The first few months after bringing your new baby home can be the most amazing time of your life, full of newly found feelings and emotions. They can also be very stressful and extremely tiring, not only if you have a fussy baby! You learn as you go and start to recognise your babys’ signs, for when they are hungry or tired, but there are many other things they want to tell you, but not being able to channel their thoughts in any other way except for screaming, they may bring a new level of anxiety into your life. There is nothing worse than to hear your baby cry and not being able to help them and instantly “fix” whatever problem they may have.
So.. how can you soothe a newborn baby? There are plenty of tips and tricks that worked for others, so why not give them a try?
1. Eliminate all the obvious reasons for distress: hunger, full nappy, temperature related distress (are they too hot or too cold?). Do they need burping? Have they got trapped gas? It all sounds logical until you are stumbling to see to your baby half asleep in the middle of the night, too tired to think clearly.
2. If your baby suffers with gas blockage, place your baby on their tummy on your knees and rub their back gently, alternatively lay them down on their back and move their legs in a bicycle motion. If you are breastfeeding, the absolutely best remedy I found that worked for me, was drinking 1-2 cups of fennel tea a day (add honey if you cannot stomach the flavor). Fennel is known not only to relieve trapped gas but also is said to relieve colic in a baby. It may take a day or so for the benefits to show. Try drinking it about half an hour to an hour before expressing. If all fails, talk to your doctor about using infant gas drops.
3. Babies get cabin fever too, and sometimes need a change of scenery. If we get bored sitting at home, we go out. How would our little one tell us they want to look at something else besides the living room / bedroom walls? They’ll scream. Get them out, even if it’s a room they visit infrequently. Change their scenery.
4. Motion! For the last 9 months your baby was mostly in motion, and even when you were just chilling on the sofa, they could feel even the slightest moves. Now they are out and their cot is still. Have you noticed how being driven in the car or stroller make them sleepy? Combination of a snug seat and continuous movement are one of the best combinations in order to help your little fusser feel better. If they decide to cry in the middle of the night and you do not fancy a night drive or creepy looks from anyone seeing you half asleep with a stroller, circulating around the block, there are other alternatives! A rocking chair is great until your baby realises you’re “cheating” and decides to cry continuously until you get up and rock him in your arms whilst pacing around the room (Gina Ford would probably beat me on the head with her book, but walking around the room whilst rocking my daughter vigorously was one of the very few guaranteed ways of getting her sleepy). Many mothers swear by any of the widely available motorized swings available on the market. They offer soothing, rhythmic motion (sometimes combined with vibrations) that helps calm baby down.
5. Let’s get loud! You can easily spot first time parents: they are always very quiet around their babies. If you think about it, your baby has spent the last nine months in a pretty noisy environment: your heart beat, your digestion, your breathing, the rush of your blood were all within their ear’s reach. All this before we even mention how thin those layers separating them from the brave new world are! Remember when they started reacting to your voice and kick? They could hear much more. Come to think of it, I feel guilty for driving around and listening to Bruno Mars as loud as a teenager with their first car. My point here: they are used to noise. Turn the fan on (just make sure it does not point directly at them! We do not want them freezing, and now crying for totally new reason). Feeling energetic? Vacuum up. Any “shushing” noise helps as it mimics what baby heard in the womb. There are some great apps out there mimicking waves crashing on the beach, waterfall, rainfall or even heartbeat. Check Appstore for white noise or for something more permanent, try Amazon.com for white noise machines.
6. Try a dummy. We may have heard how “bad” dummies are and throughout our pregnancy we may be convinced that ‘binky’ is something we will NEVER use (I love this word when used in the pre and post baby context, as we are always full of convictions that essentially fade away when our baby is finally here). We are convinced we will be able to deal with any sort of cry without the dummy until we hear our baby cry hysterically and nothing else seems to work. Sucking motion soothes babies faster than any car ride, and (good news!) according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there’s nothing wrong with giving a newborn a pacifier and it’s unlikely that pacifiers would harm your baby’s development.
7. Channel your inner Mariah Carey. Babies love singing and talking, and the sound of their parents’ voice. Sing a soft, low tune or talk to them in a soft, low tone. Read them a book. If all fails, it may distract them for a minute, but you may find they start listening to you intently.
8. Colic? There are many articles out there about all sorts of help for parents of babies suffering with colic. I was lucky enough never to have experience the inconsolable cry lasting hours, when nothing seems to help, so can only rely on indirect information here. Colic’s exact cause is unknown, and that’s why there’s no one way to help it. Usually trying one calming method at a time to see if it helps is best. If it doesn’t, move on to another one.
9. Is your diet making your baby fussy? If you are nursing, your babys’ mood is directly related to your last mean. Literally. Watch your intake of caffeine (babies little digestive systems are not ready for process caffeine yet, if you really cannot help it, limit yourself to 2 cups a day), chocolate (it’s a source of caffeine, but also can have a laxative effect on your baby), and acidic foods such as lemons, oranges, berries, pizza, chilly and tomato products (don’t forget: ketchup), or gassy vegetables, such as asparagus, onions, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. I cannot stress the connection between babies mood and mom’s diet when breastfeeding.
10. And it’s a wrap! Sometimes all you need is a tight wrap. A womb is not a roomy place. Try to emulate this feeling of being packed closely in a warm, cosy environment, by wrapping your baby snuggly (please remember about not cutting the blood supply though!). Swaddle them in thin, lightweight blanket with their arms across the chest. Swaddled babies often sleep longer and more soundly, too. Doing a nice, snug swaddle is a really useful skill.
11. Reduce stimulants. I notice this clearly during the sessions. I try to use 2-3 different setups, which requires me to reposition my little model numerous times. Most babies grace me with around 2 hours of time when I can take all the photos I want in various positions, but afterwards, due to being reposition, however gently, and not given the chance to sleep continuous for longer than 30 minutes, they become grumpy. Besides the one-off situations like photo-shoot, there are other, more common reasons the little one may get over-stimulated. In those first few weeks, your house may feel like a train station with people in and out, coming to meet the new arrival. They all have the best intentions, but having constant string of visitors leaves your baby restless (they haven’t got the opportunity to get into a deep sleep before yet another person “just wants to hold them”). Given the opportunity, try to pace the visitors, and give your baby as much uninterrupted sleep as they need. Remember, anything that is just a day-to-day occurrence for you is a huge deal for them.
12. Daddy’s girl. Remember you’re in it together. Dad’s arms can sometimes soothe the biggest meltdowns. Give it a try. You may be surprised.
13. Change baby’s position. Is he crying when on his back? Try putting them him on his tummy. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
14. Know when to step away. Babies can sense your anger and frustration. When you are reaching a boiling point and feel helpless and angry, put your baby down and walk away for a moment. Pull yourself together, relax your shoulders, take a deep breath. You need to be calm in order to calm your baby down effectively.