When your baby cries, she is trying to tell you something. The hard part is figuring it out. It can be so frustrating when she is crying inconsolably and you cannot figure out what to do. However, it is important to stay calm. So take a deep breath, then use this simple checklist for calming your baby.
- Is she wet? Check to see if she is wet, itchy, too hot, too cold or physically uncomfortable in any way. Change her diaper, add a layer, remove layer, apply diaper cream, and make sure she is generally clean and dry. Often, just changing a baby's clothes will settle her down enough for you both to get through the moment.
Is she hungry? Simple answer: Feed her. What if she is crying so hard, she can't nurse? Try putting your little finger (palm side up) against the roof of her mouth. This stimulates the sucking reflex and after a moment you can substitute the breast or bottle.
Is she gassy? Anyone who says colic does not exist hasn't paced the floor with a colicky baby for four hours. For colic there are several things you can try. Mylicon drops do work for some babies. Massaging the tummy in downward strokes works well. Grandparents swear by the boiled and cooled water and sugar in a bottle cure. This might seem pretty offensive to our generation, but studies have shown that a little bit of sugar has an anesthetic effect on babies. Finally, try putting your baby in a baby carrier so that she is upright and go for a walk. The combination of gentle movement and an upright position often is enough to break up those painful gas bubbles and the walk will help preserve your sanity.
Is she tired? Babies cry when they are tired as a means of releasing stress. Sometimes they are too tired to fall asleep by themselves so they cry. Take your baby to a darkened, quiet room and hold her against your chest as you breathe deeply and slowly. Sometimes it helps to lie down and place baby face down on your chest and hum as you breathe. This one is hard to fake, but if you can genuinely relax, your baby will relax with you. When she is relaxed, place her in her crib or bassinet to sleep. Or just take a nap with her on the floor, if you can. (Hey, we're in survival mode, here!)
Is she over-stimulated? It is hard to appreciate how overstimulated babies can get by the things we take for granted. The surest way to calm an overstimulated baby is through the use of white noise. It helps them focus and relax. Find what works what for you and use it regularly. Baby will come to recognize the sound and be soothed more quickly if you use the same device over and over. Some people use the vacuum, many people use the car which only works if you can transfer baby from the car without waking her. Other popular devices for creating soothing white noise include fish tanks, washing machines, fans, and noise machines.
If all else fails, keep pacing and making those soothing sounds. As bad as this feels right now, it will pass. And if you find yourself getting angry and frustrated, remember NEVER shake a baby. She is better off crying in her crib while you calm down in the bathroom than being hurt in a moment of frustration. Just walk away, take a deep breath and remember that she needs your help to calm down and you need to stay relaxed for her.