Try These Tips!

Let's face it, being a parent is exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. When it comes down to babies, sometimes it's downright difficult to figure out just what they need to make them happy, comfortable and calm.
Jennifer Newton Reents

Keeping Baby calm
In fact, calm surroundings positively affect future learning potential and ability to adapt to changes, says Dr Greg Jackson, clinical director of the newborn nursery at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

After determining your baby is neither hungry, wet or in pain, you may want to try some of these 10 tried-and-true tips to soothe your new bundle of joy and bring some peace to your lives!

Along with all the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding, come the emotional ones. While your baby may not be hungry, sometimes bringing him to the breast can help calm him.

"The benefits of breastfeeding could fill many pages, but as a 'tranquilizer' for infants, breastfeeding is divine," says Jackson. "It places the baby skin-to-skin with Mom, allows the infant to feel and hear the maternal heartbeat and offers nutrition far superior to any formula. Positioning of the baby during breastfeeding allows for appropriate eye contact which enhances development."

Tracie Tackett-Penrod of Charlottesville, Virginia, a mother of three, says she always offered breastfeeding to her children as a way to soothe them when they needed to be calmed or when they didn't appear to feel well physically or emotionally.

"To sit and hold my child while they hurt inside or out and know that something only I can give them makes everything go away, is an incredible feeling," she says. "After walking around the house, swaying, bouncing, dancing, singing, etc., my children will finally calm for another person, but all I need do is hold them in my arms and they just know what I can give them and immediately quiet and turn to receive it."

Car rides/bouncy seats
One technique to calm a fussy baby is to take him for a car ride or put him in a vibrating seat to simulate one.

"The rhythmic rocking and monotonous sound of the car engine will soothe even the most irritable of babies," Jackson says. "However, some infants may take 10 to 20 minutes before they settle down. Many mothers find out how beneficial a car ride is when they have a baby who is crying so much that they rush to the emergency room, only to arrive with a calm, sleeping baby."

Jackson says bouncy seats -- vibrating-type chairs -- can mimic the repetitive motion of the car and are a comfort to some infants.

"Car rides are a great soother for all of my kids. I always know I can put any of my children in the car crying and after five minutes of driving they are no longer upset," says mother of three Heather Freitag, of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Slings or front carriers work wonders for some babies. Sometimes all they want is to be close to you. Jackson says the process of maternal-infant bonding and calming your baby can occur almost continuously with a sling.

"When the infant is positioned in a carrier on Mom's chest, he is rocked to and fro in a manner similar to the movement infant experienced in utero carrying him around your chest," he says. "Most moms find this comfortable (unless they have back problems) and easy to do and it frees up their hands to allow them to perform other tasks."

Katie Burton of Colombia, Missouri says her sling was a lifesaver for her fussy baby, although her experience with them did not come with out trial and error.

"As a shower gift, I received a form-fitting baby pack type sling and Emma hated it," she says. "I had thought it would be great but it was difficult to nurse her in and it almost always took two people to put her in it. This meant I rarely used it because she and I are usually by ourselves at the store so there was no one to help me struggle into it. I gave up and couldn't understand why people thought slings were so great.

"My sister-in-law bought me Dr Sears' Fussy Baby Book a month or so after Emma developed her crying jags. Based on the info in his book and an Internet search on colic and slings, my husband and I decided that anything that helped calm her and helped her cry less was worth it. We just had to find one that was better suited to us. I found a sling (similar to the Maya wrap) made in Canada that was more like Dr Sears described in his book. The day the sling arrived was one of Emma's worst as far as crying in my arms during the day and refusing to nap. Nothing was really helping and I was almost at wits end. I tore the sling out of the box, slipped Emma into it and began walking her around ? . She loved it. Within minutes, she had stopped crying and just cuddled up to me. Within a half-hour, she drifted into peaceful sleep. ? Emma still loves that sling and spends a part of each day in it. She never liked her stroller so it also made shopping ten times easier."

Some babies crave constant movement. Rocking chairs and swings are perfect for babies who will only calm down when they are being rocked. Once you figure out if this works for your child, a good investment may be a battery-operated swing and a sturdy rocking chair with comfortable padding.

"Most mothers instinctively will rock their infant, although moms should be careful to find the infant's likes and dislikes regarding this technique," Jackson says. "For example, some mothers will vigorously rock side-to-side, but their baby may be one that appreciates gentler rocking, or rocking in an up-and-down motion. Too much rocking can actually lead to over-stimulation of the baby. Pay attention to your infant's clues and you fill find the perfect soothing technique for your baby."

Burton says her rocker worked for a while.

"When she was newborn, she loved the rocker. She even had a crib that had wheels on it so we could rock her," she says. "By the time she was three months, however, she very much preferred more active rocking than sitting in a glider provides. She likes to be walked and rocked and she liked the scenery to change. ? We walked around the mall. Late at night, we walked around our neighborhood or just the house."

Whether it is a lullaby you choose to sing or you turn on the radio and let rock n'roll do it for you, music can do wonders.

"I think I'm the only mom on Earth whose singing makes their children cry harder," says Tackett-Penrod. "My (husband) often plays guitar and sings to our children and it works for all of them. ? And it's not lullabies, he plays punk rock."

Jackson recommends music be soft and gentle, allowing the infant to experience some familiarity of sound.

"It could be performed in the context of low lights and quiet rocking, if Mom has experimented with such techniques and found them to be useful. As with rocking, this form of comfort could be taken to extremes, and Mom should 'tune in' to her baby's response to such measures."

