Babies can be quite the handful when they are little. On average, they can spend about 2 to 3 hours per day crying, and considering that newborns are only awake for about 4 hours or so between their naps, it can start to drive a mother crazy after a while.
Sometimes fussiness is simply because crying is your baby’s only means of communication. Other times there may be a cause of discomfort or even colic. With some helpful tips, you can try to narrow down the source of your baby’s tears. Hopefully, you can find ways to soothe them so you can get a bit of peace and quiet – and peace of mind.
1. Rock-a-Bye Baby
Have you ever wondered why babies like being rocked? Well, in a way it simulated the womb and helps them feel safe again. You may have noticed that your baby seemed quiet and still throughout the day when you were busy but then as soon as you settled down at night, your baby decided to start doing acrobatics in your belly.
Your baby got used to the rocking motion they felt when they were in your belly; they were literally rocked to sleep on a regular basis. So, coming into the outside world and not having that constant rocking motion may be upsetting to them.
Try picking your baby up and cuddling them close, bouncing, swaying, and rocking them to see if the motion help to calm their mood. Your baby will start to feel relaxed and at ease as you hold them close to your body and heart.
2. Put Them in a Baby Swing
Let’s face it, as nice as it is to hold your baby close, your arms can get tired after a while and you may have something else you need to do that requires two free hands. This is where a swing can come in handy.
Most baby swings allow you to control the swing speed and direction so you can adjust it to what your baby likes. They also have hanging mobiles with toys that will keep your little one entertained.
3. Talk to Your Baby
Sometimes babies can feel lonely; they were used to hearing your voice almost 24/7 when they were in the womb. Just sitting or cuddling with your baby and talking to them is enough to help them start calming down.
It doesn’t have to be baby talk either. In fact, it’s better if you just talk to your baby normally. They may not be able to understand everything you are saying, but they will certainly be fascinated by your words as you help them develop their language skills.
4. Play Some Music
Babies like all kinds of music. The reason behind this has to do with temperament and rhythm. Some babies instantly fall asleep when they listen to classical music, for example, while others find it annoying.
It may take some trial and error to find out what your baby likes, but once you do, you can use it to help calm them when they get particularly fussy. Your baby may be get lost in the music and start bobbing to their own little dance, or they may be soothed to the point of drifting off to sleep. Either way, it’s a good way to calm your baby so you can move on to the next task in your day.
5. Soothe with White Noise
Some babies may find music too busy. The voices, instruments, and dynamics may be too much for them to handle. They may prefer the soothing sounds of some white noise instead.
Surprisingly, this is another way you can simulate what it was like in the womb. While they were inside your belly, they listened to the beating of your heart, the gurgling of your digestive system at work, and the rushing of your blood and breath through your body.
White noise can often sound similar to these sounds from the womb. Ocean waves seems to be a particularly popular choice with babies due to the peaceful rushing sound.
6. Encourage Sucking
You’ve probably seen the magic behind a pacifier at work; you pop it into a fussy baby’s mouth and they calm almost instantly. What exactly makes this possible?
The sucking reflex is natural for babies so they can breastfeed appropriately. It’s a very comforting motion as it lowers their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels.
Now, of course, pacifier sucking only works to soothe a baby who isn’t hungry. If they start sucking expecting to get milk, they will just get more upset. So, be sure you offer what they need – breast, bottle, or pacifier – in order to soothe through sucking.
7. Administer Massage
Sometimes discomforts like gas and constipation can be a cause for fussiness in babies. They don’t really know what’s going on; they just know they are experiencing pain and discomfort. This is where baby massage can come in handy.
Now, baby massage isn’t the same as adult massage; you won’t be beating on your baby’s back. It’s more like gentle but firm rubbing to help get things moving again. Rub your baby’s belly in a clockwise motion gradually moving down the legs and arms. This can help to relax your baby and move any gas bubbles along the digestive system.
8. Turn Down the Lights
Babies are used to spending time in the darkness of your womb, so too much exposure to bright lights al day can be a bit overwhelming after a while. It may help if you turn the lights down or find a dim room to take your baby to.
Cuddling together in a room lit by soft lighting or nightlight can help calm your baby. Try rubbing their back and singing softly to them while you sit in a rocker.
9. Reduce the Amount of Overstimulation
Similar to overexposure to bright lights, other stimulants around your baby may have them feeling overwhelmed. Things like TV, loud noises, and too much busyness can really bother a little baby and make them very fussy.
Turn the TV off and take some time to enjoy with your baby in a quiet room. Play or talk together. Connecting with them without distractions can help them feel more calm.
10. Take Them Outside
Babies can get bored just like anyone else, and when they can’t voice their opinion or move themselves into a position that is more comfortable.
