New Mommy Series: How To Calm A Fussy Baby In 5 Simple Steps

Posted in New Mommy Series
on February 24, 2017

A fussy baby that is hard to soothe and console, can be one of the most stressful situations for new parents.  So, today I’m going to walk you through 5 Simple Steps that will quickly and easily calm your crying infant, and give you peace of mind.  I show my new parents these methods each and every shift at the hospital, and I’ve seen them work miracles on my own nieces and nephew.  I know they can help you too….

{This post contains affiliate links to some of my favorite baby soothing products. To read my disclosures click here.}

Use these 5 Simple Steps to Calm a fussy baby...

I remember “back in the good old days” when my nephew was born.  He was the first baby on my husband’s side of the family.  We doted over him, and spoiled him.  He literally had like 4 moms at his beck and call, between his aunties and grandma and his actual mother, of course.  He honestly had nothing to cry about, and yet he did.

I had nannied and babysat so much at that point in my life, I though I was a baby whisperer, and yet I remember a day when I was watching him, and he cried for hours.  There was nothing I could do to settle him.

It was frustrating.  I felt helpless.  I cried, he cried.  We were all up in there cryin’ when his mommy came home.  I felt terrible.

I’m pretty sure if you’ve been around babies, you’ve most likely been in that situation a time or two.

Thankfully, when Benjamin was a baby, we were introduced to Happiest Baby On The Block by Dr. Harvey Karp.  I think his steps for calming a fussy baby literally saved my sister-in-laws sanity.

The steps worked beautifully on Baby Ben, and once again we all could love on him, and spoil him right rotten.  He felt comfortable and comforted in the way he needed, and it was a process we all had to learn.

Flash forward ten years later, and I work in Maternal Child Health as a registered nurse. I take care of brand new moms and babies all day every day at the hospital and I love it.

I show all my new parents these tricks for soothing their fussy baby, cause nine times out of ten, they are about ready to pull their hair out by 3 am from all the crying….and that’s normal.

No one wants to hear their baby cry, and feel helpless in knowing how to soothe their most favorite little person.

Here’s the 5 Simple Steps you can use today to calm your fussy baby, and to switch on their calming reflex…

Steps to Calm a fussy baby...

Swaddle

Brand new babies up until 3 months of age are in what a lot of experts call, the fourth trimester.  They are tiny, fragile, and dependent on their parents.

Most new babies have a difficult time adjusting to their new surroundings.  If you think about it, your baby is used to being nice and comfy, and warm inside of your womb.  This is the only place he/she has known.

He’s used to listening to your heartbeat, your voice, the swooshing noises of your body.  He’s also used to being tightly compact.

When a baby is born, and suddenly he’s laid in a cold bassinet, away from the noises and smells, warmth and coziness he’s used to….he tends to…well… freak out.  Wouldn’t you?!

The first step to calming your baby, is to swaddle him.  Here’s a video of Dr. Harvey Karp explaining the reasons for swaddling…

At the hospital, I like to swaddle the babies up nice and tight, with their hands and arms crossed over their chest but tucked inside the swaddle.  Often times, that instant restriction in movement calms them down right away.

The wide open space around them, and the freedom to move, sometimes startles the baby and frightens him.  That’s why the babies often respond so quickly to a nice tight swaddle because they’ve been so used to the restricting environment of your womb.

Here’s some of my favorite swaddle blankets and sleep sacks…

Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddling Blankets are generously sized swaddling blankets, and are made with gorgeous breathable fabric.  I highly suggest these muslin blankets.  If you are expecting a sweet little miss, here’s some pretty pink blankets.

If swaddling seems like a puzzle to you, {and let’s be honest it isn’t always easy to wrangle a fussy screaming baby into a tight swaddle ?} try these SwaddleMe Sleep Sacks.

Side or Stomach Position

After you have your baby tightly swaddled, the next 4 S’s should go pretty quickly in sequence.

After I’ve swaddled my babies, I pick them up and place them on their side facing me in a cradle hold.

I gently pat the babies back also, because as babies cry they suck in a lot of air, making them more gassy and uncomfortable.  The babies usually release a few good burps during this process.

I like to hold the babies on their sides next to me, because I feel more secure that way.  But, you can also hold you baby on his side away from your body while securing the head and neck, or in a football hold, all demonstrated in the video at the end of this post.

Shush

Babies are accustomed to hearing loud noises from your heart beating, your bowel sounds, your voice, etc.  The noises in the womb can be as loud as a vacuum, so don’t hold back when “shushing” your baby.

Making a “shhhh” sound as you hold your baby, will recreate the noises heard in the womb.  Sometimes you have to be pretty loud with your shushing, louder than the cries of the baby, which we all know can be deafening.

A friend of mine has an “on the go” Baby Shusher attached to her baby’s car seat.  It’s adorable, and the perfect compact white noise machine when your out and about, and don’t feel like shushing your baby in public.

At the hospital, I encourage the parents to download a white noise app on their smartphones or buy a white noise machinethat allows them to pick from an array of white noise sounds from raindrops to waterfalls, to heartbeats and vacuums.  Hey, it may be the only vacuum you hear in your house for a while. ?

Swing

Babies like motion.  Afterall, they’ve been in a water bed of sorts for the last nine months.  During the day when your awake and on the go, your baby rocks back and forth in your belly.  It soothes him to feel that movement.

