Soothe a Fussy Baby in Five Easy Steps
You’ve fed and changed the baby, but she won’t stop fussing. What’s a parent to do? There are many reasons your baby may be fussy, and since they can’t tell you what’s wrong or how to make them feel better, parents are often left with a lot of guesswork and wishful thinking. Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true methods for calming your fussy little bundle of joy. Learn the five S’s of calming your baby. From colic to teething, these tricks are sure to have your little one resting peacefully in no time.
Swaddle Your Baby Securely
For younger babies, tight swaddling can provide a feeling of safety and security that mimics what they experienced in the womb. To properly swaddle your baby, lay her diagonally on a square baby blanket, so her head is a few inches below the one of the corners. Fold the bottom corner up over her tummy and then, while holding her arm close to her body, tightly wrap the left or right corner over her snugly, then do the same with the other corner and tuck the end into a fold to secure the blanket in place. While you want to wrap your baby tightly to restrict movement, you don’t want to wrap so tightly that your baby is uncomfortable. You should be able to fit at least two fingers between the blanket and your baby once you’re done.
Proper swaddling can calm your fussy baby rather quickly, and has been used to calm babies for centuries. Once your baby is swaddled securely, take her to a quiet room, free from distractions, other people or loud noises. Oftentimes, babies become fussy when they feel overstimulated, so the combination of swaddling and a dark, quiet room is usually enough to let your little one fall peacefully asleep.
Place Your Baby in a Side or Stomach Position
If you think your baby might be fussy because of a gassy or upset tummy, try laying her on her left side, which can help aid digestion. Laying her on her tummy can also help relieve painful gas or tummy aches, though you should never place your baby on her tummy to sleep, as this can greatly increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Laying your baby tummy-down across your lap while you gently bounce your knees and rub her back is a great way to calm her down while helping easy any tummy pain, as well. If neither of these positions work, try laying your baby on her back and gently “bicycling” her legs to help relieve painful gas.
Remember, if your baby is fussy because of an upset tummy, gas or colic, she’ll likely calm down more easily if you are nearby to help soothe her. Rather than placing her on her side in her crib, lay her on her side on the floor and lay or sit next to her while you rub her back and tummy and talk to her in a gentle, reassuring voice. While your baby can (and should) be put to sleep on her side, never leave your baby unattended in the tummy position, especially if she is still too young to roll from front to back (or back to front) on her own.
Use Calming “Shushing” Sounds
You’ve probably seen this technique many times from watching other parents or grandparents or even on television, but the “shh, shh, shh” sound while gently bouncing, swinging or rocking is actually quite effective in calming a fussy baby. The sound mimics the continual whooshing sound from arteries near the womb, providing a reassuring, relaxing rhythm for baby to fall asleep to. Try walking around the room with your baby, while bouncing, rocking or patting her to the rhythm of the shushing sound.
This technique is especially great for newborns, but will work on older babies, as well. Combined with swaddling, tummy or side time and other techniques, shushing sounds can often calm fussiness and lull your little one off to sleep in no time at all.
Use Swinging Motions
The feeling of motion can be very calming to fussy babies, and closely mimics the gentle swaying motion experienced in the womb. Whether from a wind-up or battery-operated swing or a car ride through the hills, many babies are instantly calmed by the feeling of swinging or rocking. If your baby is very fussy, find a dark, quiet room away from noise and distractions, and gently swing or rock your baby until she settles down. If you don’t have access to a baby swing or rocker, try taking her for a leisurely car ride around the neighborhood. Most babies fall asleep quickly in the car rather quickly, though a few babies may dislike being strapped into the car seat.
Baby swings, bouncy chairs and baby rockers can be found easily in the baby section of most big-box and department stores, and inexpensive options are almost always available. If your baby is frequently fussy or suffers from colic, a good baby swing will be a great investment.
Let Your Baby Suck on Something
Sucking is your baby’s natural soothing mechanism, and has been proven to have a deep effect on the central nervous system in infants. When a baby sucks, the calming reflex is triggered and natural, calming chemicals are released in the brain. If you breastfeed, allowing your baby to nurse when she’s fussy is an excellent way to calm her, while also stimulating your milk supply. If you bottle feed or can’t nurse your fussy baby, a pacifier is a great way to allow your baby to suck on something without over-feeding (which can exacerbate fussiness and tummy upset in bottle-fed babies).
Don’t have a pacifier handy? Wash your hands thoroughly, towel dry and avoid lotions or scented soaps. Make sure your nails are trimmed short. Using your clean pinky finger, with the pad of your finger facing upward toward the roof of her mouth, gently run your finger across your baby’s lips until she roots for something to suck on. Insert your pinky finger into her mouth so the pad of your finger rests on the roof of her mouth, and let her suck. If you’re worried about your baby sucking on your bare finger, you can also place your finger into the nipple of a bottle and let her suck on the nipple while blocking off the airflow with your finger. This is a quick way to calm a fussy baby when no pacifiers are handy and breastfeeding isn’t an option!