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We love welcoming new babies into the family. My mom has 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren with 2 more on the way so far. The cousins, big and little, are very close and there’s much excitement every time a new baby is added to their ranks.
Holding a baby on your shoulder, inhaling their sweet baby aroma, feeling them snuggle in closer – ahhhhh, there’s nothing like it.Then there’s that first smile, the first giggle. Can there be any sweeter sight and sound in the world?
You know what’s not so sweet? Seeing a baby cry and feeling helpless to do anything about it. That’s why I’ve put together this list of helpful tips on how to soothe a crying baby.
How to Soothe a Crying Baby
Note: Sometimes babies cry for extended periods of time and aren’t easily calmed. One reason for excessive crying is colic. Colicky babies are in pain and have no way of relieving that pain for themselves.
Many of these tips will refer to ways to soothe colicky babies, but they can also help with babies who are overtired or in need of soothing for other reasons. With a new grandbaby on the way for me this June/July, you can bet I’ll be keeping this list handy!
1) Figure out the cause of baby’s distress.
Step one, obviously. All babies cry. It’s a perfectly normal way for them to communicate how they feel. Babies may cry because they’re hungry, cold, or need a diaper change. Obviously, some of those problems are pretty easy to fix.
If baby is hungry, feed it. When baby has a wet or soiled diaper, change it. If baby seems cold, try adding an extra layer of clothing. If baby seems too warm, try removing a layer of clothing.
Overtired babies sometimes have trouble getting themselves to sleep and they may cry as a result. Babies may be crying because they’re feeling gas pain.
Once you’ve got the cause narrowed down (or tried all of the obvious ones), you can give some of the following suggestions a try.
2) Swaddle baby.
Some babies find swaddling very comforting and soothing. Experts think this is because it mimics the cozy feeling they had while in the womb.
I found with my daughter that the light pressure against her tummy helped relieve the symptoms of colic as well (in the same way that many babies draw their knees up toward their chest when they are feeling gassy).
3) Rock baby.
Just as that back and forth motion can be very calming for adults, it can also feel the same for babies and may help them to drift off to sleep.
There were times when my daughter didn’t want me sitting down – for whatever reason it just didn’t feel as good for her – so standing and swaying would work much the same way as a rocking chair.
The motion of a moving car (and perhaps the white noise of the engine?) is another little trick that works with some babies.
When it comes to trying to soothe a crying baby, it’s so important to try to relax yourself. Your sense of calm can help your baby feel calm too!
4) Turn on some white noise.
Speaking of the white noise of an engine, indoor options such as fans, a vacuum cleaner (believe it or not!), or even one of those “fancy” white noise machines can remind baby of the sounds of the womb, adding to their feeling of security.
Gently talking or singing to baby can help too as they will recognize voices from before birth.
5) Carry baby close to you.
Using one of those front baby carriers can again apply some light pressure to the belly as well as feel comforting (who doesn’t feel comforted when being held?), warm, and cozy for the wee one. This can be especially soothing for a baby with colic.
6) Give baby a warm bath.
Now this only works if bath time is a relaxing time for baby. My daughter was generally anxious when in the water and so this trick didn’t work for her, but I’ve seen it prove very useful for other infants. Using some lavender or chamomile baby wash can add to the calming experience.
7) Follow up bath time with a gentle massage.
There are lots of books and websites with information on giving baby an actual massage. In fact, in my town, the local parks and rec department even has classes on it.
But I found with my baby, even just a a simple gentle stroking of her back and her belly often soothed the symptoms of colic and helped relieve her gassiness and pain.
Since bath time wasn’t a quiet time for her, this is when I used some lavender scented baby lotion. The scent of lavender is proven to help people of all ages relax (I spray some on my pillow just before bedtime!).
8) Use the colic hold/carry.
There are various ways to hold and carry your baby that can be comforting and offer relief if suffering from colic pains. I found putting my daughter on my shoulder so that her tummy was on my chest was soothing to her. She seemed to really relax not only from the body contact but also the warmth of my skin. I think that she also enjoyed being close to my mouth so that I could quietly talk or sing to her.
Undressing, or partially undressing yourself and your baby, so that you have skin to skin contact also helps some babies. Even without colic, this can help relax a baby having a hard time getting to sleep.
The method picture above, the classic colic carry, involves laying baby face down across your arm with his cheek at your elbow. It’s another one that worked well for us. My mom has always had great success with laying babies face down over her lap so that their tummy is against her legs. This feels soothing on their little bellies and she can add to the feeling by gently rubbing their backs too.
9) Give baby the opportunity to suck.
Sucking is a comforting movement for babies and in between meals. So, offering your finger or a pacifier is another option that soothes some little ones.
10) Use soothing products designed to help with colic.
Researchers have found that the type of bacteria present in the baby’s digestive system may indicate whether or not they have colic. The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri has been shown through clinical testing to reduce crying in colicky babies by improving the good bacteria in baby’s digestive system.
My niece used Gerber Good Start Soothe products with her twin boys and then with her little girl and swears by them. She said they worked miracles for her little ones in helping to relieve their symptoms of colic.
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