The first time that you hear your little one cry is such an exciting experience. That means he or she has entered the world with a healthy set of functioning lungs! Success! However, after the thrill of the first cry is over, you’ll want to learn how to calm a fussy baby asap, or else you might lose your sanity!
One thing to keep in mind is that your baby has been inside your womb for the past 9-10 months. Calming a fussy baby is all about recreating that experience inside of the womb! Think about what being inside the womb is like – they’re crammed with pretty much no space to move, are constantly being rocked and swayed by your movements, aren’t stimulated by any human faces and can always hear the sound of your heartbeat and blood rushing through the placenta, and they’re always warm!
To calm a fussy baby, you want to try as hard as possible to recreate the experience of being inside of mama’s tummy again. You can’t put the baby back inside of you – although you may hope for that at moments – it’s impossible. Here are a few tips that we recommend to help calm your baby and also get them down for a nap! We recommend doing these things step by step to reach peak effectiveness, if possible!
Keep Them Contained
There is a reason why we swaddle babies because it works! Wrap your baby in a swaddle or receiving blanket to mimic the feelings of warmth and protection of being in the womb. The tight fit of the swaddle stops your baby’s uncontrolled flailing of the arms and legs that can contribute to fussiness. There is no harm in having your baby swaddled for 12-20 hours during the day in the first few months of life. While that may feel like a large portion of the day, 12 hours is already a 50% decrease in time from the 24 hours of being ‘snuggled’ inside of you!
Roll To the Side
By laying your baby on their side, you’re shutting down the baby’s Moro Reflex. The Moro reflex is a normal biological response to the unfamiliar stimuli in any newborn’s environment. When the Moro reflex is triggered, a baby feels startled, which can interrupt their sleep and also cause them to exhibit a physical reaction like crying. By reducing this reflex, you’ll calm down your baby. The best way to do this is by holding your baby in the ‘football hold’, while swaddled.
While most people assume that you should be quiet around babies, that is actually false! There is a 24/7 whooshing noise within your womb which is caused by the blood flowing through your arteries and through the placenta. Babies are used to this loud noise! You can recreate this sound with a white noise machine, dishwasher, car ride or a hair dryer if all else fails. You can also download white noise apps on your phone and play white noise, ocean sounds or rain sounds as well. If you don’t have a white noise machine, you can SHHH as loud as the baby is crying in their ear until they’re visibly calmer. It’s almost like magic – it works!
When babies are in the womb, they’re used to being rocked and swayed by the mother’s movements. Standing still is not normal for a long period of time for your little one! If you’ve followed all of the above steps and your baby is still fussy, you can hold them (on their side), and gently rock and sway or bounce them. We don’t want shaken baby syndrome, but you want to introduce a little external movement so their head is slightly bobbling. Think of how much the baby moves inside of you when you’re taking your nightly walk. A gentle sway and bobble won’t hurt, and is actually soothing for the baby!
Get that pacifier!
The pacifier allows for non-nutritive sucking. This simply means sucking without gaining nutrition or calories which has many great benefits for your baby! It releases endorphins in the brain, promotes relaxation, provides comfort and security and becomes a helpful tool to encourage sleep. Sometimes this is exactly what your baby needs to self-soothe and feel relaxed and at ease. If you’re concerned about nipple confusion, research shows that nursing moms who give their baby a pacifier are equally successful with breastfeeding (according to the US National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health). So don’t fret mama, and give that baby a pacifier!
No Faces Up Close
While you might want to snuggle your face up to your newborn when they’re fussy and ask them what’s wrong or try to make silly faces to make them happy, you might actually be hurting the situation by over stimulating the baby! If your baby is very fussy, go into a room without any other people and do all of the above, but facing a wall. Babies love to look at faces but when they’re fussy and need to calm down, staring at something blank and neutral will help reduce stimulation calm your baby.
These are tried and true methods of calming a fussy baby. If you have more advice to share for our fellow moms, comment below on what has worked for you!