CARE AND FEEDING BASICS
How to Calm a Fussy Newborn
Learning techniques to help calm your baby is valuable for a new parent, especially in the early days when parents may be exhausted from the birth and still learning to feed their babies.
First, is one of these three common issues causing your baby discomfort?
- Is your baby hungry again? See if your baby needs to eat again. New babies need to eat every 1.5 to 3 hours with the potential for a 4-hour stretch at night. These intervals are from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next.
- Is your baby feeling gas pains? If your baby is arching their back or bringing their knees up to their chest, they may have gas or need to burp. Burping techniques or gentle tummy massage may be helpful.
- Does your baby have a dirty diaper? Wet diapers are uncomfortable for babies. Check the diaper, and change it if it is wet or dirty.
If the cause of your baby’s discomfort is not one of the issues above, consider these 10 techniques:
- Skin to Skin: Try skin-to-skin contact (STS). Put the baby — wearing only a diaper — directly on your bare chest. Put blankets over you to keep the baby warm with body heat. Skin-to-skin helps to regulate temperature, breathing, and even blood sugar. Encourage partners to do this too!
- Swaddling: Swaddling can mimic the feeling of being in the womb. This technique is best used in the newborn period, before the baby can roll over.
- Babywearing: Try wearing your baby in a sling or carrier as often as you can. Babies love to be close to you, and since your hands are free, baby wearing will allow you to do other tasks! There are many carriers available. You might even try a class on baby wearing. Babies may take a while to get used to the sling, so don’t give up too fast.
- Shushing or White Noise: Turn on a fan, find a white noise app on your phone, or invest in an inexpensive white noise machine. If none of those work for you or your baby try “shushing” verbally. This may mimic sounds in the womb and calm your baby.
- Use Your Voice: Sing! Babies love the sound of your voice and may calm right down.
- Sucking: See if the baby will calm by sucking on your clean finger. Put your index finger slowly into your baby’s mouth, fingernail side down on tongue. Gently touch the roof of the baby’s mouth to stimulate sucking. Let baby suck for a little while to see if this will calm them.
- Movement: Babies love rhythmic movement. While in the womb they were soothed by the body’s repetitive rhythms. Rock in a chair, walk, bounce, sway, swing, or dance with your baby.
- Get outside: Get some fresh air. Most babies love the outdoors and may instantly stop crying when you go outside. Try going for a drive if the weather is less than ideal.
- Bathing: Give your baby a warm bath. Some babies love the feeling of water. Again the idea is mimicking the womb. Once you are cleared for bathing by your care provider after birth, you can even bathe with your baby for some extra skin to skin time.
- Massage: Find an infant massage class in your area, or watch our video about infant massage techniques (below).
Above all, try to relax.
Know that the tough times are temporary and will pass. Babies often respond to our moods and pick up on stress around them. Many baby soothing techniques will help calm you too.
If fussiness is interfering with feeding, talk to your lactation provider for more ideas or an assessment. Call your healthcare provider if your baby is unable to calm down after trying the suggestions above.
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