You have tried everything! You fed. You burped. You rocked. You swaddled. You are tired, and pretty distressed yourself. However since you are the only adult in the room, you have to do the adult thing and soothe your crying baby.
Yes, crying is the only natural form of communication available to a baby, and your baby is trying to tell you something. You thought you hit all the checkboxes but for some reason it isn’t enough.
First I let me tell you this…You are doing a GREAT job! Even in my 4 years as a NICU nurse there were times I had no idea what I should do for this sweet little creature I was charged to take care of. It is important to remember to be patient with yourself as you and this brand new family member get to know each other.
Time and practice will help you feel confident in how to soothe your baby however, if you find that nothing you do works, it might be a good idea to look at the situation analytically, or as a nurse would…..
From the top of their tiny head, to the bottom of their little piggies.
Do you want more amazing tips to make your life as a new mom easier?
Top reasons babies cry
The first thing to do is a physical assessment of your baby…
- Is your baby too hot or cold? Perhaps she is dressed in too many layers. Take their temperature under the armpit if you are unsure. Normal infant temperatures ranges from 97 to 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no need to take an infant’s temperature rectally. The axillary temperature gives an appropriate indication of the infants true temperature therefore it is unnecessary to subject your baby to the additional stress and the invasive hazards of rectal temperatures. (source)
- Is your baby hungry? Newborn babies will drink breastmilk or formula every 1-3 hours. As babies grow they can sustain longer periods without eating however, every child is different in how often they like to eat. General guidelines for infant feeding schedule found here.
- Is your baby eating too much? Feel their tummy in the upper left corner. If it is bulging out and she is continuously spitting up, it may be a sign of overfeeding. We do not feel good after overeating during thanksgiving, and babies can experience over-fullness as well. Although it is very rare to overfeed an infant, it can happen. Perhaps your baby is eating too fast and swallowing air. Try to slow the pace by pulling her off the breast or removing the bottle. Burp your baby by gently tapping and rubbing her back.
- Could he be having pain from reflux? This is quite common due to the immaturity in the development from the sphincter where the esophagus meets the stomach. Signs of reflux include: arching, spitting up, hiccups, refusing to eat, and irritability while feeding or shortly thereafter. Hold baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding to aid in the forward movement of digestion. Natrum Phosphoricum 6x is a safe and effective homeopathic remedy that neutralizes stomach acids and aides in digestion. It can be given 3 times a day and continued until symptoms resolve. To give to a very small baby, dissolve 1-2 pellets in a tsp of water and use a syringe to feed it to your baby.
- Does your baby have gas pain? Babies can develop gas for many reasons including drinking too fast, swallowing air bubbles from mixed formula, or extended crying. Breastfed infants can develop gas when mom eats certain foods in her diet such as cabbage, beans, or dairy. Help baby relieve the gas by gently massaging the belly in a circular motion. Place baby tummy down on your chest and rub his back. If this does not help you can lay your baby on his back and slowly bicycle the legs. There are also some safe, natural remedies for gas such as gripe water.
- Does your baby have a dirty diaper? Some infants are not bothered by dirty diapers, however it is imperative to keep your little one clean and dry so they will not develop diaper rash. If your infant is having frequent stools, causing irritation to the skin, probiotics can be supplemented to help control diarrhea.
- Teething could be the culprit. Infants start teething at various times but can be as early as 4 months. You may notice that your usually happy baby becomes fussy for no apparent reason. She may start to have sleep regression or diarrhea. A very common sign of teething is increase in drool and you will notice needing to have a bib on 24/7. There are natural options to relieve pain from teething and provide comfort. I advise parents to stay away from the use of Tylenol or Motrin. There are many terrible health implications associated with these drugs. Please read about the dangers of Tylenol for pregnant women and children before choosing this option. There are natural ways to provide pain relief. For in depth information regarding teething go here.
Once you are assured that baby’s crying is not due to a physical need, it is necessary to consider your child’s emotional requisites.
- Overstimulation could be a cause for fussiness. Babies may be in sensory overload if they have been exposed to a new environment, passed around by many people, hear continuous loud noises, or if they are kept awake for extended periods. Decrease the stimulation by eliminating talking and taking baby to a quiet darkened room. In this situation it is helpful if you avoid continuously rubbing your baby, but instead just hold her in a relaxed steady manner. If she becomes calm, its probably a good idea to lay her down in a safe place to sleep. It is important to protect children against too much stimulation including the television, which contains rapid moving objects and changing lights.
- Understimulation is also a reason for fussiness. Just like adults, children get cabin fever. Moms I know you are tired and it is tempting to stay around the house all day, but changing the scenery will help stimulate new neuron connections in your baby’s brain. Going for a short walk is a great way to provide a low-key enriching experience for yourself and your baby. Yes, home delivery from Amazon is convenient, but there are many shapes and colors for your baby to observe at the grocery store. Opt to give your young baby a new visual experience every once in a while.
- Babies need physical touch. Without it, your child could experience cognitive development delays. Skin to skin contact is extremely beneficial for infants, especially during the early newborn phases. One great way to increase physical contact with your baby while still being able to use your hands freely, is by using an infant wrap. The bouncing motions you create while babywearing will soothe your little one like they were in the womb.
- Perhaps your baby is feeding off your behavior. If you are in a chronic state of stress, the atmosphere will exemplify that. Stress hormones can be passed through breastmilk. (source) Take a moment to evaluate the things that are adding to the stress in your life and make changes to minimize them.
Techniques to comfort baby
- Swaddle baby tightly
- Make shushing noises or turn on white background noise
- Place baby in a swing
- Bouncing motions
- Place baby belly down and gently pat his butt
- Administer the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla for inconsolable babies
- Nursing for comfort
- Get baby outside for fresh air
- Put baby down for a nap
Dealing with Colic
Colic is defined as excessive and intense periods of crying in an otherwise healthy infant. There does not seem to be a clear underlying reason for this and no amount of comforting helps. Colic can develop early but may peak from 6 weeks to 4 months of age.
It is important to remember when dealing with colic that even though you may not be able to quiet your baby from crying, your efforts are still comforting and providing positive feedback.
1 in 5 infants may develop colic. It is best not to face this situation alone. Hearing your baby cry can be very distressing and you NEED to take a break. There will not be lasting psychological effects from colic, which is why it is important that you as a parent do what you can to keep your sanity. NEVER SHAKE A BABY.
You may not be in a situation where help is easily available. I am a military spouse so I know this first hand. When I cannot console my son I simply place him safely in his crib and go to a place that I can’t hear him to take some deep breaths. It helps me to read forums where other mothers have told similar stories. This provides a sense of community and a knowing that it will not always be like this.
Please feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with soothing a crying baby. Just remember that these moments we are navigating as moms to a newborn are a blip on the map in comparison with the lifetime of joy ahead.
If you can practice positive mental affirmations during this time you will have a better experience no matter how difficult the situation. Life is really lived between the ears.
Remember to take care of yourself and do something everyday that is just for you. Something that makes you happy.