Half of all newborns cry and fuss for more than two hours a day, and while it’s instinctual to want to respond to our baby’s cries, we don’t always know how to soothe them.
If your little one is still crying inconsolably after you’ve ticked off all the obvious causes of distress such as hunger, a dirty nappy and tiredness, try these easy soothing strategies from well-known author Dr Mirriam Stoppard and American paediatrician and author Dr Harvey Karp.
Wrapping your baby in a large swaddling blanket with her arms next to her sides, where they won’t bother her, will satisfy her longing for the tight fit of your uterus. Remember that life outside your womb is quite different for your little one, and it will take time for her to adjust to this new environment. Swaddling will also control jerky movements in your little ones hands that can wake her up and start the crying again.
Recreate the sensation of movement your little one became used to in the womb by holding and rocking your baby gently in your arms or swinging and jiggling her gently. Put your little one on your knee and gently jiggle your legs from side to side so your baby’s head wobbles gently. This kind of rocking, swinging and jiggling is not dangerous and is very calming, says Dr Karp. This is ideal for calming your baby late at night when you’re exhausted, as it requires very little energy. The key is not to hold your baby’s head so that it can’t move; you want it to move, gently.
A midnight dance
Rhythmic, vigorous motion has an almost hypnotic effect on babies. It reminds them of the time when they were being jogged inside your womb, says Dr Stoppard. Walk or dance with an emphasis on rhythmic movement with your little one in your arms to soothe her.
Make a loud shushing type of white noise in your baby’s ear while you hold her – this is music to her ears. Remember that your baby has had constant noise for nine months, in the form of all the sounds of your body, from your heart beat, blood pumping to gastric juices. Dr Karp also recommends playing with white noise all night long, during naps and at difficult times. Make a recording of the vacuum cleaner or washing machine, or leave the radio on between stations.
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