Bump Watch: Soothing a crying baby

July 22, 2014


It’s so exciting when you hear your baby cry for the first time. It’s a sign your newborn has entered the world with a strong, healthy set of lungs. But as the days, weeks and months roll by, the excitement may quickly give way to concern and frustration.

As new parents, you will soon realize that babies cry a lot. Most babies are fussy for a reason and often times it’s something related to digestion like gas or reflux. Infants will cry because they’re hungry, wet, tired or they want to be held.

Sometimes, the reason behind their mysterious wails is not so obvious, which can be frustrating for their sleep-deprived parents.

A few weeks ago, Dr. David Wesson, head of Texas Children’s Level 1 pediatric trauma center, shared a blog about “The Period of Purple Crying” initiative that raises awareness about the effects of Shaken Baby Syndrome and educates parents that crying is a normal and temporary phase in a newborn’s early development. The key word is temporary, because it does get better over time.

We asked some of our Bump Watch moms – Amber Tabora, Veronika Javor, Eden McCleskey and Shelly Lopez-Gray – to share their tips with new and expectant moms on how to calm a fussy baby. We hope you’ll find these tips helpful as you embark on this immensely rewarding journey called motherhood.

Tips to soothe a crying baby

  • Feed your baby – Most babies cry when they’re hungry. Make sure your baby is getting enough milk. Infants go through growth spurts and during this time they want to nurse frequently. Nursing should be an intimate bonding experience between you and your newborn.
  • Swaddle them – Swaddling calms and relaxes newborns and usually helps them sleep better. “Don’t let their wiggly arms stop you from getting them into a tight swaddle,” said Amber Tabora. “It’s a position that mimics the womb and all babies like that.”
  • Allow your baby to suck on a pacifier – Sometimes babies just want to suck on something and it doesn’t need to be you all the time. Pacifiers, or even your finger, can soothe a crying infant and help them go to sleep.
  • Use white noise – Shushing sounds mimic what your baby heard while in your womb. “I use a free Baby Shusher app from my smartphone that repeatedly makes the “shh” sound, and it totally calms my crying baby down,” said Shelly Lopez-Gray.
  • Entertain your baby – Do whatever you can to amuse your baby to help get their minds off of what’s bothering them. “I would set my son in a bouncy seat and play music on my iPhone from Pandora, dance right in front of him and sing along to the music,” said Eden McCleskey. “He seemed very entertained by that and it was a good workout.”
  • Gently sway baby back and forth – Sometimes the motion of the swing can be soothing for babies. Any sort of rhythmic swaying – up and down, side to side, back and forth, or a combination of the two – mimics the experience of being in the womb. Many of the swings come with soothing music that adds to the calming effect for your newborn.
  • Sing songs to your baby – Soft, gentle songs, such as lullabies, sung by a familiar voice can calm a baby’s cries. “I used to walk with her and sing to her as I gently patted her back, in case she had to burp or had some tummy discomfort,” said Veronika Javor. “It helped stop her crying.”

“I recommend this book for all new moms called, “Happiest Baby on the Block,” said McCleskey. “It teaches you the five “S” methods to switch on a really fussy baby’s soothing reflex. For my kids, swaddling them, holding them across my belly and lightly bouncing or swinging them in my arms was usually enough to get them to calm down and fall asleep. I only needed all five elements if the baby was truly having a nuclear meltdown.”