Care for Baby
Written on 7 November 2017
Every mom has been there: Your baby is crying, you have no clue how to soothe her, and you'd give anything to have someone tell you how to stop it. As frustrating as crying is, simply understanding why babies do it can take some of the stress out of the situation. And fortunately, there are several things you can do to calm your baby—and make both of you feel better.
Why you're not a bad mom
When a baby cries, it triggers the release of the hormone prolactin (dubbed "the mothering hormone") in moms, which creates an urge to pick up the baby and meet her needs. You're hardwired to soothe your baby, and when that doesn't happen, it can make you feel like a failure. But your baby's fussiness is not a reflection on your parenting skills—and it's completely normal for a baby to cry even when there doesn't seem to be a direct cause. If you're ever in doubt, however, don't hesitate to call your pediatrician to make sure there isn't an underlying problem.
Try these techniques, together or separately:
Use your hands. Touch stimulates receptors in the brain that calm your baby, and research shows that long, smooth strokes tend to work better than short, brisk ones. Try caressing your infant's cheek, back, legs, or stomach. Or keep your baby close by wearing her in a front carrier. You don't have to spend all day toting her around, but the more you touch her (giving her a mini-massage during a diaper change, for instance), the happier she'll be.
Talk. The familiar tone of Mom's voice is one of the most effective soothers for babies, according to research. So keep the chatter going—but speak quietly so your baby isn't overwhelmed.
Release your inner pop star. Singing can also be calming. Don't worry if your voice doesn't sound like Norah Jones's. To your baby, you're the ultimate star. Sing calm, slow songs, such as lullabies—the body responds to music by adapting heart and respiratory rates to the tempo.
Take a drive. Driving around the block combines steady motion and white noise. If driving isn't convenient, try a vibrating bouncy seat or swing, which also have the white-noise/movement combo.
Get wet. Many moms swear by baths to calm their babies. The sound of the running water and the warmth on the skin can do wonders for a crying baby. You can get into the tub, too, to add soothing skin-to-skin contact.
Distract him. Introduce a new toy or shift his attention to the family pet or a mirror (so he can gaze at himself). He may well forget all about his cranky mood.
Keep your cool. If you get frustrated, your infant will pick up on that tension and react, and this pattern can become a cycle that's hard to break. Trying too hard to calm your baby can also backfire—some simply don't like to be handled as much as others. While you shouldn't let infants under 3 months cry it out, it's okay to let them fuss for five minutes. This will give yours the opportunity to start to figure out how to soothe himself (and it may give you a chance to regroup, too).
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