CALMING CRYING BABY
SPOT THE SIGNS OF COLIC
If your newborn fusses and cries sometimes for hours on end, then you, too, may have a case of colic on your hands; up to 26 percent of babies get this diagnosis. Colic usually starts at 2 weeks, peaks at 6 weeks, and is gone by 16 weeks. It’s long been defined as unexplained crying for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week, for three weeks or more—but this is just a rule of thumb, and your infant doesn’t need to meet these exact criteria to be considered colicky.
Although it’s true that all babies cry, those with colic do so with gusto. We’re talking earsplitting screams that seem to come out of nowhere and could shatter a window. The crying jags can happen at any time; evenings are notoriously brutal, however. Luckily, there are tricks for calming the fussiest of babies and for getting through this difficult stage (and it is just a stage!) without totally losing it.
The first time you hear your baby cry is a thrilling experience; it’s a sign she’s entered the world healthy with a great set of lungs! But as the weeks go by, the thrill may quickly give way to concern and frustration.
As you will inevitably learn, babies cry a lot. Sometimes, the reason is obvious: Baby is hungry, wet, or tired, and wants you to address her needs. Other times, getting the tears to stop is not such a simple process. That’s why figuring out how to soothe and calm a baby when nothing else seems to do the trick is so important.
While no single method works for all babies, you’ll soon develop a repertoire of techniques that’s perfect for your child. In the meantime, read on for some time-tested ideas to help your little fusser feel better.
LOCO FOR MOTION
For baby, spending nine months inside Mom’s belly is literally like living in a mobile home. Even when you sleep, your body is moving, so when baby enters the world, lying quietly in a bassinet may seem oddly still and unfamiliar. Shaking things up a bit may make her more comfortable.
- ROCK-A-BYE BABY:
Place baby in your arms, stand with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart, and swivel back and forth at the hips. Your movement can be fairly vigorous as long as you’re holding baby close. When you get tired, use the rocking chair.
- SWING, SWING, SWING:
Baby swings offer soothing, rhythmic motion that helps calm baby down. Just make sure the swing is designed for a small baby, as little ones may slump over in a large one.
- GET SOME GOOD VIBRATIONS GOING:
The vibrating motion of a washing machine or dryer has saved the sanity of many a frustrated parent. Place baby in an infant seat, put it on top of the appliance, and hold on to it firmly so the seat stays in place.
- TOOL AROUND THE BLOCK:
The smooth, consistent motion of a car or stroller ride, in addition to the snug comfort of a car seat or stroller, lulls many fussy babies to sleep.
PAPA BEAR HUG
- DAD IS KING:
Or so say many moms, when it comes to soothing. Maybe it’s because his strong arms can rock her more quickly. Maybe it’s because he swaddles her more tightly. Or maybe he’s just bigger and warmer. But who cares what the reason is? Get him to help and give yourself a break.
WRAP IT UP
A womb is not a roomy piece of real estate. Your baby is used to being packed closely in a warm, cozy environment. Emulating it stops tears and makes her feel secure.
- SWADDLE AWAY:
Wrapping baby cozily in a thin, lightweight blanket with her arms across her chest has a wonderful calming effect. Swaddled babies often sleep longer and more soundly, too.
- SNUGGLE UP:
Try kangaroo care. This technique is especially good for preemies. Undress baby, lie down, place her against your naked skin, and cover both of you with a warm, soft blanket.
- STRAP ON A SLING:
It’s not surprising that the warm, dark, close comfort of a baby sling is a surefire soother. An added bonus: You can breastfeed anywhere undercover.
- BRING ON THE NOISE
A pregnant belly is not the serene sanctuary you might imagine. The inside scoop: Your baby can hear the pounding of your heart, the rush of your blood, and the gurgling of your stomach. For some newborns, silence isn’t golden.
- TURN ON A FAN:
The soft whirring is music to a fussy baby’s ears.
- VACUUM UP:
Some kids are calmed by the jarring combination of noise and vibration.
- HUSH WITH A “SHUSH!”:
Your “shushing” sound mimics what baby heard in the womb. Say it directly into her ear, over and over again.
- TRY WHITE NOISE:
Any machine with a consistent rushing sound has a soothing effect; recordings of waves on the beach, rainfall, or the sound of a waterfall will work as well.
GETTING RID OF GAS
13-15. LETTING IT GO:
Some people think infants smile when they have gas; others know better. If you suspect your baby is crying from gas pain:
- lay him down across your knees and gently rub his back
- bicycle his legs while he lies on his back
- talk to your doctor about using infant gas drops
COULD IT BE COLIC?
One-fifth of babies develop colic, which means they cry inconsolably for three hours or more a day for three weeks or more; it peaks at six weeks and usually resolves itself by three months.
- WATCH YOUR DIET:
If you’re nursing and regular soothing tips don’t help, try eliminating:
- other potentially irritating foods from your diet
- TRY THE COLIC HOLD:
Lay baby facedown on your forearm, cradle her close to your body, and rock her back and forth.
Many moms wonder, “What’s the deal with pacifiers? Should I use one, or will my baby develop a bad habit?”
