It’s normal for babies to cry in their early development. Babies cry for different reasons, usually trying to communicate their needs. In these cases, it can be easy to calm down a baby by changing their diaper, feeding them, burping them, or otherwise tending to them. At other times, however, a baby’s cry isn’t easily solved by going down a simple checklist. Sometimes there seems to be no clear solution, and the crying can become so persistent that it starts to drive you up a wall. If you’re at this point, don’t give up. If you’re struggling with a fussy baby, try these tips and techniques that will help soothe them and bring you some mental relief.
Rule Out Other Causes
Before diving into trying different techniques, double-check that there aren’t any obvious causes to why your baby is crying. When was the last time they were changed? How long has it been since they’ve eaten? Do they seem gassy? Make sure to check for any signs of illness or infection. Look for a runny nose, fever, swollen gums, or any signs of pain. When the crying seems incessant, it can be easy to lose track of your thoughts. Take a breath and make sure you’ve tried all your usual solutions. Here are some common reasons babies cry:
- Being too cold or hot
- Diaper soiled
- Spitting up or vomiting
Swaddle Your Baby
Try swaddling your baby in a large, thin blanket to make them feel cozy and safe. This has been known to help relax babies as the blanket can create a womb-like feeling. It can also help them sleep longer. If you’re unsure about the proper way to swaddle a baby, ask your nurse or pediatrician to show you how to perform it properly.
Babies benefit from sucking even if it is nonnutritive. It can help them self soothe and calm their nerves. If it’s not yet time to feed them, encourage your baby to suck on their thumb, fist, or finger. Binkies and pacifiers work just as well, but if you’re breastfeeding you may want to wait to introduce these items until feeding has been fully established.
Using Calming Sounds or White Noise
Just like how some adults prefer sleeping with a fan on, babies can be calmed by gentle sounds or white noise. The white noise can block out other sounds that may be bothering them. You can buy white-noise machines in-store, or you can look up videos online that mimic the same sound. Of course, in times when there are no items around, you can always rely on the traditional “Shhhh….” technique.
Rock Your Baby or Use a Carrier
Is there any technique more time-tested than rocking your baby to sleep? History has proven just how effective and soothing rocking can be. The motion of rocking also simulates movements they felt back in the womb. However, for parents dealing with persistent crying, cradling a baby for an extended amount of time can be tiring. It may be beneficial to invest in a hands-free option like a baby carrier, sling, bouncy seat, or baby swing.
Sing to Your Baby
It doesn’t matter if you’re the worst singer in the world, babies just like to connect with your voice. Singing can help soothe or even entertain them, so feel free to be off-key. Try singing a gentle lullaby, or an upbeat silly tune. The sound of your voice itself will be comforting to them.
Take a Walk
Sometimes babies really just need a change in environment or some fresh air. Babies can get bored with their surroundings and taking them outside for a walk stimulates them with new sounds, movements, and smells. It may feel impossible to pick yourself up and go for a walk when you’re already exhausted, but being outside can help improve your mood as well. If there’s not an appropriate place to walk with your baby, even a simple car ride can provide a change in scenery.
Instead of lacking stimulation and feeling bored, some crying babies might feel like there’s too much happening around them. Babies can easily feel overwhelmed with all the new information and stimuli being given to them. Try dimming the lights, reducing noise, and creating a quiet, peaceful environment for them.
Change Their Diet
If your baby is chronically crying, you may want to try changing their diet and see if there is any improvement. For breastfeeding mothers, try reducing your milk and caffeine intake. If there is no difference in mood, you can rule out this option. Bottle-fed babies can try a different formula that has been suggested by the child’s doctor.
If Your Baby is Colicky
If your baby has colic, there’s a certain technique called the “colic carry” that can help relieve their symptoms. Follow these steps:
- Lay your baby on their tummy across your forearm, with their head cradled in your hand. Use your other hand for stabilization and gently rub their back.
- Lay your baby across your lap, with one knee on their tummy and the other as head support.
- Hold your baby upright, pressing their abdomen against your shoulder.
- Lay your baby on their back and push their knees up against their tummy. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat.
What to do if You’re Stressed
Persistent crying can take a serious toll on the parent’s emotional energy and overall mood. During moments of serious stress, it may be necessary to take a step back and briefly care for yourself. When you feel yourself reaching an edge, try these steps:
- Take a couple of long deep breaths.
- Take your baby to a safe place, such as their crib, and let them cry alone for 10-15 minutes. During this time, start self-soothing techniques.
- Put on some music and try to temporarily detach yourself from the situation.
- Reach out to a friend or family member that can help calm you down and support you.
- Use aromatherapy. Keep lavender or other soothing scents nearby.
- Once you feel a bit calmer, check on your baby and re-try calming techniques if needed.
- If you’re worried about your baby’s health, call their doctor.