by Heather Silverberg, M.D.; Scripps Coastal Medical Center

How to Calm a Crying Baby

scripps_silverbergOne of the great challenges for parents is how to understand and calm a fussy baby. Before you join in and start crying yourself (because we’ve all been there!) take a moment and consider what you might know that may help.

Consider if your baby has unmet needs: Is she hungry? Is she tired? Is she overstimulated? Is she uncomfortable in a wet or dirty diaper? Is she feeling vulnerable, wanting to be held? Mentally run through your shortlist of reasons: “Hungry-tired-overstimulated-dirty-pick me up.”
If your infant is very young – less than three months old – she may have a time of day where she often cries. Babies are neurologically immature and while some cry to communicate their needs, some cry even when all their needs are met – usually at similar times each day. In that case, crying might be normal and require no intervention at all! Look for patterns day-to-day. If it is her “witching hour,” just hang on for the ride.

In the event you can’t find anything wrong, the following strategies are often successful:

Swaddling Recreate the feeling for your baby of being safe and secure in utero by swaddling. Wrapping her up in a thin, soft blanket can be calming and soothing. Swaddle your baby snugly enough so that the arms don’t escape, but make sure there is enough room for little legs to move.

Pacifiers or breast-feeding Many babies are happiest when sucking on something, whether that is a pacifier or you. Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and sucking can help her settle.

No noise or white noise It may seem counter-intuitive, but newborns are often soothed by the steady roar of white noise that blocks out other sounds. Be careful not to let the volume be too loud or it could be unsafe. “Shushing” isn’t just for libraries! Total quiet and dim lights are okay, too.

Fresh air Getting outside can also help soothe and distract your baby. A change of scenery and some exercise could do you both some good! Even it is just stepping out onto the porch or patio, or walking into the backyard, a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of blue sky can create calm.

Motion Movement, especially a gentle swinging motion, can diminish crying. Try wearing your baby in a carrier and walking around to create a calming rhythm. She senses and smells you, and enjoys the feeling of closeness. Know when to worry – if your baby has a fever greater than 100.3, cries for more than two hours, looks weak, or is having trouble breathing or feeding, please contact your doctor’s office immediately. I wish you a sleeping baby, a nap, and a shower!

Heather Silverberg, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Carlsbad and Oceanside. Dr. Silverberg provides comprehensive care for infants, toddlers, school-age children, and teens. When not caring for patients, Dr. Silverberg enjoys being a mother, and studying science and technology.

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