We all have fussy babies at some point or another. Even the relentlessly perfect baby who is always nothing but smiles at playgroup has her moments (honest!) so it’s worth having a few tricks up your sleeve to calm and soothe when the going gets tough.
It’s a really good idea to take a few moments to listen closely to your baby before leaping in to give comfort, because the type of cry will very often vary, depending on what she is trying to communicate with you. I know how hard this can be to gauge, especially at the beginning of parenthood, so always check the basics first – is she too hot or too cold, is she wet or dirty, or hungry or thirsty? Is she tired, or is she bored? Often, righting one of these things will usually settle a baby fairly quickly but there will be times when everything should be A-OK, but your baby just keeps on fussing!
So here’s a list of 7 quick and practical methods to soothe your baby, when nothing else seems to be working.
Babies respond to touch. It is one form of communication that they don’t need to be taught, it is as instinctive to them as feeding. So hold your baby: cuddle, stroke, tickle and massage her, there is no such thing as too much contact, especially in the first few months.
2. Fresh air
With every one of my babies, a burst of cool, fresh air has instantly soothed them when they’ve been fussy and upset. Simply opening the front door and standing outside in the garden, porch or even on the pavement to create a change of scene can often be all that it takes.
3. Clear the gas
Many babies are prone to gassy tummies. Their digestive systems are still developing, and even little bubbles down there can cause them a lot of pain when not moving. So help them out with a soothing back rub (this is best done with your baby laying face down across your knees) or place her on her back and gently cycle her legs round and round, to relieve the pressure.
4. Body Scan
Do a quick once-over of your baby’s body. Is there anything small that you may have overlooked, that could be causing them pain or discomfort?
Things to look out for include scratchy labels in clothes, a hair that has wrapped itself around a finger, a too-tight shoe or sock, or a hair clip pulling uncomfortably. These kinds of teeny, easy-to-miss problems will take you just seconds to fix, but your poor baby has no way of doing this herself.
5. Too much stimulation
It’s tempting to give a fussy baby more to look at/listen to/play with, thinking that this will distract them from their mood. But perhaps the opposite is true. It’s really quite common for babies to become overstimulated, and need to have some quiet time out to be soothed and rest their senses. Think about the last time you went to a busy party or event (ok, it may have been some time ago!) and how much of a relief it can be in these busy situations to just take 5 minutes to stop and catch your breath. It’s the same for babies, except that all of life feels one big party!
Try intentionally listening to music with your baby. I don’t mean putting on a tinny radio, I mean choosing your favorite soothing tunes, and sharing them with your baby.
Ever since the birth of our youngest child 1.5 years ago, whenever he’s been fussy and difficult to settle, my husband takes him in his arms and they go and listen to vinyl together. The shared experience, the tone, and the closeness they share never fail to calm him down (it works on the baby too!)
7. Is there something else wrong?
Consider whether your baby may be teething (in which case, I’ve found chamomile granules to be an incredible help) or whether it’s something else. If you’re breastfeeding, have you eaten spicy food lately, or drink a lot of caffeine?
She may have a tummy ache, a sore throat, earache or a cold coming on, so look out to see if she touches or grabs for a particular part of her body, as this may help indicate where any pain lies. You could even call up a mum-friend to ask if there are any childhood illnesses doing the rounds.
Shower her with love and attention (often the best remedy!) but if you do sense that there’s more going on, trust your instincts and be sure to seek advice.