If your arms are about to fall off from constantly carrying a crying baby who can apparently find no comfort except in your arms and even that isn’t good enough sometimes, and if you are ready to scream, or cry, or go running off into the night by the end of the day, and if you are feeling a little disillusioned by your whole motherhood experience so far–then you’ve come to the right place. I’m about to teach you how to calm a crying baby and change your life forever. Keep reading.
You would think that by baby number 5 I would have known all these things I’m about to share you. But my first few children weren’t particularly fussy, so I just walked and rocked them when they were crying and never really searched for a better solution.
My 5 month old, however, got sick a month ago and ever since, she has been a very fussy baby. Moms of colicky babies, go ahead and get out your mocking mini violins and play me a sad song, because I know she is still not even close to colicky, but she has had little interest in being apart from me and has had a hard time staying asleep for longer than 20 mintutes at a time during the day. She is not even close to rolling over because she starts screaming about 1 minute into tummy time, and my heart strings can’t stand it longer than 5. She won’t go to anyone but me for longer than 3 minutes before she starts crying– even her daddy.
I was blabbering on about all this to my sister-in-law who is a sweetheart and a problem solver and she showed up the next day with swaddling blankets and a dvd to help me find some sanity. She sat me down and taught me everything thing she learned with her incredibly fussy child number 1. I love her. She’s made my life so much more manageable. So, let me pay it forward by telling you all I have learned through this experience and arm you with the resources you will need to calm your super sweet, adorable, incessantly crying baby. Hopefully you can learn all this on your first baby instead of your fifth like me.
1- First, it would probably be a good idea to figure out why your baby is crying. If you are a first time mom, this can be overwhelming. It is your first time experiencing the crazy rush of adrenaline that shoots through your body the minute your baby starts crying. You instinctively want to do everything in your power to soothe that baby. But, even for seasoned moms, it can be hard to figure out what is wrong and it takes some time to figure each new baby out.
I remembered an Oprah episode back in the day about how you can tell what a baby needs by they way they are crying. I looked it up to see if it could help me now that I have a baby. The lady Oprah featured is Priscilla Dunston who figured out that babies speak a language of their own through specific noises they make in their whiny stage, just before they start to really cry. She found there are certain noises they make when they are hungry, tired, uncomfortable, wanting to be burped, or when they have gas pains. I included this video clip so you can hear some examples. If you are fascinated and want to learn more, you can buy her book here or her dvd here. I can totally hear my baby making these different noises now and it helps me so much in figuring out what to do to help her stop crying.
If you can tell from your baby’s cry she is hungry or needs to be burped- Sweet! Easy fix.
If you can tell from your baby’s cry that she is uncomfortable, check her diaper, make sure she isn’t too hot or cold, or change her position.
If you can tell from your baby’s cry that she is tired or has gas- well then you have a little more work to do. Keep reading.
2- Use The 5 S’s (Swaddling, Side or Stomach Position, Shushing, Softly Shaking, Sucking) You may have heard of a book or dvd called The Happiest Baby on the Block. This is what my sister-in-law shared with me. It has been around a while and I had heard of it, but had never really looked into it much. After using the 5 S’s for the past two weeks, I’m a believer! It really is magical to watch my baby calm right down when I use the techniques Dr. Harvey Karp teaches. (Dr. Karp is not paying me to promote his dvd- I just really am amazed at how well it works.) I included a video clip of him on a talk show giving a quick demo of his technique. You can purchase his dvd here if you want to delve deeper.
The best thing about this approach is that anyone can do it- your husband, your mom, the baby’s caretaker, even older siblings. It is such a burden off my shoulders to not be the only one who can calm my baby down! It is extremely effective for the first 3 months of your babies life- which he calls the 4th trimester. The basic idea is to create womb-like conditions for your baby to help them feel safe, comfortable, and calm. But my daughter is 5 months old and still responding really well to most of these techniques.
