I am sitting in a café trying to write this very article, and there is a baby crying over by the counter — pretty apropos, I think! For research purposes, I’m going to keep an eye on mother and baby and watch the scene unfold. Here’s what the mum does first: she shushes her baby, bouncing him gently in her Baby Bjorn. Okay, looks like that’s not working (and the barista dude is looking more and more annoyed), so she takes the baby out of the carrier — bold move mama, how are you going to hold your coffee now?! — and lifts him up so that his cheek is pressed right up against hers…and it’s working! She’s still shushing him, bouncing pretty vigorously, and the baby has stopped crying. I repeat, the baby has stopped cr–wait, hold on. Nope, he’s at it again. And it’s torture to listen to. Not because I’m annoyed by the sound, but because I feel so bad for the mother, and for the helpless baby who may or may not have any idea why he’s crying.
Listening to your baby cry can be scary, exhausting, and downright painful when you don’t know how to soothe her. For the mother at the café (and every single mum I asked), the one thing that really works to calm a crying baby — without fail — are your boobs. I couldn’t agree more, but a lot of mums don’t breastfeed, and I refuse to believe that boob is the only thing out there that can save the day. Robert Hamilton, a paediatrician in Santa Monica California got nearly 20 million hits for posting his baby-calming technique on YouTube, and the fact is, there are other ways. There have got to be other ways!!!
Whether your baby is hungry, tired, wet, teething, frustrated, or just plain grumpy, your baby is crying and you want to calm him down! I get it. I’ve been there. That’s why I asked some of the most qualified experts out there — my Mum Friends — and put together this list of things that really work to calm a crying baby.
1. Deep lunges or squats
Great for your glutes, and great for the baby. Holding a baby upright against your chest while doing deep lunges or squats has worked wonders for me (with my own kids, and with friends’ babies).
2. Baby massage
Gassiness could be the cause of your baby’s tears, in which case doing a bicycle motion with their legs, tucking legs toward and pulling away from tummy (gently) could alleviate some of the pressure.
The more the merrier. Jangling a set of keys in front of your baby’s face may work wonders at distracting her and getting her to calm down.
4. Fresh air
Simply taking your baby outside for a quick walk and a change of scenery might be enough to break the fussiness.
5. Musical toys
Toys that play soothing lullabies can relax and calm your crying baby. Bonus points if it’s cuddly and lights up the room with stars!
6. Toy security blanket
Some babies love snuggling soft, security blankets with cuddly toys attached. The more your baby finds solace in this, the stronger (aka faster) the calming effect might become.
7. Rock and sway
Pretty much everyone agreed that bouncing and swaying are great techniques for calming a fussy baby. (WARNING: You may sway for the rest of your life, long after your kids are grown and no longer in need of calming techniques.)
8. Distracting sounds
A simple surprise — a funny sound, a pop or squeak — could divert your baby’s attention and calm him down.
9. Bright lights
Much like a funny sound, a quick flash of bright light, as in flicking the living room light switch repeatedly, could be a great source of entertainment for your baby.
10. Sing and dance
Leave your ego at the door and get funky, either with lullabies or some Pat Benatar. Your baby may think it’s funny or he may think you’re crazy, but it just might get him to calm down and stop crying.
Water can be incredibly soothing for babies, not to mention fun. Run a bath (again, added points for the white noise effect of the water running!), and do a little splashing to help your baby calm down.
12. The 5 Ss
The gist of the Happiest Baby on the Block technique is that up until three months old, babies are basically in their “4th trimester” and we need to emulate the womb in order to initiate the ‘calm reflex’ in our babies. The five Ss are:
- Swaddle (tight)
- Side or Stomach (lay baby down, but never unattended)
- Shush (white noise or the vacuum)
- Swinging (rhythmic yet gentle shaky movements)
- Suck (on a boob, dummy, or finger)
13. The best hold
Finding the perfect way to hold your baby could calm him. Expert mums recommend:
- Football hold – lay baby face down along your forearm (legs straddling your elbow crease) to alleviate pressure on the stomach
- Facing out hold – let one arm be your baby’s seat, and the other arm be her seatbelt, and let your baby look out at the world
- Chest hold – hold your baby vertically against your chest, very close to your heart (or cheek)
14. Take a break
When all else fails, give you and your baby a break. Put her in her cot for a moment and allow yourself to regain some strength, momentum and clarity.
The thing is, babies cry for a million different reasons, and we all know that what works for one baby might not work for another. The thing to keep in mind is that you should try to remain calm while your baby is crying. Dr Wendy Sue Swanson, a paediatrician and executive director of Digital Health at Seattle Children’s Hospital, tries to remind parents that although we should try to soothe our crying babies, we may not always succeed. “Don’t spend all of your energy determining the why behind their cry,” she says, suggesting that instead parents spend time figuring out what helps. And if you have any fantastic baby-calming ideas that weren’t mentioned here, please, share your thoughts in the comments!
More for mums of babies:
- How to Find Your Baby’s Magic Sleep Solution
- Your Anger Harms Your Baby Emotionally, Says Science
- Parenting Advice Parenting Books Won’t Tell You (Even Though They Should)