Skin-to-skin holding
Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to calm your baby. Take off all Baby's clothes except a diaper and lay him on your naked chest. This doesn't have to be done just during breastfeeding and it is a great way for Dad to bond with the baby too. Baby will feel warm and find comfort in hearing a heartbeat, experts say.

Some babies have a strong need to suck and babies often use sucking to comfort themselves. Some parents choose to use pacifiers while others encourage their infants to suck on their own hands or offer their child Mom's or Dad's finger for comfort.

Jackson warns that although pacifiers may calm some babies, Moms should be cautious in their use, since sucking on a pacifier is distinctly different from sucking on a breast and may cause nipple confusion in the early weeks if the child is breastfed.

"Only after an infant has formed good breastfeeding habits, should a pacifier be used and then a pacifier may be used sparingly as a calming device," he says.

For Lauren Keene, of Sacramento, California, the pacifier was the only thing that worked to calm her son when he was an infant.

"It soothed him and got him to sleep, and my husband and I got some much-needed rest as well," she says.

Burton says her daughter loved to suck on Daddy's fingers.

"He could comfort her by rubbing her gums and letting her suck on his forefinger or thumb," she says.

Swaddling a baby -- wrapping him tightly in a blanket is often used in the first few weeks after birth using a light receiving blanket.

Place the blanket on a bed or a changing table and turn down one corner about five inches. Place the baby on the blanket with his head right above the folded corner. Take one arm and place it at the baby's side while taking the blanket on that side and pulling it across the baby's body to tuck under his back on the opposite side. Lift the bottom corner and tuck it in (by the neck) of the side you just arranged. Lastly, reach for the remaining side corner and bring it over the baby's body to the opposite side and tuck it under his back.

Because an infant has been growing in a confined space, he is accustomed to the swaddled position, says Jackson.

"After birth, he gains a sense of comfort with blankets that snuggly wrap around him and position his hands at the midline," he says. "This not only provides warmth, but also reduces random movements of the arms and legs and thus decreases irritability."

When Burton first brought her daughter home, she used swaddling to get her baby to settle down and stay asleep. "Emma flailed her hands quite a lot and if they brushed anything or if she was somehow freer than was comfortable for her, she cried and woke herself up," Burton says. "One of the nurses on the postpartum floor showed us how to swaddle Emma in one long rectangular, receiving blanket. My husband got to be quite the expert at swaddling and was very proud that she slept longer for her naps and at night if he swaddled her."

Just touching or slightly stroking your baby on the head or feet can have a calming effect. You may be amazed at how quickly some babies will calm down just by simply being touched.

Gail Mignogno, a licensed massage therapist and certified infant massage instructor with Mount Carmel Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says infant massage is one of the most beneficial ways for new parents to interact with their newborn.

"Skin sensitivity is the earliest developed function and is the most important of all the sensory systems to overall development," Mignogno says. "You can live without every sense except that of skin sensitivity. What better way to help your infant grow and thrive than through the wonderful sense of touch."

Mignogno says the benefits of infant massage are:

  1. Stimulation (of all the physiological systems)
  2. Relaxation
  3. Relief
  4. Interaction

While there are books and classes you can take to teach you to massage your baby, you can start with some simple techniques that include light touching and rubbing. Mignogno says the main focus of massage class is not so much the techniques for doing the massage but the bond developed by being in such close one-on-one contact with your infant.

"In this fast-paced, constantly moving world, we live in, how much time do we spend touching and soothing our children?" Mignogno says. "Infant massage builds a natural parent-infant communication system that provides the baby with the type of sensory stimulation they need for healthy development. Massage has a profound impact on the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems of an infant."

She says infant massage is also a wonderful way for fathers of nursing infants to develop a special bond.

"Think of how special a child feels when they are the main focus of their parents' uninterrupted attention for a soothing massage. What better way to know that you are loved."

White noise/sounds of nature
"White noise as a sleep-induction technique can be very useful," Jackson says. "Noise machines are marketed with white noises to choose such as 'tropical rainfall,' 'ocean waves', 'summer night' -- the sounds of crickets, 'babbling brooks' or 'heart beat.' Some mothers find this useful as a calming technique for themselves too."

If you don't have a machine that plays these types of sounds, you may try tuning a radio channel to where it produces white noise -- the hissing sound between stations ? or place your baby next to -- not on -- a running dryer and see what effect it has. A running vacuum may also have a surprisingly calming effect.

"This was the miracle cure for getting Emma to sleep until she was nearly six months old," Burton says. "We own a retail store and we closed four nights a week right around her bedtime. Every night, I would sling Emma and then vacuum the store and she was often sound asleep when I was done. Someone then suggested that I try just running the vacuum or even playing a tape of it running to calm her during her colicky periods.

"One of our nights off, we invited friends over for dinner and a movie. Emma refused to settle or be nursed to sleep. ... She was just really fussy and tired and after two hours of fighting it I had had enough. I grabbed the vacuum cleaner out of the closet. Everyone looked at me like I had lost my mind when I plugged it in and turned it on. Emma let out one startled cry and then rolled over in her downstairs rocking crib and went to sleep. Just like that. We all stared at her in amazement. ... After that, all I had to do at naptime was nurse her and then turn on the vacuum cleaner and she slept easily. She also stayed asleep longer."

Of course, every baby is different and no newborn will respond in the same way to these techniques. So try a few and see what works!

"And during those times where nothing seems to soothe your child and it is difficult to cope, just remind yourself that this too shall pass," reminds Burton.

Tags: calm soothe

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