These soothing techniques will calm your fussy infant

When your baby comes home from the hospital, there will be times when you just aren’t sure why this remarkable bundle of joy is crying. What’s all the fuss? Sometimes the reason for tears is a simple fix — change a dirty diaper or feed a hungry tummy. Other times, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it’s just your baby being normal. “Crying, especially in the late afternoons and early evening, may increase during the first six to eight weeks. Two to three hours of crying a day in the first three months is considered normal.”

While that appears to be a remarkably consoling bit of trivia, it still leaves parents and caretakers on their own to soothe the fuss. Here are several top suggestions, all of which can — and should — be adjusted to suit your little one individually.

Sit Tight and Cozy
Swaddle your little one in a large, thin blanket, usually called a receiving blanket. The idea here is that a mother’s womb is a snug fit once baby advances into the final trimester, so a close-fitting swaddle may help recreate a familiar womb-like feeling.

“Providing a sense of containment — that may feel more like being in the womb — seems to be a very soothing environment for newborns. When it’s appropriate, we swaddle infants all the time in the hospital,” says Ashley Richards, Certified Child Life Specialist at Inova Children’s Hospital.

Here’s how to be a swaddling expert, according to AAP:

  1. Spread a blanket out and fold one corner down.
  2. Place the back of your baby’s head above the fold, both arms straight against the body.
  3. Wrap the left side of the blanket over the body and tuck between the body and right arm.
  4. Wrap the right side of the blanket across your baby’s body and tuck it between the body and left arm.
  5. Fold the bottom up and tuck it under one side of the baby, making sure your baby’s legs and hips have wiggle room.

On the Move
Another familiar sensation while in the womb is motion. “Your baby’s environment for 9 months in the womb was filled with motion,” Richards describes. “Some newborns enjoy vestibular sensory input, which is essentially the feeling of motion. In this case, you want to mimic the soft, rhythmic movement felt in the womb.”

You can recreate gentle movement in many ways. Hold the baby in your arms and gently glide or rock in a comfy chair; softly sway from side to side or take a walk with your baby in a body carrier.

Sound Advice
By week 24 of pregnancy, babies have been shown to turn their heads in response to voices and noises. Yes, they’re listening to you! For that reason, Richards suggests laying a fussy baby on their back and simply talking softly or singing. If you can’t carry a tune, remember — babies don’t judge. Try making eye contact and cooing back to your baby or read a book. “If the fussiness subsides, then your baby was likely signaling that they wanted engagement,” Richards says. “It’s possible that all the fussiness was simply boredom.”

On the flip side, you might also want to consider a soft, gentle, non-engaging sound, reflecting the sounds inside the womb, such as mom’s heart beating, her stomach gurgling and her lungs breathing air in and out. Provide this almost meditative sound with a white noise machine or the soft humming sound of a fan. You can also purchase a looped recording of a heartbeat.

Fact or Fiction?
Negative press sometimes swirls around the pacifier. According to AAP, “Some people believe that using a pacifier can harm a baby. Pacifiers do not cause any medical or psychological problems. If your baby wants to suck beyond what nursing or bottle-feeding provides, a pacifier will satisfy that need.”

The only caveat, AAP adds, is that new parents need to be diligent about never replacing or delaying meals with a pacifier.

“Every baby is different and communicates differently,” Richards emphasizes. “It’s about getting to know your baby’s cues and their ways of communicating their specific needs. As a caregiver, you know your baby best and will eventually learn how to read their cues.”

Be aware of anything that indicates more than routine, normal and healthy fussiness. Here’s when you might want to consider calling your doctor:

  1. Your baby seems to cry for an unusual length of time.
  2. The cries sound odd to you.
  3. The crying is associated with decreased activity, poor feeding, unusual breathing, or atypical (unusual) movements.
  4. If your baby has a fever, has an eye infection, pulls at an ear, or exhibits anything that seems unusual.

The sooner a problem is treated, the better it can be treated.

If you think your baby is crying excessively and you’re unable to see your regular pediatrician, these Inova Children’s Urgent Care locations offer specialized pediatric care for your child seven days a week.

  • Dulles South (Chantilly)
  • Reston
  • Tysons (Vienna)
  • West Springfield

Learn more about Inova’s Childbirth and Maternity Services.

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