Crying is one of the most normal things children do and can be essential for us to learn what our baby is trying to communicate before they can actually talk.
In the early days of one’s child-rearing days, especially, it can be heart-wrenching every time a baby cries. It's important to remember that crying is normal and healthy to know that their lungs are functioning correctly.
Babies cry for many reasons: they want some snuggles, they have a soiled diaper, they’re hungry or lonely, and sometimes simply boredom. In any case, we can learn their specific cries and know what their needs are so we can limit stress and anxiety, which we don’t need any more of with a little one.
To do this, pay attention to how their cry sounds and walk through the things listed above to identify what they were in need of. Babies don't inherently come into the world very complicated, there are only a few needs to walk through and make sure they are satisfied. The more you practice and tune into them the better you will learn their first language - crying.
If you have walked through the checklist (snuggles? solid diaper? hungry? lonely? bored?) and your baby is unconsoled you can try the 5 S’s
The tight wrapping of swaddling mimics the feeling of being inside the womb. When swaddled, babies’ arms should be at their sides and their hips should be loose and flexed. Initially a swaddled baby may become more upset but with some rocking and “shushing” the baby will often calm down. Babies should be swaddled when they are fussy or tired because it can provide comfort and increase sleep duration.
Side or Stomach Position
Babies should only sleep on their backs because it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, many babies prefer to be held on their side or on their stomach over your shoulder while they are awake. When your baby is fussy during the daytime try holding them on their side or stomach.
The womb is actually very noisy and babies like this soothing noise. The inside of the womb sounds like a vacuum cleaner. Therefore, babies do well with white noise that mimics the sound heard inside the womb. White noise machines are very popular, or parents may play white noise on their phones or tablets. Parents can also make a loud “shushing” sound in their baby’s ear while rocking them.
While inside the womb babies get used to rocking and jiggling often when their mom moves about. Fussy babies often need to feel fast, tiny movements to calm down and do not calm down with slow rocking. It is important to support the head and neck while rocking your baby and avoid shaking them.
Babies are often calmed by sucking and calm easily with a pacifier. Some parents are hesitant to introduce a pacifier too early (or at all) as it may cause nipple preference with breastfeeding. Some parents will choose to offer a clean finger for their baby to suck instead of a pacifier.
For the first month of life, it helps soothe baby if you do your best to “imitate the womb”. Some things to try are:
Appropriate response to crying
While these things can be extremely helpful to new parents, remember that they can easily become a “crutch” that baby depends on. Whether or not that is helpful is up to you to decide. If you would like to learn more about how to use these techniques while gently encouraging babies to learn to be content, check out Gina Ford’s book The Contented Baby Book. It is one of our favorite resources for new parents.
I hope this was helpful to you. With a lot of love, patience, and consistency you are becoming the parent that you aspire to be. Happy soothing!