I’ll ask my patients if they noticed any sleep patterns with their baby inside the womb.  Was your baby moving around a lot at night?  Did your baby start to tumble and turn the second your sat down to get comfortable?

Often times those are the babies that are up partying with us all night.  They slept during the day while you were active and lulling them back to sleep with the “motion of the ocean” if you know what I mean.  But, being still and calm, caused them to wake up, and thus keep you up all night during you’re pregnancy.

Babies will follow those same sleeping patterns once they’re born.  Take the opportunity to get to know your baby’s patterns while he’s still inside of you, so you’re better prepared once he’s born.

These are the babies that especially like the swaddle, side lying, shushing, and swinging.  Sometimes it takes doing these steps for a good 30 minutes to get your baby calmed down enough, and into a deep enough sleep to lie down in the bassinet or crib.

When you get home, and are beyond exhausted, you may need a little bit of help to get your baby to sleep so you can get some much needed rest.  The MamaRoo works wonders with our fussy little babies in our NICU, but a lot of my friends swear by what they’ve affectionately termed “the taco” AKA the Rock ‘n Play 

Of course, babies are safest sleeping on their backs, and so that’s why I love the new Tranquilo Mat that shushes and vibrates to soothe your baby.  Plus, it was designed by a baby nurse, like myself.

Or, if you’ve got a mere $1200 bucks to spend on a bassinet, check out the Snoo Smart Sleeper.  It’s by far my favorite new baby product, and is recommended by Dr. Harvey Karp as well.

And, sometimes, you have to add this last step…

Suck

Let me just tell you right now, if you notice in ultrasound pictures that your baby is sucking on his hands, then you have a baby that is going to love to suck.  Babies will often practice sucking on their hands in the womb, to get some practice before their big debut.  But, some babies take it to the next level, and enjoying sucking so much that they’re born with suck blisters on their hands.

Babies like to suck because it comforts them.  If you have a baby that is constantly trying to get their hands near their mouth and is soothed by sucking, then count yourself lucky.

These babies most of the time do really well with breastfeeding, because they already have the strong urge to suck on anything placed near their mouth.  Other babies take a little extra work to do their job during a feeding, and that’s ok too.

But, I will warn you, babies who like to suck, are usually the ones who need a pacifier to be happy and content.  And, I’ll tell you like I tell my parents, it’s easier to take away a pacifier than it is to take away a thumb.  A baby who sucks for comfort, will find something to suck on…usually his hands.  And, yes those are much harder take away when the time comes to wean him.

{Speaking of which, did I know that there are various sizes of pacifiers?!  Neither did I till recently.  Here’s my favorite newborn pacifiers!}

You can also use your bare finger, if you aren’t fond of introducing a pacifier to your baby.  Our lactation consultants prefer this method, since your finger smells like you and tastes like you, which is especially helpful when you’re breastfeeding.  But, it’s your decision to make once your baby has arrived and you get to know your baby’s temperament.

Each baby is different.  What worked with one of your little ones, may not work for the next.  The main point is to remain calm and flexible.

Steps to Calm a fussy baby...

Doing all 5 of these steps, has helped many of my patients regain some sanity in the first few days of parenting and beyond.  But, something I also tell them is this…

If you’re ever getting to point where the baby just won’t calm down, you’re losing your patience and at your wit’s end, and you’ve exhausted every technique known to man, and your baby still won’t calm down…place him on his back in his crib/bassinet and walk away.

Step outside for a moment.  Close the door, and take some time to calm down.  Your baby is in a safe place, so don’t feel guilty (even though I know you will).  Sometimes you just need a second…or a minute…or several minutes to clear your head and hear yourself think.

Being a new parent is hard.  Babies don’t come with an instruction manual, unfortunately.  So, we learn as we go.  Be kind to yourself, so you take the absolute best care of your baby.

Now, let’s watch Dr. Harvey Karp put these steps into action.  Check out Happiest Baby On The Block for more information.

I’ll see you back here on the blog soon for more Brand New Baby Tips…

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7 Comments

  • Reply Erin

    I need the “on the go” baby shusher. My 5-month-old hates riding in the car. These are all excellent tips. Thank you.

    February 26, 2017 at 8:58 am
    • Reply Stephanie Wilson

      Thank you, Erin. The Baby Shusher is definitely a life changer! Glad you found this post helpful. ?

      February 26, 2017 at 11:46 pm
  • Reply Amy Scott

    Such a helpful post! My niece had colic and even though she just turned 9 years old I’ll never forget how distraught it made my brother and SIL. It’s such a frustrating time for everyone, most of all baby. At 34 weeks pregnant, a colicky baby I can’t soothe is a fear of mine so I’m definitely pinning for later!

    February 27, 2017 at 10:56 am
  • Reply Thivy Michelle

    I don’t have a baby , but these are great tips to keep in mind!

    February 27, 2017 at 6:04 pm
  • Reply Melissa

    I am such a fan of The Happiest Baby on the Block. It made a HUGE difference for us and I recommend it to all pregnant moms I meet.

    February 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm
  • Reply Rebekah | My Circus, My Monkeys

    My twins loved to be swaddled, my older kids, not so much. But the ssshhhing? They ALL loved it!

    February 27, 2017 at 9:04 pm
  • Reply Mamaguru

    Great tips for new moms! My kids always calmed down when we stepped outside.

    February 28, 2017 at 6:45 am
  • Leave a Reply

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