Ways to Calm a Crying or Fussy Baby

Exhausted parents of newborns dread those moments when the baby seems inconsolable. Try some of these ways to calm a crying or fussy baby.

Address the Obvious

Sleep deprivation has many strange effects. Things that should seem obvious become mysterious to a weary mind. Try to run through a mental checklist of the obvious possible causes of a baby’s distress: is the baby hungry? Too warm? Too cold? Wet? Bored? Perhaps the baby just needs a few minutes of cuddling in the rocking chair?

Check for other symptoms of distress, like fever or rashes, that may warrant a call to the pediatrician. If none of the obvious things seem to be the cause of the crying, it’s time to move on to other soothing strategies.

Swaddle, Shush, and Stand

Infants calm down when swaddled. Swaddling mimics the tight quarters of the womb, and babies feel safe and soothed when swaddled. The repeated “shh-shh” sound mimics how the outside world sounds when your baby is inside the womb. A white-noise machine can help, and some babies calm down with the low humming sound of a fan. Carrying a baby while standing tends to calm their movements and reduce their heart rate.

Keeping up a running commentary about what’s happening while the baby is strapped on to the parent’s body and moving about the house can soothe a fussy infant. Silly faces, funny noises, and a few shakes of a rattle might keep your baby’s attention engaged.

Rock, Rub, or Go for a Ride

If there is a glider or rocker available, combine some rocking with soft lullabies. A gentle massage, with baby lotion and a touch that is just firm enough not to feel like tickling, can calm a fussy baby.

Many parents swear by the trick of going for a ride in the car. Make sure you follow the proper car seat safety tips and that the driver is awake and alert enough to safely take a few slow circles around the block.

Burp, Bath, Bed

A repeat round of the bedtime ritual is worth a try. Relieve any residual gas with a good burp over the shoulder, try a soothing and warm (but not too warm!) bath, and put your baby to bed on their back. The repetition of the routine might be just the signal your little one needs that it’s time to go to sleep.

Remember that each baby is an individual with their own unique temperament and sensitivities. Parents quickly learn to differentiate the “I’m hungry” cry from the “I just need to be picked up” cry or the “I need a change!” cry, and then find the most effective way to soothe a fussy baby. Most babies outgrow excessive crying as they get used to their new, loud world. If your child remains inconsolable no matter what you do, contact your pediatrician to rule out any serious health issues.

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Sue Baxter