Pregnancy and Baby Care

Diary of a New Parent: Calming My Crying Newborn

By Paula Greenwood

Three years ago, when I had my first child, everyone seemed to have advice on how to get her to stop crying. She was really fussy. I felt an anxious, visceral need to calm her.

When she cried, I would do anything I could to sooth her – I’d nurse her, change her, bounce her, rock her, walk her in her stroller and drive her around the neighbourhood. Sometimes it seemed like I tried everything to calm her.

 

Lilah Sleeping

Photo Credit: Sleeping Baby By Family Care Office, All Rights Reserved.

 

Now, two months into life with two kids, I feel better equipped to calm my newborn son. I’m more comfortable letting him cry. I am less anxious. I’m not saying it is easy, just a bit easier.

Babies can spend up to 3-4 hours a day crying. Soothing can help, but some crying is normal. It’s the baby’s way of communicating with us, telling us that something is uncomfortable.  There is more information on Baby Center about why babies cry and how to soothe them.

As every newborn is different, you will get to know your baby best. Try these 7 steps to help calm your newborn:

1. Burping your baby

Burping helps get rid of air that babies swallow during feeding that can lead to spitting up, crankiness, and gassiness. Put your child firmly on your shoulder, neck supported, tummy facing your chest, and pat them firmly on the back. Once they burb or spit up, they will be less fussy. Pumping their legs, or doing bicycle motions, can also help a newborn pass gas. I’ve found that even if your newborn falls asleep at the breast or bottle, it’s worth risking waking them up to burp them so they will sleep longer.  Don’t be worried if your newborn spits up quite a bit. Remember, their tiny stomach is only the size of a grape at first, then an acorn. Even when they spit-up, their stomach lining gets coated with milk. Additional information on burping can be found at Baby Centre.

2. Sucking

Babies like to suck on the nipple of a bottle, your breast, your finger, their fingers, a toy, or a soother. Even if you’re not a fan of the pacifier, offering your clean finger to suck can help calm them down. Even better, simply offer your breast, if you are breast-feeding.

3. Swaddling

Everyone has an opinion on swaddling their babies. My babies both slept much longer and deeper when swaddled. I don’t usually swaddle during the day, but at night it works well to get a solid 3-4 hours of sleep. You can swaddle your baby with a blanket. Swaddling is only safe until your baby starts to roll, then sleep sacs are a good alternative.

4. Sideways or stomach holding

This helps with gas and digestion when your baby is fussy. Avoid putting your baby on the side or stomach when sleeping, only when you’re holding them to calm them down.

5.  Shushing Sounds

We used the Sleep Sheep for my newborn daughter, which provides “white noise” to help her sleep. It calms babies because it sounds like the womb. With my second, we just go really close to his ears and make a loud “shushing” sound and it immediately helps calm him down.

6. Swinging

Newborns are used to swinging around in-utero. We swing our baby in his car seat, jiggle him in our arms, swing him in his swing, push him in the stroller, or walk with him in the sling. Anything to keep him jiggling and bouncing seems to calm him.

7. Connecting Emotionally with your Baby

Lastly, snuggle with your baby. Connect emotionally by gazing into their eyes, having skin-to-skin contact, sleeping close to them, and giving kisses and hugs can help your baby feel secure.

Hopefully some of these tips will help you sooth your newborn!  If all else fails, you can always set your infant down and take a few minutes to take a deep breath and try again, or ask for support if you need it. It’s okay to let your baby cry for a little bit in order to regroup. Trust me, there have been times my babies have wailed while I went to the bathroom or got a glass of water and they are both well.

What tips do you use to help calm your newborn?

References:

Karp, Harvey. The Happiest Baby on the Block. 2002

@paulagreenwood works as a leadership educator at the University of Toronto and is a part-time student at O.I.S.E currently at home with her newborn son Ben and 3-year-old daughter Claire.