Sometimes simply changing positions can make your baby happy again. They may want to have some tummy time, or maybe they want to lay on their back and play with their hanging toy gym. Try moving them to a different room altogether to change the scenery and see if that calms them down a bit.
11. Try Swaddling
Babies are used to being confined in the womb, and in the early days after birth, the feeling of freedom may actually be a bit scary and upsetting to them. Most babies find it soothing to be wrapped in a swaddle blanket so they feel like they are in the safety of the womb again.
Achieving a good swaddle can be tricky, especially if you have a strong little baby on your hands. Try to follow these steps in order to wrap your baby tightly and comfortably:
- Place a square blanket on a flat surface.
- Partially fold one corner of the blanket one fifth of the way down.
- Lay your baby on the blanket so that the folded part is underneath their neck.
- Place your baby's hands inside the folded parts of the blanket, so that they are in a natural level with their neck and shoulders.
- Fold one side of the blanket across and underneath your baby, taking care that the hand is in a natural position.
- Now fold the bottom part upwards and tuck it into the fold underneath the baby's head.
- Finally, fold the left side of the blanket across, also taking care of the baby's hand, and tuck it underneath the baby's right side.
12. Get Naked
Some babies, however, HATE swaddling. They may, in fact, hate the idea of clothes altogether. They may feel constricted and confined by the fabrics, frustrated that they can’t move freely in the way they want.
In these cases, it may be best to try letting your baby go naked for a little while. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature so they don’t get too cold without their clothes on. Strip them down to just a diaper, or place them on a surface that is easy to clean if you want to try to go without a diaper for a few minutes.
13. Take a Bath
In addition to spending time naked, your baby may find a nice warm bath soothing. It may remind them of the womb, where it was warm and wet. Or they may simply like playing in the water. It can be a fun time for them to splash and play without feeling confined by a diaper or clothing.
You can even try to incorporate a bit of aromatherapy into your baby's bath time. There are some great baby soaps that have lavender, which is known for its soothing properties.
Follow up bath time with a nice massage, using lotions made for your baby that also have lavender oil.
14. Read A Story Together
A good story with some cuddle time can do wonders for your baby’s mood and overall emotional well-being. With newborns, it doesn’t really matter how simple or complex the story is; they simply like to listen to your voice.
As your baby grows, they will start to use story time to associate pictures with words and develop their language skills. It is highly likely that babies who are exposed to books early in life – real paper books – will love them later in life too.
15. Play with Toys
Remember how we mentioned boredom earlier? Well, toys can help with that too. With the variety of baby toys available on the market today, you can find just the right thing for your little one’s current developmental stage.
Here are some of the popular toy categories you may find:
Toys for Motor Imagery
These include lights, colors, and simple shapes, helping children to learn how to focus on a single stimulus. A good example would be a hanging toy gym.
Toys for Movement
These have buttons, wheels, and empty spaces to help your little one learn how to manage their muscles and motor skills. They can push a toy car or sort shapes into the appropriate holes.
Toys for Imagination
These provide your child with a means of free play, personal expression, or storytelling, like picture books with moving parts, toy instruments, or coloring books.
16. Look for Signs of Illness or Discomfort
Allergies and colds can be especially frustrating for babies. They primarily breathe through their noses, a necessity when breastfeeding. However, when their noses are stopped up, simple tasks like eating and breathing become very difficult and cause babies to become fussy.
The first thing you need to narrow down is the cause of your baby’s stuffy nose: is it allergies or simply a cold? Your pediatrician can help you figure this out and prescribe any necessary medication.
From there, you need to find ways to ease your child’s stuffiness. Feeding in an upright position can help. You can also try a saline-based nasal spray, a “snot-sucker,” or letting your baby sit in a humid room like the bathroom while the shower is running or in a bedroom with a humidifier.
An important note: NEVER place anything in your baby’s bed or crib to prop them up while they sleep. This can create a suffocation hazard.
17. Track Your Diet
Did you know that your baby can become cranky because of the food YOU are eating?
When you are breastfeeding, certain foods can affect your breast milk and in turn, affect your baby as well. Foods that make you gassy can also cause gas in your baby; other foods – like spicy – can change the flavor of your breast milk. Coffee and alcohol are also things to keep track of as they can have adverse effects on your breastfed baby.
If you notice that your baby is fussy during or shortly after you breastfeed them, take a look at your diet. Start keeping a journal to track what you eat and see if you notice any patterns between what you are eating and your baby’s fussiness.
18. Reach out to Others
Other mothers – whether it’s your own mother or simply a friend – can be a great source of help when you need a bit of advice or a new idea for handling your baby. They may have tried something that worked for them that you haven’t tried yet.
Setting up play dates can also be beneficial to your baby. They need to socialize just like you do. It can be a great way to keep them calm, allowing them to interact with other children their age while you catch up with a friend.