Saturday, 25 February 2012

54 ways to soothe and cope with a fretful, crying or fussy baby

Babies cry for many reasons, they may be hungry, need a cuddle, have a dirty bum or just over stimulated. Not all of the following will work for every baby but some may work.

I have mainly put this together for parents who feel they have 'tried everything' hopefully there will be something on this list that will work for you (I also added the basics, just in case) These are in no particular order or rank

1. Is baby too hot or too cold?
Feel baby's back or chest to see if they feel to warm or too cold, hands and feet are unreliable indicators as they are often more exposed. Babies often feel the cold more than us so even if you are warm/hot, they may still need an extra layer.

2. Is baby hungry?
Ideally all babies should be fed on demand, whether breast or bottle. Breastfed babies can digest milk in 90 minutes so even if you fed for half an hour at 10am at 1130am they could be hungry again - and its normal for them to be.

3. Change baby's bum
Babies can become uncomfortable very quickly, some babies react to chemicals in a disposable when having a wee/poo. Poo can sting and burn a baby's bum and some babies just do not like to feel wet. So even if they were changed recently, its always worth investigating. 

4. Are their clothes uncomfortable?
Babies are most comfortable in simple clothes without too many labels, seems, buttons etc. A simple sleepsuit with a vest underneath in winter or romper suit in summer will be suffice and comfortable for most babies. 

5. Do they just want a cuddle?
Some babies just want to be cuddled. If they are not happy in a swing, bouncer, lying or on the activity mat perhaps they just want a cuddle. It can be hard when you need to get on and do things so that leads me to no.6...

6. Consider carrying baby in a sling
Research shows babies that are carried in a sling cry less and are more content toddlers. It also leaves you hands free to deal with toddlers, older children or to chop up veg for tea.

7. Wind baby
Some babies need a little help to get their wind up here are some good tips on bringing up wind 

8. Bounce baby a little
I don't know why but some babies like to be bounced a little, my daughter loves it and I put it down to me sitting on the birth ball for the last trimester of pregnancy. If she is having a fretful time I sit on the ball with her leaning on my shoulder and it usually calms her.

9. Go to another room
Some babies calm instantly when walking to another room. It could be temperature, smell or just a change of scenery but its worth a try.

10. Sing to your baby
Babies love the sound of their carers voices and singing can really soothe a baby and calm them down. An older baby may stop crying so they can hear properly.

11. Lie your baby down
My daughter loves lying on the changing mat and having me to look at, it seems to calm her instantly

12. Talk to your baby in a soothing voice
Babies like to know you are calm, talking to them in a low soothing voice can help

13. Breathe deeply
Short shallow breaths send the message to your baby that you are stressed out and many mums panic when baby cries non-stop. Taking deep breaths, breathing right into your diaphragm and letting the out-breath out as slowly as you can sends calm signals to your baby

14. Hold baby's head against your heart
Practice no.13 then hold baby against your chest so they can hear your heart, the deep breaths will slow your heart rate down sending more calm signals.

15. Go for a walk
Pop baby into a sling a pram and brace the great outdoors. Daylight, fresh air and a change of scenery can help you both.

16. Go for a drive
Some babies settle quickly in a car seat, if it works for your baby then pop them in the car. Pick up a book, drive around until they are asleep then pull over and read a few chapters.

17. Lie down with them on your bed
Some babies really enjoy being with mum in a relaxing environment, especially if you often co-sleep and they associate your bed with sleepy milky cuddles. Just make sure you are in a safe co-sleeping position if you are likely to fall asleep.

18. Give baby a bath
Water can be really soothing to some babies. Just make sure baby is supported and comfortable at all times and if they become worked up, calmly take them out and get them dried and dressed.

19. Baby massage
Babies love to be touched, baby massage can relieve trapped wind, calm baby down and make them sleepy.

20. Dim the lights
Some babies find the world far too bright, especially new babies. Turn off the lights, close the curtains or shade the sun from their eyes.

21. Check for signs of illness
If baby seems unwell in any way & you are worried then seek further medical help. With babies they cannot tell us if there is anything wrong so its better to be safe than sorry.

22. Read baby a story
Even young babies like to look at the pictures and hear the sound of their care givers voice when being read to and it sets them up with good habits for life.

23. Try sitting baby up on your lap
Some babies get bored being cradled and want to see what else is going on in the room. If baby cannot hold their head then support them under their chin or leave them leaning back slightly.

24. Try a bouncy chair or swing
I am a firm believer that most babies would prefer to be cuddled by a loving care giver than be sat in a little seat on their own but also some babies really do love bouncers and swings, they can also be useful if you need to do something with an older child. I use a bouncy chair when I am changing my toddlers nappy but have baby really close so she can see what we are doing and we can still talk to her. NEVER LEAVE YOUR BABY UNATTENDED IN A SWING OR BOUNCY CHAIR ESPECIALLY ON A RAISED SURFACE.

25. Swaddle baby
I would never recommend swaddling baby and leaving them unattended but some babies like to be swaddled in arms. It can make them feel safe and secure.

26. Rock your baby in arms
Some babies enjoy this and drift off into a long sleep. When in the womb they were rocked a lot of the time so it makes sense they enjoy it on the outside.

27. Stand in a room with running water
A lot of babies calm to the sound of running water, again they were surrounded by water for the first 9 months of their existence so it stands to reason they are comforted by the sound of it

28. Listen to 'white noise' sounds
The sound of the hairdryer is a one that works for some but its easier on your electricity bill to find sounds on Youtube.

