1. Watch for triggers like loud noises, harsh lights, or strong smells and take steps to avoid them until your baby is a bit older. Your baby will use disengagement cues to tell you what the triggers are. Just remember, the cues won’t be specific. For example, your baby might arch away from you because the dog is barking too loud. Taking the baby into a quiet room for a few minutes can help.
2. For some persistent criers, low stimulation (soft lights, quiet) is best; for others, lots of repetitive stimulation (like white noise or going outside) works well. You’ll learn very quickly what level of stimulation keeps your baby happy. Some babies are sensitive to their own movements. Swaddling works well for these babies during the first few weeks.
3. Help your baby find ways of self-soothing, like sucking on her hands or snuggling with a soft cloth.
4. Help your baby adjust to his or her own body rhythms using light in the day and keeping things darker at night. Stick to a loose routine for daily tasks so your baby is exposed to similar amounts of stimulation each day. Watch out for overload from sights and sounds at the end of the day. Many babies have a fussy time between 4 and 6 pm when everyone is coming home, dinner is being prepared, and the TV is turned on. Try making dinner earlier in the day or even better, take a walk with baby while someone else makes dinner!
5. Skin-to-skin contact with your baby can go along way in calming you both. You might want to try some infant massage.
6. Once your baby gets upset, remember: repetition, repetition, repetition. Don’t try 10 things to calm your baby, stick with one thing for several minutes before you try something else.
7. There are a lot of books, DVDs, and websites dedicated to helping you stop your baby’s crying. Most of these methods don’t address the reasons why babies cry. We encourage you to try to understand and respond to your baby’s ups and downs rather than focus all your attention on stopping his or her crying.
Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself
Having a fussy baby does not make you a bad parent. Don’t let others make you feel guilty or inadequate. Your baby just needs a little help to get into synch. My baby daughter went from screaming to social and adorable almost overnight, once her nervous system caught up with her. She’s since graduated from college with honors and has as much energy and passion as she did in those early weeks.
Having a crying baby while you are recovering from childbirth is horribly stressful. It is important to recruit trusted family and friends to bring you food, do your laundry, or babysit for a little while. Taking time for yourself can help you feel less overwhelmed. You may not want to ask other people to take care of your baby but others won’t feel the same way as you do about your baby’s crying; they know they only have to hear it for a short time.
Millions of families go through the challenge of persistent crying. You won’t have to look far to find an experienced mom, dad, or grandparent who knows exactly how you feel. Let us know how you are coping with your fussy baby.
Next Time: Sometimes Newborns' "Good" Behavior can be Misleading