Comforting and calming a brand new wriggly baby at the peak of distress may prove to be one of your greatest challenges as a parent. Despite what many think, even the most seasoned moms and grand-moms have experienced moments of feeling helpless while a newborn cried in their arms. Some of you may have endured the lows of listening to your baby cry inconsolably for long bouts of time as you searched for answers. If you’re nursing, you may have asked if you’re producing enough milk. If you’re bottle-feeding formula, you may have asked if they’re reacting to the ingredients. These questions are for your pediatrician and a lactation consultant to answer, officially. But if your baby is having regular soiled diapers, and gaining weight it’s likely something else you’re dealing with.
Most newborns meltdown for 2 reasons: Gastric Distress and Overstimulation. All babies will experience one, or more likely, both of these ailments throughout their infancy. They may experience these stressors individually once a week, or consecutively multiple times throughout the day. Adopting the soothing techniques below may help you through your next bout.
Practice taking deep breaths regularly…Stay calm…
…find comfortable holds, a rock rhythm, or experiment with bouncing seated on a yoga ball to see what works for you during fussy periods…The next time your baby is in distress, try using what you’ve practiced to comfort and calm your newborn. If you can, bring your baby into a quiet, darkened space away from stimulation.
1. Hold them close. Make your baby feel safe. Secure the back of their head and neck with your hand. If arms and legs are flailing, tuck them into a familiar fetal position against your body. You may want to try swaddling or using a carrier. (Overstimulation)
2. Keep their head elevated. Turn their face towards your neck, place their ear at your chest, just under your chin and hold their bottom high on your stomachwith legs and arms tucked in. (Gastric Distress)
3. Block the light. Whether or not a darkened space is accessible, try sheltering your baby’s face under your chin, use a muslin blanket, or a burp cloth to shield your baby’s eyes. (Overstimulation)
4. Move. Bounce up and down bending your knees, rock side-to-side, pat your baby’s bottom, or do all three at the pace of your heartbeat. Movement will help work any gas up and out. Don’t forget to breathe…(Gastric Distress)
5. Shush at the pace of your heartbeat. Be careful not to “shush” directly into their ear, but loud enough to hear over their own cries to shift their focus. I also mimic the heartbeat by humming deeply and creating a vibration in the back of my throat, “ HuM, HuM, HuM…” You might also try a sound machine, fan, or a hairdryer (keep near the changing table…this is one of my favorite soothing distractions after bath time). (Overstimulation)
6. Offer the pacifier. If your baby is focused on crying it may take some coaxing to introduce the pacifier. Circle your baby’s lips gently and tap the tip of the pacifier on the roof of their mouth to get their attentionand encourage sucking. The sucking action distracts and the swallowing action will help keep any rising acids (reflux) down where it belongs. (Gastric Distress)
Has 20 minutes passed? Still inconsolable? Try handing the baby to your partner if that’s an option, laying or sitting them down safely a few minutes.
If your baby is arching they’re most likely experiencing gastric distress. If your baby is over-stimulated and overtired (awake for over 1.5hrs) distractions may help initially to shift their focus, but the goal is peace, quiet, and ultimately sleep…
Here are some more tips to try during wake time:
1. Knees to chest, circular motion, in your arms or on the changing table
2. Tummy time – 2-5min at a time 2-3x day
3. Fresh air – just open a window, step outside, or try a walk in the stroller, or carrier
4. A warm bath
5. Distraction – Turn on a hairdryer or vacuum, stare out a window, into a mirror, try talking with them, or play some music
6. Try laying under a mobile
7. Elevate the head of the crib 2in, &/or Prop on their left side for sleep. *Please monitor closely as you learn what your newborn is capable of.
8. Gripe water given before or after feeds
9. Sit straight up for burps after a feed, and keep elevated 5-20min after feeding.