Every year, millions of expectant parents prepare for their new baby’s arrival. Bringing a newborn home can be a thrilling but stressful and confusing experience. A new baby’s frequent crying can also be a source of anxiety for inexperienced parents. When your baby cries, one of the first things you want to do is make it stop! While the reasons why a baby cries can get complex (since crying is communication and to ensure survival), getting a crying baby calmed down can help everyone feel better. Here are some common reasons that babies cry and some strategies for soothing them.
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First things first, keep this mind: babies cry to communicate. They aren’t misbehaving, or throwing a temper tantrum, or trying to annoy you. They’re trying to tell you something. At six months of age, you might be able to help them with this by introducing sign language but until then- this is their primary form of communication.
The 5 Most Common Reasons that Babies Cry
Too Hot or Too Cold
Your baby can’t ask you to take off his sweater or put on her jacket, but he or she can cry to express discomfort. Everyone’s personal “thermometer” is different; experts recommend putting your hand on baby’s tummy to determine if he or she is too hot or cold. It could even be something as simple as taking off a pair of socks.
Here’s one you may not have thought about – after all, what’s a baby got to be stressed about? Well, if you’re a baby, life can be kind of scary – especially if Mom and Dad are arguing, siblings are yelling, a family member is upset, etc. Babies can pick up on tension, in other words.
You probably thought of this one, but it helps to know that there are signs to watch for that indicate baby’s crying is hunger-related. Often, a hungry baby will smack their lips, turn their heads and root around, or suck on their hands/fingers. Babies need to eat often, and if they are sick or teething, they may want to eat a lot more because their nutritional needs have increased.
Also keep in mind that crying is usually one of the last signs of hunger when it comes to a crying baby.
Babies who are awakened before they’re ready or who are not able to sleep due to discomfort, noise, stimulation, or other reasons can cry and fuss. Babies who are overtired can have a complete “meltdown.”
Infant gas affects more than 2 million infants per year. While excess gas can be uncomfortable for a baby, it is important for parents to remember that it is often a temporary problem.
5 Ways to Soothe a Crying Baby
Sources suggest imitating the womb to calm your baby down. The womb is a surprisingly noisy place – it’s dark, snug, and full of various sounds such as blood rushing through the circulatory system and food moving through the digestive organs. And when a mom-to-be walks around, turns over, or moves in any way, her baby feels it.
So keep those things in mind as we discuss these 5 steps to soothing your crying baby.
Remember, these steps are not to be used in place of meeting baby’s needs for food, a diaper change, warmth, sleep, and other basic needs.
1. Calm Yourself
This oft-forgotten step is crucial. Babies can pick up on your tension and anxiety, which can be quite high after you’ve listened to a crying baby for a while. Many experts are pointing to parental calmness as a key player in calming a baby. Take whatever steps you know work for you that give you a sense of calm and peace – meditation, prayer, deap breathing, even stretching (if baby is in a safe place) are all possibilities.
Soothing music may help you and baby to feel calmer.
Many mothers swear by this one. The close feeling of the swaddling blanket helps your baby feel secure and “contained,” as in the uterus. Make sure you do it safely, though – lay out a thin, soft blanket, fold down a corner, and lay baby so the back of his head is on the folded down corner. This keeps the blanket from covering baby’s face. Then bring one corner of the blanket across baby’s body and tuck it underneath him.
Loosely bring up the bottom of the blanket up to the bottom of baby’s neck, then bring the other side corner up and tuck it under your baby. Do not lay baby on his stomach, and make sure his feet can still move freely. Check with your pediatrician or midwife to make sure you’re doing it safely.
Instead of swaddling, putting baby in a sling (approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics or equivalent organization) and walking her around can help. This is another womb mimicking environment that many babies find so relaxing that they fall asleep.
This “shushing” or “sh” sound that mothers seem to make by instinct is right on track. It sounds like the sounds of the womb, and acts a bit like “white noise.” Experts say you can “shush” as loudly as you need to; you can also play a CD of womb sounds or run an appliance like a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner.
Whether you are breastfeeding or use pacifiers and bottles, satisfying the suckling instinct is very calming for babies. You can offer him the breast or something baby safe to suck on (such as a pacifier).
Also remember that every baby is different so these methods may not work. It may take some time before you find a method or methods that work best for you and your baby.