29. Ask someone else to take baby for a little while
Even just for a few minutes so you can have a drink, go to the loo and re-group. Crying can take its toll on all of us.

30. Hum a tune
When you hum it makes your chest vibrate slightly, this can be very soothing

31. Take a deep breath and make a long 'shhhhhhh' sound with the out breath
I believe this has the same effect as white noise with the added benefit of also sending off nice calm vibes to your baby thanks to the deep breathing and slowing heart rate.

32. Go somewhere really beautiful
Whether thats a park, a beach, river front or an art gallery! Go somewhere where YOU appreciate the view and those feel good vibes will filter through to baby.

33. Go to a mother and baby group where you are likely to meet like-minded people
The 'where you are likely to meet like minded people' bit is the key to this sentance. If you are into baby wearing look for a slingmeet if you breastfeed, see if there is a local breastfeeding support group. Talking to other mothers can make you feel normal and if you are relaxed chances are your baby will be too.

34. Consider Homeopathy
There is probably a remedy for your baby's crying, speaking to a homeopath and they will probably be able to help. Especially things like colic, trapped wind etc.

35. Craniosacral therapy
This works with your baby's energy to balance them. It has worked wonders in my girls with colic.

36. Remove all stimulation
Some babies get over stimulated. Turn off the telly, put away the toys & hold your baby so they are looking over your shoulder so they can loose focus & relax.

37. Notice your baby's behaviour
As you get to know your baby you will learn how to predict the problem. Some people find it useful to make a note of the behaviour that went with the crying and what worked to relieve it to help them learn faster. Watch your baby for hunger cues, signs of over stimulation and tiredness as when you learn this you can often solve the problem before the crying starts.

38. Hold your baby lots when they are not upset
Let your baby know you are there for them. There is no need to always put your baby down when they are settled. The more loved and secure they feel the happier they will be.

39. Remember they are only babies for a short time
This can be hard when your baby has been crying for a long time and you are finding it hard to settle them but this stage will soon pass and you will find yourself missing the small baby days, you will not wish you held you baby less when they are 14 and think they are too old for cuddles.

40. If your baby is completely bottle fed consider giving your baby a dummy
If breastfed all baby's sucking needs ideally should be met at the breast as giving a dummy can affect weight gain, milk supply and hunger cues. However, if your baby is gaining weight steadily, bottle fed and you know they are having enough milk then giving a dummy may help that sucking need. Some mothers also find using a slow flow teat helpful as baby gets to suckle a bit longer at feeds.

41. Keep baby upright after feeds
Lots of babies experience reflux and keeping baby upright after feeds can reduce the discomfort.

42. Consider allergy testing
Many specialist clinics charge less to test babies. Allergies may present themselves in many ways so it is always worth ruling this out if you find your baby is crying a lot. The most common 'food' allergies are dairy and wheat/gluten. Starch is also hard for babies under a year to digest.

43. Try to leave the house at least once a day
Being at home with a crying baby can get you down. Getting out for a walk, coffee with a friend or even mosey around the shops can help you keep your sanity and keep depression at bay.

44. Never shout at a crying baby
This will scare them and they will loose trust in you. If you feel like you are going to pass the baby to someone else or put the baby in a safe place, count to ten and calm down.

45. Put on a funny film or TV programme
Laughter produces feel good hormones that will calm you and baby plus focussing on something light hearted when trying to soothe a fussy baby can keep you calmer which will rub off on to them.

46. Give yourself a break
When baby sleeps allow yourself, even just once a day to have a rest. A long hot bath, watching a soap or reading can be good 'me' time in a world where the chance is few and far between. So many mothers burn themselves out with doing housework when they should be resting then have less resources to cope with a crying baby.

47. Accept that some babies are high needs
You can have a natural birth, baby wear, breastfeed and do all the 'right' stuff that is supposed to equate to a calm content baby but some babies are just high needs no matter how much you think they should be different. Carry on doing a fab job and remember that a baby who has had their needs met are more likely to be happy and content when older.

48. Try not to increase separation anxiety
If baby cries when left alone, try not to leave them alone. If they suffer from separation anxiety then being separate from them with increase their anxiety. If they feel loved and secure they will know they are safe when you are not there and the stage will pass quickly.

49. Eat well
A well nourished, fed and watered parent will be a better parent than a junk food junkie, hungry and dehydrated one - fact. 

50. Have skin to skin
Hormones released during skin to skin help calm you and baby. It can also be good for increasing milk supply. Taking them into the bath with you can be a lovely way to relax and unwind together.

51. Try not to rush
Try to be organised so you are not rushing around. Babies sense if you are trying to rush their feed or get them changed quickly and they will pick up on your anxiety.

52. Pick your battles wisely
If you have older children try not to get into power struggles that will send tensions sky high. If you are raising your voice and your other child is crying, shouting or having a tantrum then baby will most likely join in.

53. Make life as easy as possible
Slow cookers are a good way to ensure you have a healthy, nutritious evening meal. A dish washer can save on time and water. Sorting out clothes the night before and having plenty of spare baby clothes can ensure you don't run out too quickly between washes. A relaxed Mum is good for baby.       

54. Ask for help
Parenthood can be overwhelming. If you feel overwhelmed so will your baby. Talking this through and being honest and asking for help will ensure you keep your head above water. Its ok all parents have a 'what have I done?' moment at some point, its normal, you are normal and no one is perfect x