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5 Tips To Calm a Crying Baby When Swaddling No Longer Works

When we brought our baby home, 32 hours after having given birth, I knew babies cried. I did. I had prepped for it and mentally prepared, or so I thought. The first few days when he would start to fuss I would go through my mental checklist of baby needs. If there was an unchecked box, I would check it. If that didn’t stop the crying I would immediately start to rock him.  If that didn’t work I’d wrap him up like a little baby burrito and by that point he would normally calm down. I wish I had had these tips to calm a crying baby.

My Mental Checklist of Baby Needs:

  • Has he been fed in the last hour?
  • Was he burped after he was fed?
  • Is his diaper dirty?
  • Is he too hot or too cold?
  • Does he have a fever?
  • Has he been spitting up a lot? (If your baby has, maybe its gastroesophageal reflux, GER, and you should check with your doctor.)

Soothing was pretty straight forward the first couple days. Has he been fed, yep, burped, check, changed, done, etc. With the basic needs covered I would understand he needs some mommy (or daddy) love and rock him. Sometimes standing, sometimes seated, I would hold him close to me, breathing in his sweet baby scent and whisper to him how much I loved him until he fell asleep.  It was beautiful, magical even. Sometimes, out of nowhere, even after having been fed, burped, changed and rocked, he would start crying. I’d say to my husband “he’s just a baby, adjusting to this new world is tough, babies cry”.  And we would take turns holding and cuddling and rocking our fussy little one until he slept, or at the very least calmed down. And you know, it all felt so wonderful, until it didn’t.  After about a week, cuddle time wasn’t enough and our sweet baby boy had gone from a sweet but sometimes fussy baby to a wailing banshee impersonator. Even though I was prepared for a crying baby, I was not prepare for the effect it would have on my husband and I.

A little fussing here and there I could tend to. It actually made me feel great as a mom.  I expect my baby to fuss some. I know how to soothe him. I am a great mom. However, when it got to the point that my normal checklist and techniques weren’t working I started to feel my (mom) self-worth decline. I also started to panic. Is something wrong with him? Like really wrong, like do we need to go to the hospital wrong? Yes, babies cry, but do they wail, are they truly inconsolable? Did I break the baby?!?!?! In addition to this, my babe’s crying caused a physical reaction I wasn’t ready for. Nature at its finest has me programmed to be unable to ignore my baby’s wails. I get tense, and anxious. My adrenaline and cortisol levels spike and along with tight shoulders and shallow breaths come tears. If my baby is unhappy I feel it, literally.

As for my husband, he had started back at work. He’s a picky and light sleeper aka a sleep diva. I remember the first night I stayed over his house, it was late, we were cuddled in bed, lying in new love bliss and as I lay there expecting to fall asleep in his arms he jumps up, turns on a noise machine, gets back in the bed, pops on an eye mask and then builds a fortress of pillows around himself and says goodnight. So, you can imagine how our little banshee screaming through the night had my sleep diva husband, completely exhausted and at his wits end.

One and a half weeks in, with my adrenaline spiked and in a near constant panic about the health of my baby I was seriously questioning my abilities as a mom.  My husband, worried about our child’s wellbeing and my mental health, was trying to support us and hold down his job as best he could on little to no sleep. Needless to say, we were desperate. So desperate we even considered buying a Snoo. The $1200 crib. We decided to give it one more week before resorting to that. During that time, between the two of us we read every book and blog post out there to figure out how to soothe our little one and after much trial and error, following are the 5 tricks we found most effective when traditional swaddling, rocking and bouncing don’t work.

5 Tricks For Calming a Crying Baby

  1. Swaddle your baby and lay him in a dark room with a hair dryer running
  2. Hold your baby close to your chest and with your mouth directly behind his ear make the “SHHH” sound as loud as possible for as long as it takes
  3. Hold your baby against your chest and bounce on a yoga/exercise/birthing ball
  4. Wear your baby and take a walk
  5. Combine numbers 3 and 4, bouncing on a yoga ball while making the SHHH sound

At the end of the day, babies do cry, it’s natural. It’s just as natural for us mamas to want to do everything we can to soothe that baby and end those baby tears. Having said that, sometimes babies are inconsolable and it doesn’t make us any less amazing as moms. If swaddling, rocking and bouncing don’t help to soothe your little one, try these 5 tricks. And, if those don’t work and you find yourself at your wits end. Remember sometimes babies are inconsolable and it’s ok to put him in a safe space (like his crib), close the door and take a moment to yourself. In that time, splash your face with water, light a candle take a few deep breaths and know that this is hard and that’s ok.  I hope these tips and tricks help you and I’d love to know what else you’ve found that works.

Please post your tips and tricks for soothing a baby below:

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