Back in the day, it was thought that babies needed to cry it out to develop stronger and healthier lungs. Delayed response to a baby’s whining was also said to prevent parents from raising a future household dictator.
Recent studies, done decades apart, seem to rebuff this outdated belief. A 1972 study by Johns Hopkins University researchers Sylvia Bell and Mary Ainsworth revealed that babies who had responsive mothers cried less in the succeeding months and developed better language skills.
To accentuate the worrying impact of disengaged parenting, a Harvard research in 2009 showed that babies with emotionally detached caregivers exposed the infant to a higher risk of developing post-traumatic stress and panic disorders in adulthood.
So, how then can you soothe a crying baby while making sure you don’t raise a self-centred brat? Let’s start with the basics before moving on with the tips.
The reasons why your baby is crying
Since babies cannot talk, they rely on crying as their main communication method. A worldwide study held in 2017 showed that newborns cry for two hours daily on average. Three to four months on, an infants’ crying spells could last longer, dragging for up to five hours per day.
The sight and sound of a crying infant can be stressful, but know that crying is normal and it’s your baby’s way of telling you the following:
- I’m hungry – Because their stomachs are small and cannot hold much, babies need to be fed every two hours on average. Each baby is different, though, and some are active feeders, especially male infants. Breastfed babies get hungrier easily compared to formula-fed infants, as breast milk digests faster.
- I need to be held – Physical contact and constant attention is reassuring and comforting for infants. Holding your baby not only responds to a physical need, but it also provides them a sense of security, nurturing, and warmth. Not getting any or enough physical contact and attention might cause apprehension on your little one.
- I’m tired and I want to sleep – Unlike adults, newborns only learn the art of fuss-free sleeping after four months, according to The Sleep Lady, Kim West. If your baby is tired, they might have sleeping difficulties. Fussing, staring into space and crying at the slightest thing are some signals that it is bedtime.
If the crying spells happen in the middle of a shuteye, swaddle your baby properly to limit limb movements that might wake them up.
- I don’t feel comfortable – Your baby is still trying to adjust to the temperature outside of the womb. Make sure she isn’t feeling too cold or too warm by feeling her tummy or the back of her neck. The ideal temperature for a baby’s room is pegged between 16 to 20 degrees Celsius (60.8 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit).
If your baby’s room is too cold, you can try placing warm gel packs on the bed for 30 minutes before putting your baby to sleep. Don’t forget to remove the packs before tucking your baby in bed.
- Please change my nappy – It’s highly uncomfortable for a baby to feel a soiled or wet nappy. Worse, it can irritate the skin and lead to rashes, among other things.
I have colic – If your baby shows extreme distress and refuses to feed, she might have colic. Pediatricians turn to the rule of threes in diagnosing colic: crying for more than three hours a day, more than three days in a week and for more than three weeks in an otherwise healthy baby.
To avoid this, burp your baby after feeding. If your baby is formula-fed, check with your doctor to see whether you need to switch brands.
I don’t feel well – An infant who’s crying incessantly and is being extra fussy, as well as a child who has suddenly become unusually quiet, could be indications that something is wrong.
Call your doctor immediately if your baby experiences any of the following:
- Breathing difficulty through their crying
While waiting to arrive at the doctor’s office, use these gel packs for children to relieve your little one’s minor discomfort.
7 proven and effective ways to soothe a crying baby
First off, make sure your baby is not hungry, sleepy or uncomfortable. In a few months, you will be able to decode what your baby’s crying means.
While waiting for that to happen, these strategies may be useful:
1. Rock and sing to your baby
To comfort your baby, keep them close so they can hear your heartbeat, feel the warmth of your body, and hear the sound of your voice. You can use a baby sling and do this while walking around the house and on a rocking chair.
Doing the shoosh-bounce works because it triggers a calming response in an infant’s brain, reducing heart and respiratory rate.
2. Swaddle your child
To halt your baby’s tears, recreate the warmth and snugness inside the womb by swaddling them. It is effective in calming down infants up to three months old, as any older and they’d get too heavy to be held in this position.
Veteran pediatrician Dr. Robert Hamilton turned into a YouTube sensation overnight after demonstrating how to do “the hold”, a position replicating swaddling, to calm a fussy baby.
3. Let your baby suck on something
Some babies’ sucking reflex is stronger than others. If you’re breastfeeding, let your baby suck on your nipple until they are satisfied. You may also use your clean finger or knuckles or a pacifier.
4. Perform massage or a tummy rub
Skin to skin contact is very important for babies’ overall wellbeing and helps improve relaxation for both mommy and baby. Apart from giving comfort, a tummy rub also aids in digestion.
5. Play constant sounds or white noise
Mimic the sounds your baby heard from the womb, like your heartbeat or the blood passing through the placenta, by turning on appliances such as a low-noise vacuum cleaner or a washing machine.
White noise may also help lull your baby to sleep by masking environmental noises. Sleep machines that play raindrops, rainforest ambience or ocean waves sounds are available online. Just make sure to keep the sound low to avoid causing hearing damage.
6. Try switching positions or going outside
If a child cries during feeding, it might mean they prefer a different feeding position. Try the belly hold by placing your baby on their belly on your lower arm with their cheek resting near your elbow. Lay your other hand across the baby’s back to secure them.
Sometimes, a change in scenery can help comfort your baby (and you), so go for a walk outside. Staying outside could help keep the baby’s focus off the crying spell as their naturally curious mind explores the new environment.
7. Give your baby a warm bath
If your baby is fond of water, it might be useful to put them in a warm bath. The ideal temperature for a bath is from 37-38 degrees Celsius (100-101 degrees Fahrenheit). If you don’t have a thermometer, dip your elbow into the water to gauge the temperature. The bathwater should feel warm.
After a warm bath, your baby’s temperature will cool down, and this might help soothe them to sleep.
However, not all babies are the same, and some do not like the sensation of being in the water, which may cause a baby to cry harder.
It’s not easy caring for an infant 24/7. If it becomes too overwhelming, ask someone you trust, such as a friend or relative, to help you out. Use this time to take a short break. Relax and breathe deeply.
Keeping it together while trying to calm down a wailing baby is hard. It takes practice and tons of patience as you get to know what works and what doesn’t work for your baby.
Amid all of this, remember to take care of yourself, too, as raising a child is emotionally challenging and mentally exhausting.
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