- OFFER A BINKY:
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there’s nothing wrong with giving a newborn a pacifier. Some children have strong sucking needs and are quickly soothed by a binky. Most babies give up the paci on their own around the seventh month. If yours doesn’t, don’t worry. The AAP says it’s unlikely to harm his development.
NOTHING IS WORKING! NOW WHAT?
All is not lost! There are still a number of tricks you can try to jolly your little one out of his cranky mood.
- GO OUTSIDE:
A change of scenery can be distracting enough to calm your newborn’s cries.
- GIVE BABY A MASSAGE:
Some babies find stroking soothing.
- DIM THE LIGHTS AND SHUT OFF THE TV:
Too much stimulation can jangle a newborn’s nerves.
- CHECK THE TEMPERATURE IN YOUR HOUSE:
Baby could be too hot or too cold.
- CHECK BABY’S CLOTHES:
Hot, tight, or confining clothes can cause tears to flow.
SIMPLE SOOTHING STRATEGIES
Not every strategy will work for every baby, and some techniques may only work at certain times, depending on your baby’s mood. The key is to experiment; over time, you’ll figure out what’s best for your baby, and when.
Re-create the womb.Your infant may be fussy because he misses his first “home,” so simulating the amniotic environment can calm him. Try these techniques, together or separately:
Swaddle him snugly in a blanket with his arms down.
Hold him while he’s on his side or stomach rather than his back.
Make shushing sounds, or create other white noise by running a hair dryer or fan (the inside of the womb sounds like a constant pulsing whoosh).
Jiggle him gently (the rhythmic swaying resembles the movement of the womb).
Give him something to suck on—either a pacifier or a finger.
DECODING THE WAILS
It’s not easy to figure out what your baby’s various cries mean. But keep these general guidelines in mind:
- Newborns have a very distinct, high-pitched wail—and contrary to what you may think, this often doesn’t indicate pain. They simply take in short, rapid breaths and let out a short crying sound each time they exhale. Older babies begin to breathe in deeper when crying, so each cry is longer.
- When he’s hungry, a baby will quietly fuss and squirm. If he isn’t fed, the cry will escalate. (Unless he’s a newborn, and then the big wails are likely to start right away.)
- If he’s in pain—from gas, teething, or illness—your baby will probably have a piercing cry and a pained look on his face. He’ll also be especially difficult to console.
3 STRATEGIES TO AVOID
- Popping in a pacifier right away. Yes, it might quiet her, but you won’t get to figure out what’s really wrong.
- Rushing to feed. If you stick a bottle or your breast in your baby’s mouth every time she cries and before you’re sure she’s hungry, you could be showing her that eating is a way to comfort herself. And that can eventually lead to overeating.
- Trying too many different ways of soothing at once. It takes a while for soothing techniques to work. If you quickly change positions, or swaddle and then unswaddle immediately, your baby will probably become more agitated.
The warm touch of your hands can console your baby instantly. In a warm, quiet room, undress him except for his diaper and put him on a comfortable surface (a bed, couch, your lap). Use baby oil or a moisturizing lotion.
Apply gentle yet firm pressure with each stroke. Be aware of your baby’s cues: If he wriggles or fusses, stop and try again another time. You can do this entire sequence or just the parts your baby likes. Begin with your baby on his back:
- Using your open hands, stroke both sides of the face, from the forehead to the neck and back up again.
- Using a circular motion, stroke over the temples and the hinge of the jaw.
- Lightly massage behind the ears and continue the circular movements over the rest of the scalp, avoiding the soft spot on the top.
- Wrap both hands around the baby’s upper arm and stroke down from the shoulder to the wrist, using a gentle, milking motion.
- Stroke the palms of the hand with your thumbs.
- Gently squeeze and then pull each finger.
- Starting with your hands flat on the baby’s chest, stroke up toward the neck, and then downward to his sides.
- Using a hand-over-hand motion (like a paddle wheel), stroke him moving from high to low on the abdomen.
- Wrap both hands around your baby’s upper thigh, and stroke down toward the ankle and back up to the hip.
- Use a thumb-over-thumb motion to massage the entire bottom of the foot.
- Gently squeeze and then pull each toe.
- Make small circles all over the top of the ankle and foot.
NOW TURN YOUR BABY FACEDOWN:
- Stroke, in a hand-over-hand motion, from the upper back to the buttocks, with the flats of your hands contoured to the shape of his back.
- Using your fingertips, massage the long muscles next to your baby’s spine with circular motions from his head to his buttocks. (Don’t rub directly over the spine.) Continue massaging down his legs to his feet.
Finish by lightly massaging your baby’s neck and shoulders.
NEVER NEVER SHAKE A BABY
Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs when a baby is shaken. The blood vessels in a baby’s head cannot tolerate the impact of shaking and can break.
- Each year about 1,000 children die from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
- Death, brain damage, mental retardation, seizures, or blindness may result from shaking a baby.
- Shaking usually happens when parents or caregivers become frustrated or angry when they are not able to stop the baby from crying.
- Shaken baby syndrome is 100% preventable.
COMMON REASONS BABIES CRY
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Wet or dirty diaper
- Overstimulation from noise or activity
- Colic, acid reflux, or food allergies
- Pain or illness
- Stranger anxiety or fear