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The Fear of Tears – Tips to Soothe a Crying Baby

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Imagine being forced out of a warm bed, where all your needs were taken care of, into a world where you are being poked and prodded by gigantic creatures who do not understand anything you are trying to say no matter how hard you try. That would make me cry.

Babies cry a lot. Crying is their only method of communication before they learn to talk. When we invariably do not understand what they want, they cry some more.In the first couple of months the crying is unavoidable. What’s more unavoidable is the feeling of guilt, frustration and inadequacy that accompanies our babe’s cries.

The first few months, after you bring your little bundle of joy home, are akin to starting a new job – you feel out of your element, overwhelmed and like someone else is the boss of you.

Before, you start accurately interpreting your baby’s cries; it can be a very long guessing game to figure out what your baby wants. If there is ever a time to start honing your sense of observation, this is it. Babies cry for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons are:

  • Hunger
  • Tiredness
  • Frustration
  • Sleep
  • Colic
  • Gas
  • Dirty diaper
  • Illness

Baring the obvious things you can do to soothe your baby, such as feeding them, changing their diaper, burping them or checking their temperature, here are some additional things you can try to soothe your baby. Bear in mind that Daddy can also help with all of these techniques.



  • Swaddling: Swaddling a baby mimics the warmth and comfort they were accustomed to in the womb. Swaddling usually has a very calming effect on babies, especially colicky babies. Swaddling also helps babies sleep soundly and for longer periods of time.
  • Skin to Skin: Try undressing the baby and placing them against your bare skin. This has the effect of comforting and calming a crying baby, and it is also a useful technique to get a fussy newborn to breastfeed.
  • Sling: A sling allows you to hold your newborn close to you so that they can hear your heartbeat, smell you and feel your body’s warmth. All of this is a great source of comfort for your baby. A sling also gives a newborn good spine support, as it evenly distributed their weight along the length of the sling. Additionally, you can walk around and do your chores, etc. whilst holding the baby. In fact the walking rocks the baby and soothes them even more.
  • Rocking: Rocking mimics the rhythmic movement babies experience in the womb. This is why it is a good technique to calm them. And in case you were wondering, it does not cause motion sickness. There are many ways to rock a baby. Hold your baby close to you, and try the following techniques:
    • Move up and down, by bending slightly at your knees each time, two or three times in a row (almost like doing half squats). Then repeat. A lactation consultant taught me this technique, to soothe my howling baby, and it works wonders
    • Move gently from left to right
    • Sit down and sway back and forth
  • Rocking Chair: If rocking your baby tires you out, and trust me it can get quite strenuous, sit on a rocking chair and rock your baby back and forth. A rocking chair is generally a great investment as parents can feed their babies on it while simultaneously soothing them.
  • Swing: A baby swing is a great method to calm a fussy baby. Just make sure you get a swing that is appropriate for newborns. There are various factors to consider while shopping for a baby swing. Read our upcoming piece Checklist for Buying Infant Swings before making your purchase.
  • Ride in stroller: A ride in a stroller usually helps  lull babies to sleep. The smooth movement of a stroller is calming for babies. Even if you just stroll your baby around in your hallway or garage it can help soothe them.
  • Pacifier: Most newborns have a strong sucking reflex, and in fact this behavior is prevalent in-utero as well. Some parents can actually witness their fetuses sucking on their fingers during ultra sounds. This is why pacifiers can be a heaven sent for fussy babies. Their advantages include:
  • Soothing effect: Pacifiers can calm fussy babies
  • Disposable: They can easily discarded if you want your baby to stop using it
  • Relief for minor pains: Pacifiers can help relieve minor pains or discomfort, such as that brought on by vaccinations, teething or discomfort during flights
  • Sleeping tool: Pacifiers can help soothe babies to sleep

Pacifiers have now also been okayed by pediatricians, but consult with your pediatrician before introducing a pacifier, especially if you are breastfeeding.

  • Massage baby: Just like a massage helps calm adults, stroking and massaging helps calm babies as well. Additionally, massages can really aid digestion and help babies sleep longer.

  • White noise: Newborns are use to a lot of noise in utero (generated by mommy’s body functioning). For many babies the monotonous, steady noise can be very soothing as it reduces external stimulation and creates a less stressful environment. It is also a  good sleeping aid for babies as it helps cut out sharp sounds. White noise is any steady sound such as that generated by a:

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Clothes dryer
  • Hair dryer
  • Running tap
  • White noise maker, available through websites, mobile applications, toys, DVDs
  • Shushing: Babies are also used to shushing sounds in utero. Essentially, shushing is white noise generated by you. Making shushing noises can really help sooth crying babies, especially, if it is accompanied by rocking and patting the baby on the back.

  • Reducing external stimuli: Reducing all external stimuli in the room, the baby is in, can also help soothe them. Turn the TV off, dim the lights and overall try to create a calming environment. If if you are unable to successfully block of noise in your house, try putting on some white noise so sharp sounds are drowned out.

  • Adjust temperature of room: Sometimes babies cry because they are simply feeling too hot or too cold. Modifying the temperature in the room, or adjusting the layers your baby is wearing might do the trick. Generally, the room should be no colder than 16 degrees Celsius (around 61 degrees Fahrenheit) and no warmer than 20 degrees Celsius (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit). Make sure your baby is not overheated (due to being covered by too many layers) or they are not too cold. A good rule of thumb is making your baby wear one additional layer, than what you are comfortable wearing in the room.

For more tips on soothing a crying baby I would highly recommend consulting Harvery Karp’s book The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer. This book gives a lot of detailed advice on different strategies that can help soothe crying babies.

Don’t worry- eventually you will figure out what each of baby’s cries mean. Meanwhile keep trying these methods, or a combination of these methods, and eventually you will learn to decipher your little sphinx.    


Photograph credit: tostadophoto.com ;www.Foter.com


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Contributed by Manic Mama

Manic Mama, is an urban mom balancing her career and her extremely hectic life as a new mother. She brings her honest, and hysterically funny, perspectives as a parent to Bright Babyhood. Her articles about the trials and tribulations of parenthood can be found at www.BrightBabyhood.com

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