At your wit’s end trying to figure out how to soothe your baby? Our handy checklist will help you find out what you can do to make Baby (and you!) more comfortable.
Swaddling and/or receiving blankets (3-5)
There’s a reason your newborn looked like a burrito with a head when the nurses handed him to you for the first time; babies love to be swaddled. They were packed tightly in the womb for months, unable to move an uncontrollable arm or flailing leg, and they liked it that way. Receiving blankets are also great for draping over the portable car seat or stroller to shut out stimulation and make things a little darker in there.
Front carrier or baby sling
Colic is virtually unheard of in cultures that carry babies in slings for the first few months of life. Slings and carriers can be used for months. They’re great for shopping, taking walks, and just wearing the baby around when she needs snuggle time to calm down.
Simethicone drops and gripe water can dissolve trapped air bubbles that may cause discomfort. While generally considered safe, consult with your child’s pediatrician before giving your baby gas drops or any other medication.
Try a wet washcloth or chilled (not frozen) water-filled teething toy. A metal spoon dipped in ice water is a good alternative when the store-bought teethers hit the deck in restaurants! Medicated numbing ointments can help but will also numb baby’s tongue and gums, so prepare for lots of drooling. Ask your doctor if acetaminophen or ibuprofen is in order.
Provide your baby with a pacifier, a finger, or a breast. Doctors say that sucking has its effects deep within the nervous system and triggers the calming reflex and releases natural chemicals within the brain. Don’t worry about which nipple shape is best—they’re all fine—just look for a size appropriate to your child’s age.
Research shows that massage nurtures babies’ psychological, physiological, and developmental growth. Many hospitals offer infant massage classes, but if you don’t have time to attend there are plenty of learn-at-home videos and books available. This tender touching not only expels gas and soothes babies, it helps parents relax, too.
Newer swings not only move in a front-to-back motion, but also a side-to-side motion to mimic the motion of Mama’s tummy. If your baby will only sleep in a swing, you’ll want one with batteries for continual motion rather than the hand-cranking version. There are several portable models for on-the-go parents, too.
Sometimes babies get positional fatigue, meaning that they’re tired of being in a fixed position. If your baby has been lying down or held in a front carrier for a while, try putting her in a bouncy seat for a change of scenery. Many seats come with a vibrating function that infants love, but avoiding turning on the annoying plinky music or flashing lights since they could cause overstimulation and exacerbate fussiness.
Researchers have found that babies will breathe in time to music they enjoy—and they can remember and prefer music heard before birth over a year later. While some studies tout the benefits of classical music, any soothing songs will do. You can buy a lullaby CD or just turn the radio to a soft rock or easy listening station. Not only will baby go to sleep, he may wake up a little smarter, too.
Sounds that mimic the whooshing sounds of the womb have a calming effect on baby, making him feel right at home. You can purchase white noise CDs, teddy bears that make womb noises, or an inexpensive floor fan. Or, simply run the vacuum cleaner in the hallway outside the nursery in a pinch.
Glider or rocker
If Mom is relaxed, her baby will calm down, too. Gliders and rockers offer fussy little ones two of their favorite activities: rocking and snuggling with a loved one. Turn off the lights, place your baby on your chest, and rock until you’re both drowsy and happy.
While colored butterflies circling overhead nearly hypnotize some babies into sleep, all that color and movement cause stimulation in others. Try a mobile and see how your baby responds. No need for stark black and white mobiles to make your baby smarter—any kind of mobile will do.