In the early weeks I certainly got frustrated, or ended up crying myself when Ain was crying and we didn’t know how to “fix it” or comfort him. It’s so hard when a baby can’t communicate what it needs, or what it is feeling. We ended up asking others and googling soothing techniques, and then used trial and error to find the source of his crying. Over time, we did get to know our baby more. We could tell whether he was tired, or hungry, or bored.
Secondly, I thought I would list off some things we have found to work (and also some cool soothing techniques we have not had a chance to try yet!). Remember, every baby is different. I have found that is really helps to study your baby, get to know their cues for tired, or hungry. And attend to their need BEFORE they get upset.
Thirdly, not every cry can be fixed, but you should try to soothe and comfort your little one. Tending to your baby’s needs immediately teaches him that you’ll always be there to care for him.
Fussy Baby Tips: Knowing Your Newborn
Infants usually cry because they are in one (or more) of the following physical states:
- Growth Spurt
- They just want to be held
When your baby is fussy, respond to him or her. You may need to change his diaper, feed him, burp him, or dance endlessly around the room. You might give him a tour of the house. You may take him on a walk outside. The cries might continue. Then, you will try to nurse him one more time, and this time when he latches on his eyelids begin to flutter shut. Success!
It may take some time to learn your baby’s cues, but here are some that I have picked up (or have read about):
- opening and closing mouth
- moving tongue, licking lips
- sucking on hands, fingers, tongue, etc.
- rooting around (moving head from side to side) on the chest of whoever is carrying him
- fidgeting or squirming a lot
- puckering of lips
- short, low-pitched cry (more like a whimper)
- pulling at ears
- closing fists
- fluttering eyelids
- bringing hands up to face, rubbing eyes
- arching backwards
- sucking on fingers (baby is trying to find ways to settle to sleep)
- over-tiredness will lead to fussing, whining, screaming, and flailing arms and legs. NOT fun!
My little guy has taken to putting things over his eyes when he is tired. He is so cute! He will take whatever is nearby – a burp cloth, a blanket, a sweater, a wubbanub…
- high pitched cry
- a sudden, full blown cry
- looking away
- arching his back
- start to fuss or cry
1. Mimic the womb: Swaddling, shushing, and swinging, as well as holding them on their sides, may trigger a calming reflex. (Harvey Karp, MD, creator of The Happiest Baby on the Block)
2. Carrying them in a baby carrier. Your baby may just need snuggle time to calm down.
3. Play music, sing to, and/or dance with baby.
4. A warm diaper change. Sometimes a baby is aware and doesn’t like a dirty diaper. Especially in the early weeks, we were changing his diapers constantly. We made it more relaxing and fun by using a wipe warmer (and cloth wipes) on Ain’s bum.
5. Anti-gas remedies such as gripe water or gas drops can dissolve trapped air bubbles that might cause discomfort to your little one. You could also try bicycling his legs while he lies on his back.
7. Check the baby’s clothes: they could be too tight, hot, or confining clothes.
8. Motion in a swing, carrier, or bouncy seat.
9. Soak to soothe. If all else fails — and baby’s umbilical cord stub has fallen off (the faster it dries, the sooner it will fall off) — try a warm bath together.
10. For teething, try a wet or chilled washcloth.
11. Fresh air in a carrier. Take a walk outside with your baby in a carrier. If it’s winter, then bundle your baby up and with him next to your own body, he will stay warm. (The fresh air will be good for you too!)
12. Sometimes you may need to distance yourself from the situation if you are tiring from a crying baby. Either give him to someone else for a little bit, or set him somewhere familiar to him and take a break yourself. I found that just 2-3 minutes away from my crying baby and then I’m replenished enough to give another go at it. My motherly instincts would come out and I didn’t want him to be crying on his own.
If he is 5-6 weeks or older (I advise that because then your breastfeeding relationship and your milk is established), then you can use a pacifier as a last resort. Hold him close and use the pacifier. Sometimes a baby needs to suck for comfort, but they don’t necessarily need the milk. I know for Ain, since I’ve had a lot of supply, he can’t really suck without getting milk. Until Ain’s 6 week growth spurt we didn’t really use the pacifier, but it is what helped us get through that growth spurt (of course, I always offered the breast first. I didn’t want to let my supply diminish).
Do you have any cues to add? Or any soothing techniques that have worked for you?
Other Articles to Read:
An Open Letter to First Time Mamas of Newborns
5 Things No One Will Tell You about the first few weeks of Motherhood – these are so true!