If you are like me, you probably stumbled upon some of these techniques through your own trial and error in trying to calm your baby. This is why walking around with your baby in the football hold is effective and why they calm down when you turn on your hair dryer or vaccum. But, understanding the technique and having the power house combination of the 5 steps altogether to trigger your baby’s calming reflex is invaluable. Now, I can very deliberately trigger it in a fast a effective way instead of triggering it by luck after lots of effort. And using this technique allows me to calm my baby down in ways that don’t require me to be on my feet, walking around for hours (how can babies always tell when you sit down?!) and that also don’t require me to hold her in a way that makes my arms want to fall off. That right there is a beautiful thing.
Because my baby is older and longer, I have a hard time holding her on my lap and doing the 5 S’s he talks about. So, I made a couple of videos to show you some alternative positions that are working for me with an older baby.
Now, maybe you are like me and thought your baby hated to be swaddled because you didn’t have big enough blankets to get the job done right or your swaddling skills are lacking. You can find the right kind of blankets for swaddling here and swaddling specific blankets with velcro to help you get the job done here. I use these and love them. Just remember that if you are not going to be able to keep an eye on your baby while they are swaddled- like at night when you are asleep– there is the risk of them rolling over on their face and having their breathing restricted, so once you get them to sleep, unswaddle them at night to be safe.
And if you don’t want to hyperventilate doing the shushing noise or waste electricity running your hair dryer- no worries! There’s an app for that! I use this one and love it.
3- Facetime. On days when you have a ton to accomplish and you are just trying to get the baby to stay happy in the swing or on the play mat or even in your arms, you might notice they seem to be more fussy. At this point, stop what you are doing and give that baby a good 15-30 minutes of facetime. YOUR BABY NEEDS YOUR FACE! She needs to smile at you and see you smiling back. She needs to look into your eyes and interact with you. Sing and coo at your newborn. Mimic her sounds. All if this is important for her emotional development and in helping her bond with and attach to you. As they get a little older and interactive, play patty cake and peek-a-boo. Talk to her. Make her giggle at your crazy faces. This is also very critical for her language and social development. A little face time goes a long way. Give your baby facetime attention throughout the day and they will be less fussy. (For more good information on why facetime is important read here and here.)
4- Give your baby a change of scenery. This approach works particularly well as your baby gets older and becomes more aware of her surroundings. Go outside if the whether permits. Sometimes just walking out into the sunshine will calm a crying baby by distracting them with a whole new world of things to look at and discover. Try a stroller ride, or even a ride in the car– many babies are soothed by the vibration and movement of riding in a car. If you live in Seattle or Alaska- I’m sorry. The weather may not always cooperate with your babies need for something new and interesting to look at. There is a magic thing called a mirror, however, that can also do the trick. Most babies can’t resist that cute little baby staring back at them. 😀 And my baby loves being in a warm bath now that she’s a little older. Sometimes all it takes is a little bath time to change her mood.
5- Treat pain symptoms. If none of these things are working, your baby may be experiencing actual pain. A stomach ache, earache, diaper rash, fever or sore throat. And then there is always the joy of teething. The Happiest Baby on the Block techniques can help sooth a baby who is in pain, but sometimes more action is needed to help relieve the pain your baby is in.
**disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am only sharing with you some things that have worked from my personal experience. You should ask a medical professional if the options I’ve listed below are a good choice for your baby.
For stomach aches, you can try Colic Calm. I used this for my last two babies and it seemed to work well.
For earaches, you can try these drops. If they don’t work, see your pediatrician.
For diaper rash, Boudreaux’s Butt Paste is my favorite by far among bum creams.
For fever or sore throat– check with your pediatrician. They may suggest Tylenol or Motrin to help ease the pain.
You might also do a quick check over your baby’s body to see if there is anything bothering her- like a hair wrapped tightly around her toe, a bug bite, a rash other than diaper rash, etc.
I hope armed with these 5 ways to calm your crying baby, you will become skilled at reading your babies cues so you can quickly meet your baby’s needs and end the incessant and unecessary crying. My goal is to help you no longer feel frazzled and at your wits end so you can really enjoy the sweetness of your newborn baby and find more joy in being a mom. Now get to it! You got this.