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Tips for soothing your infant

When your little bundle of joy spends hours as a fussy baby, it can be hard to know the best way to calm him down. It is not uncommon for infants to be fussy at night or after eating - or you might even have a fussy baby all the time. Different soothing tricks work for different babies so try not to be discouraged if you’ve tried every piece of advice from family and friends with no luck.

Mother soothing baby

Try a different holding position

Some babies like to be held closely. Other babies prefer to be held in a “sitting” position facing out to see the world around them. Sometimes holding the baby upright looking over your shoulder works best. We’ve even seen babies who calm down fastest when they are held stomach down. If your “normal” cuddle isn’t working, try holding your baby in different positions to see if one feels better to them. As long as you are holding your baby securely and supporting their head, feel free to try new positions to see what works best for your child.

Worried about “spoiling” your baby by holding him or her too much? It’s simply not true. Holding your baby feeds a natural need to feel safe and secure. In fact, babies who are picked up as soon as they begin to cry tend to cry less often and for shorter periods than do babies whose parents don’t respond quickly.

Walk and rock

Some babies are best calmed by movements that are familiar to them from being in the womb. Walking and swaying while holding your baby can help. Try rocking, either in a rocking chair or in your arms as you sway from side to side. Going for a walk in the stroller can help both you and your baby calm down during fussy times. One more tip? Try swaddling your baby - wrapping her up snugly in a thin blanket - that feeling of security combined with calm, rhythmic walking or rocking can be very soothing.

Swaddling tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Mother soothing infant
  1. To swaddle, spread the blanket out flat, with one corner folded down.
  2. Lay your infant face-up on the blanket, with the head above the folded corner.
  3. Straighten baby's left arm, and wrap the left corner of the blanket over the body and tuck it between the right arm and the right side of the body.
  4. Then tuck the right arm down, and fold the right corner of the blanket over the body and under the left side.
  5. Fold or twist the bottom of the blanket loosely and tuck it under one side of the baby.
  6. Make sure baby's hips can move and that the blanket is not too tight. You should be able to get two or three fingers between the baby's chest and the blanket. 
If your baby falls asleep while swaddled you should still place your baby on their back to sleep and monitor him or her to be sure they don’t roll over. Stop swaddling by two months of age before your baby starts rolling over. Remember that swaddling can increase the chance your baby will overheat, so avoid letting your baby get too hot. The baby could be too hot if you notice sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, heat rash, and rapid breathing.

Watch for food sensitivity

If you notice that your baby is regularly fussy shortly after eating - or even while eating - food sensitivity may be the cause and a change in diet may help. Here are a few things to try:
  • Avoid overfeeding your baby because this may also make her uncomfortable. Try to wait at least 2 to 2½ hours from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.
  • For breastfed babies, moms may try changing their own diet. See if your baby gets less fussy if you cut down on milk products or caffeine. If there is no difference after making the dietary changes, then resume your usual diet. Avoiding spicy or gassy foods like onions or cabbage has worked for some moms, but this has not been scientifically proven.
  • For bottle-fed babies, ask your child’s doctor if you should try a different formula. This has been shown to be helpful for some babies.
  • Infants naturally fuss and get cranky when they swallow air during feedings. When this occurs, it may be helpful to pause and change of position to slow their gulping and reduce the amount of air they take in. If baby is bottle-feeding, burp them after every 2 to 3 ounces (60–90 ml). If nursing, burp baby between switching breasts. Some breastfed babies don’t swallow very much air, and therefore they may not need to burp frequently.

Important Information For Moms and Dads from the American Academy of Pediatrics

If you are feeling stressed and ready to cry or scream, put the baby down in a safe place and take a break. Ask a family member or a friend to watch your baby for a short time. You need time to yourself, even if it’s only an hour to refresh yourself. Remember: NEVER shake your baby.
Let your own health care provider know if you are experiencing depression or are having a very difficult time with your emotions.

Does your baby seem endlessly fussy?

Schedule an appointment with your pediatric office.  It helps if you can keep a diary of your child’s fussy times making note of when they sleep, when they eat, and when they are fussy. Your pediatrician may have more options to help you and your child get to a calmer place together.

Check out our app NP PEDS MD for further information and home care advice.

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Baby girl with pony tail in white