Women's Healthcare Topics

How to Calm a Fussy, Crying Baby

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

So What Can You Do to Help Your Fussy Baby?

Hearing your baby cry for the first time is an absolutely thrilling experience. The first cry helps the newborn get rid of any extra fluid that might still be in the lungs, mouth, and nose. A weak cry might be a sign that your baby is having trouble breathing. After birth, infants cry for a variety of reasons. They cry when they're hungry, or when they're in pain or uncomfortable. Too much stimulation can also cause your baby to cry. Some babies cry because they need comfort.

Video: How can I help my fussy baby?

Babies can't talk yet, so crying is the only way to have their needs and desires met. Though crying is normal, it's not pleasant for caring parents. When your baby is unhappy, mom is not happy. Colicky babies can keep you up at all hours of the night. The same goes for fussy babies.

So what can you do? How do you soothe a fussy baby? You will need to first figure out why your baby is crying. If your baby is hungry, you should breastfeed or give your baby some formula. Check your baby's diaper and change it if you need to.

Sometimes, babies cry for no reason. (Or you just can't figure out why he or she is having a hissy fit!) If you're a first-time parent, you will eventually learn what soothes your fussy baby, and what makes things worse. Parenting a baby is based on trial and error. What works with one child doesn't always work with the next.

Swaddle Your Infant – Wrapping your baby up in a thin blanket with his or her arms across the chest might help your infant feel more secure. Don't leave the hospital without asking a nurse to show you how to correctly swaddle your baby. Swaddling calms your baby, and it will help him or her sleep longer and more soundly.

Hold Your Baby Against Your Skin – Snuggling up to your baby can have a calming effect. Undress your baby and lay him against your naked chest. Cover your nude baby with a warm, soft blanket. This technique is sometimes called "kangaroo care." It's beneficial for premature babies, but it works great with full-term babies. It helps you bond better with baby, and it makes your baby feel more secure.

Carry Your Fussy Baby in a Sling – Infants who are carried by their mothers cry less. The motion of their mom's walking reminds babies of the rhythm they experienced while in utero. In addition, when a baby is "worn," he or she gets to see new sights and sounds that he or she wouldn't normally get to see. Your infant also gets to hear your voice – a familiar sound that he or she heard in the womb, and a sound that your baby equates with comfort and security.

Try Infant Massage – Your loving touch can help calm your fussy baby down. Some moms rub vegetable-based oil between their hands to warm it up and gently knead their baby's arms and legs. You can also gently stroke your baby's chest and back. There are infant massage instructors who can teach you the art of baby massage. Babies will feel more relaxed, and they may sleep better as a result.

This article gives tips about calming down a crying baby.

Rock or Swing Your Baby – Fussy babies love gentle swinging motions. These calming movements remind babies of their lives in the womb. When you can't get baby to stop crying, try making "shhh" sounds while rocking your baby in a glider, or use a baby swing.

Walk Around the Neighborhood – If you're at your wits' end with a fussy, crying baby, strap your child in a stroller and go for a ride. The smooth, constant motion of a stroller ride, the sound of the trees swaying in the breeze, and chirping birds outside might just lull your baby to sleep.

Sing a Lullaby – Babies love the sound of their mama's voices, so when your baby is crying and fussy, try singing a soft lullaby. Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that traditional Western lullabies decrease the stress and pain response in premature babies. For some reason, the simple rhythmic structure, simple harmony and melody of lullabies relax babies.

Womb Sounds Teddy Bear – Infants are often comforted by sounds that remind them of life in the womb. Consider buying a womb sounds teddy bear, which are sold at select online retailers (such as Maternity and Baby Shopping Mart). These stuffed teddy bears are soft and cuddly, and they play actual recorded sounds from the womb.

Hold Your Baby In Front of a Mirror – Babies love to look at faces, and it won't be until your infant is around 18 months or so before he or she realizes it's his or her face in the mirror. When a baby is crying, use a mirror to distract him or her. Your baby will be so fascinated with the "other baby" in the mirror that it might make your little one forget what's bothering him or her.

Try White Noise – When all else fails, try some white noise. You may want to play a recording of beach waves, the pitter-patter of the rain, or a rushing waterfall. Some babies are comforted by the vibrating motion of a washing machine, or a ceiling fan.

Give Your Baby a Pacifier – Consider giving your baby a pacifier to suck on. Sucking triggers the calming reflex in your baby's nervous system, and it may help sooth a fussy baby. Pacifiers also reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). If you're breastfeeding, wait a month before you introduce the pacifier. You want your baby to learn how to latch on properly first.

Keep in mind that calming a crying baby is a process of trial and error. You will learn what works for your baby, and what makes him cry even harder.

If nothing is working, and you're stressed beyond your limit, place your baby down in a safe place and take a breather. Ask your significant other, a trusted friend, or family member to watch your baby. Sometimes, moms need a break. You should never, ever shake your baby. It's safer for your infant to cry and cry in the crib than for you to accidentally shake your infant in frustration.

Contact your healthcare provider if you are having trouble managing your emotions. Being a new mom is full of stress and anxiety. Your doctor may give you helpful tips to cope.


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