what she heard in the womb- it can lull her into sleep and even help her stay asleep. If you don’t want to spring for a machine, try a white noise app on your smartphone. Even the sound of a fan or a humidifier will work. Due to recent studies, make sure the noise is not too loud, and don’t use white noise as your only sleeping technique throughout the first year. See this great article in Science News for more information.
2) Exercise ball: I got this idea from parents who swore this was the best and only way to settle their baby. Hold baby in either a cradle hold or up on your chest, sit on an exercise ball and gently bounce. Kill two birds with one stone- Calm baby and work on those abs at the same time!
3) Baby-wearing: Babies, especially newborns love to be held constantly. However, many parents worry that they won’t ever be able to use their hands again! Try a baby carrier or sling- to keep baby close while leaving your hands free. My personal favorites are the wrap-types- brands include the Moby, the Maya, and the Boba wrap. I’ve calmed countless babies by carrying them in this fashion.
4) Swaddling: One of my nurse colleagues often tells me how nothing could calm her little boy except swaddling. He’d start out screaming, but once you began rolling him up, you’d see his eyelids drooping. Babies like to be tightly swaddled because it reminds them of being snug inside the womb. If you want to learn to swaddle like a pro, watch our step-by-step demonstration YouTube.
5) Skin to skin contact: Get naked! In the NICU this technique called “Kangaroo care” is employed not only calm babies, but to help them grow and develop. Get your baby down to her diaper, snuggle in close and get as much “skin to skin” contact as possible. It calms, reassures, and is great for bonding.
6) Take a bath with baby. I suggested this idea to a mom, and she said it worked like a dream! Taking a bath with baby can be a relaxing experience for both baby and mom. First, test the temperature of the water. Then get in the tub and have baby lay chest to chest with you. Gently hold him and relax. This is also a wonderful opportunity for mothers to breastfeed, if baby would like to. Just make sure baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off before giving him a full bath.
7) Try the “colic hold.” The “colic hold” has been known to soothe many fussy babies. Lay baby face down on your forearm and gently rock him back and forth. Pressure on baby’s tummy is soothing and may help relieve gas.
8) Massage. Massage can be a useful tool in calming your baby. Lay your little one on her back on a changing table or other flat surface. Gently massage the top and sides of her head, the face and jaw muscles, then the arms, tummy and legs.
9) Calm your heart rate. Babies know when you are stressed. They can sense the tension in your muscles and feel your heart pounding. This stresses them out, which increases your stress, and soon you find yourself stuck in a vicious cycle. As nerve-wracking as the crying can be, the best way to break the cycle is to calm down. Take some slow deep breaths with baby up against you. Focus on slowing your heart rate. Often, baby will follow suit.
10) Turn down stimuli. Too much stimuli is frequently the problem. It’s easy for parents to overlook the daily barrage of lights and sounds we’re all accustomed to. Your newborn baby was in darkness for nine months; his nervous system is still immature and all these new stimuli can be overwhelming. Trying turning off the TV and dimming the lights. Sometimes, bringing baby to his dark, quiet nursery will also help him relax.
It's important to remember that sometimes babies just cry. They just do no matter what you try. If baby is not hungry and not injured or in need of medical attention and you feel like you might be reaching a breaking point while baby is crying, it is okay to place baby in a safe place like the crib and walk away for a few minutes. Are there other soothing techniques we missed here? Let our readers know on Twitter or Facebook!