It is 2 a.m. and the baby will not stop screaming. He is dry. He is fed. You have rocked him and snuggled him. Yet, time keeps passing by and he's still inconsolable. Before you pull out every strand of hair on your head, take a minute to pause and breathe deeply. There is a solution, and it's simpler than you think. Try these parent-approved ways to make babies stop crying.
Why Do Babies Cry?
Prior to three months of age, crying is your baby's only means of communication. This means that they will cry when they are hungry, tired, gassy, cold, hot, wet, or in pain. As they get a little older, teething, acid reflux, overstimulation, illness, and the desire for attention also become causes of crying.
However, for the unlucky few, colic can also bring about bouts of seemingly endless tears and screams. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, "colic is often defined by the 'rule of three:' crying for over three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for longer than three weeks." What is most notable about this condition is that it occurs in seemingly healthy babies.
Once you've ruled out the obvious causes of why your baby is crying, you can try some different strategies to help them calm down.
How to Make Babies Stop Crying
Pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp is one of America's most trusted baby experts and famous for his infant soothing techniques. Deemed the "five S's," he recommends swaddling, positioning your baby on their side or stomach when holding them, shushing, swinging, and sucking on a pacifier as top methods to calm babies when they cry. While these are all extremely effective solutions, they won't solve every problem. That's why we've broken down some of the more unique methods of how to soothe a crying baby so that you can finally get some relief.
1. Follow the 5-8 Rule
One of the easiest ways to get your baby to calm down is to simply stand up and walk around for five minutes. Seems too good to be true, right? Interestingly enough, Kumi Kuroda, the Principal Investigator with the RIKEN Center for Brain Science in Japan, published a study that found the exact parameters necessary to get an infant back to sleep. All the parent has to do is walk around for five minutes, adding in a few sudden movements, and then sit down for eight more. This allows your baby's heart rate to first slow down and then it gives them the appropriate time frame to fully drift off into dreamland.
2. Pat Their Bum
Ever wonder why your baby will sleep soundly on your chest, but break out into tears the moment you pull away? It's because they find comfort in hearing your heartbeat. This sound imprints on a child while they are in the womb. However, if he is wailing away, he may have trouble hearing this soothing sound. By gently patting his bum, you can mimic this noise and quickly end those tears.
3. Help Them Stretch
When a baby sucks on a bottle, inevitably, they will swallow some air. Add in the fact that their digestive systems are not fully developed, and it quickly comes as no surprise that your baby gets a little gassy from time to time. If burping your little one didn't do the trick after their feeding, try engaging in some tummy time and then help your baby do bicycle kicks. Both activities can work out those gas bubbles that are trapped in their tummy.
4. Take Them Into a Quieter Space
Your baby spent 40 long weeks in your womb. It was warm, dark, and quiet. This big, bright, and bustling world can be a lot to take in and sometimes your baby needs to just take a break from all the excitement. If overstimulation is the issue, the easiest way to calm a fussy baby can be to go to a quiet and dark space. Turn on a white noise machine or some calming instrumental music and lay them down in their crib. This last step is extremely important because you want to avoid engaging their senses in this instance. Why? While touch can bring comfort in some situations, it can cause distress if overstimulation is the crying trigger.
5. Enjoy Some Tub Time
The warm water of a bath can have an immediate calming effect on infants. If your baby normally enjoys their bath, consider adding in an extra session of tub time when they are especially upset. Lavender scented soaps and lotions can also help your baby to relax.
6. Give Your Baby a Massage
Research shows that infant massage can benefit both baby and parent, making it a simple way to soothe your little one and bond with them at the same time! It helps to improve their breathing, reduce stress, and promote sleep. This can also help to diminish gas. For an extra dose of calm, lavender lotions are a great choice for calming your baby or lulling them back to sleep.
7. Engage Their Senses
Sometimes a little distraction goes a long way. The best way to redirect a baby's attention can be to stimulate their senses - turn on some music, shake a rattle in their view, turn on a high contrast program like Sensory Bear, or take them outside into the sunshine. If the 'wow' factor is big enough, your baby may forget why they were upset in the first place!
8. Grab a Unique Teether Toy
If teething is the source of their pain, then give them something helpful to chew on! Textured silicone teether tubes are an excellent choice that just might bring a smile to their face. Water teethers are another fantastic option that can bring relief in seconds. These will numb their sore little gums and allow you to get a little shuteye.
9. Change Formula Types or Watch What You Eat
Tummy trouble can make anyone want to scream! Breastfeeding moms - have you eaten any spicy foods, soy or milk products, or any cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or brussel sprouts? If so, your milk may be giving your baby gas, causing them pain, or even triggering nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Formula-fed babies can also exhibit these types of symptoms and they can arise out of nowhere. If your baby is extra fussy after mealtimes, it may be time to reassess your menu options.
10. Consider the Season
Is it springtime? Has it been a dry fall? Are the ragweed levels higher than normal? If you have been suffering from seasonal allergies, then it is likely that your baby is too. Unfortunately, it is it recommended that your little one wait to take antihistamines until they are two years old, unless otherwise directed by their physician. What this means is that you need to find other ways to clear out their tiny nasal passages. Parents can accomplish this by running a humidifier, using saline drops, or by turning their shower on high heat and letting the steam loosen any mucus that has built up in their sinuses. Also, don't forget to change your home's air filters once a month and vacuum regularly, especially if you have pets.
11. Cradle Their Face
Did you know that your baby's face is extra sensitive to touch? During the first few weeks of life, a baby's eyesight is still developing. Thankfully, evolution has ensured that your little one still has the tools they need to find sustenance. This heightened feeling on their face helps them to locate their mother's nipple to feed. It can be an advantage when you want to soothe a crying baby. Simply lay them down and cradle their face in your hands. Stroke their cheek and temple. Their response might surprise you!
12. Visit the Pediatrician
If your little one has recently had a cold, they could have developed a secondary infection. Think about when your baby is crying. If the screams coincide with when they are laying on their backs, but seem to stop when they are upright, an ear infection may be to blame. This can cause extreme pain, and many times, their only symptom is fussiness when laying down. If you think this could be the cause of their cries, make an appointment with the pediatrician. They can prescribe an antibiotic and advise you on an appropriate dosage of Tylenol to help with the pain.
Remember to Calm Yourself So You Can Soothe Your Baby
Babies cry. It's an unfortunate fact of life. But if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed in the moment, take a step back. Put your baby down in a safe place, like their crib, go into a different room, and take a moment to yourself. Breathe deeply. If someone in the house can help, ask for it. Give yourself time to calm down. After all, being a parent is hard, and your mental health matters. Know that it will get easier with time and that you and your baby will find your rhythm before you know it.