How to Soothe a Fussy Baby

There is nothing more frustrating to a new parent than not being able to soothe a fussy baby. After all, being a parent is all about keeping our children happy and healthy, and when we are unable to calm a crying baby, we feel like we are somehow letting our child down.  

The first thing I tell my patients to do is to figure out exactly WHY your baby is crying. Here some of the most common reasons for baby fussiness: 

What Your Baby May Be…

  • Hungry:  In addition to keeping track of feeding times, look for nonverbal cues your baby may be hungry such as the smacking of lips or moving fists to the mouth. 
  • Wet: Check his diaper.  You can expect to change a newborn’s diaper every two or three hours in the first few months.  
  • Too Hot (or Too Cold):  Love this tip from What to Expect: “When it comes to your baby’s nursery, think Goldilocks: You don’t want the room to be too hot or too cold.” If the room is too hot for you, it’s going to be too hot for your baby. Adjust the temperature and remove (or add) some of the layers. 
  • Overstimulated: Since this often happens during or after big events—such as a family gathering—try and take your baby to a quiet space and dim the lights. 
  • Bored: Take your baby for a walk or quietly sing him a song. 
  • Sick: Check your baby’s temperature, relieve congestion with a nasal aspirator, or look for other signs your baby isn’t feeling well.  Call your doctor with any concerns. 

Here are a few other tricks that work for soothing a fussy baby:

  • Swaddle your baby in a large, thin blanket to make him feel secure. Here’s a great video on how to perfect your swaddling technique. 
  • Turn on a calming sound. I recommend finding sounds that will remind the baby of being inside the womb, such as a white noise machine or a fan’s humming. There’s actually a Spotify list filled with “womb sounds” like a mother’s heartbeat—download it here
  • Encourage sucking.  Help her find her thumb, fist, or fingers. Or, simply offer one of your own fingers.  Babies often soothe themselves with nonnutritive sucking. 
  • Take a walk.  Even if you need to move the stroller throughout the house, the gentle motion often calms a crying baby.  If you don’t have a stroller handy, any motion will do—try rocking your baby or putting her in a motorized swing or seat. 
  • Take a bath.  A tub of warm water tends to mellow out even the crankiest of babies. 
  • Change holding positions:  Sometimes, a crying baby needs a little pressure on his tummy to relieve gas.  Try holding your baby so they’re lying on their side or stomach in your arms. Remember always to place infants on their back when they are out of your arms. 
  • Get outside.  This is good for both of you—a little fresh air, some movement, new sites, and smells.  Everyone will feel calmer by the time you get back inside. 

Many of a baby’s fussiest moments come from bedtime.  Click here for some additional sleep tips for your newborn.

When is it Colic?
Colic follows three rules: A baby is crying for more than three hours at least three days per week for more than three weeks. Colic, which can start just a few weeks after birth, is generally at its worst during 4 to 6 weeks of age, with babies growing out of it by the time they are 3 to 4 months old. 

Here are some other symptoms of Colic:

  • Crying for no apparent reason. 
  • Crying around the same times each day.  You will find that colicky babies are usually fussier toward the end of the day. 
  • Crying like they are in pain.
  • Turning bright red when crying or clenching fists and curling up their legs.

Although doctors are not sure what causes Colic—and there is no way to prevent it—you can ask your pediatrician for tips on feeding and holding your baby that may relieve some of the symptoms. 

There will be times when you try everything I’ve mentioned, and you still can’t seem to soothe your little one.  The truth is, babies sometimes cry for no real reason, and although it should bring you comfort to know you have done everything you can, you may still be feeling a bit exhausted and stressed.  

If you can, take some time for yourself—even if it means putting the baby down in a safe place (like a crib) for just a few minutes to calm yourself down.  Take some deep breaths, drink a glass of water, maybe even put on some soothing music—take a few minutes to yourself so you can be there to help your child.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussions about health and medical issues and is provided as an entertainment and informational resource only. It is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This blog is opinion based and these opinions do not reflect the ideas, ideologies, or points of view of any potentially affiliated organization. The information on this blog may be revised and/or otherwise managed.