There’s nothing quite like the sound of a newborn crying, which can make the coldest of hearts ache. In fact, a friend of mine told me once that when she heard a stranger’s baby crying in the supermarket, her own boobs started leaking milk. True story. It’s a funny thing, but Mother Nature has kind of designed us to have an emotional (and physical) response when a newborn cries, to ensure the baby gets the attention it needs.
That explains why it’s so darn stressful when it’s your own newborn crying, which can be utterly heart-wrenching when you’re the one who has to figure out what your baby needs. You’re not alone if you find this scene incredibly challenging, although if you end up getting stressed and anxious when your baby is crying, this can make the whole thing even worse, as your baby will likely pick up on your energy.
If you can stay calm, on the other hand, soothing your fretful baby will be a lot easier for you both, as keeping your cool under stressful conditions will go a long way in convincing your baby to do the same.
The good news is, there’s plenty of techniques for soothing fussy babies that can also help calm you down too.
Here are some you can try next time your baby is unhappy:
1. Baby wear
Sometimes just being close to someone can be enough to calm a baby down. Using a baby carrier can be helpful here, because it means your arms can get a rest while your baby gets to snuggle close to your heartbeat, scent and boobs. Plus, keeping baby close and feeling his stress melt away can be soothing for you too, especially if you get to butter a piece of toast or leaf through a magazine while he’s content – and your arms are free.
Shushing is similar to white noise, which is very soothing for babies because it replicates the sounds of the womb environment. When done effectively, a long, exaggerated SHUSSSHHHH can be a great stress release for you when you’re starting to feel a little pent up. Think of it like an ‘IN WITH PEACE, OUT WITH STRESS’ type mantra.
3. Change the scene
Being stuck in the house with a crying baby can start to feel like the walls are closing in on you. If nothing seems to be working to calm your baby down, try a change of scenery by popping bub into a carrier and heading out for a walk. There’s a good chance the change will shift her energy and it should help your nerves to get out and about in the real world. Plus, your baby’s crying never seems quite so loud when you’re out in public.
4. Swaddle and hold close
Small babies love to be secure and contained, so swaddling can work a treat if your baby is stressed out and overtired. Wrapping your baby snugly (but not too tight) and holding him close to your body can be instantly calming for him, plus soothing for you as you watch your cosy baby drift off in your arms.
There’s a reason why nursery rhymes have been around for a gazillion years, and continue to be popular with babies. They tend to keep a steady beat with a predictable pattern, which babies can’t help but be transfixed by – the sound of your voice all soft and melodic will be a big hit too. Also, it’s very difficult to stay stressed when you’re singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
If you’re not a fan of singing or can’t remember the words to any lullabies, then try humming a tune instead. Babies will still love hearing the melody, plus humming triggers a relaxation response in your body, causing muscles to loosen up, your heart rate to slow down and your blood pressure to drop.
7. Bottom Pat
Your baby developed in utero alongside the steady beat of your heart and all the rhythmical workings of your inner body, which means he’s now hardwired to respond positively to rhythmical beats in the real world. A steady bottom pat while your baby is in your arms can therefore be instantly soothing for him – and the rhythm can be relaxing for you too.
Babies are primed to be soothed by sucking, so a breastfeed can be very effective in helping when they’re stressed out and unhappy. And the bonus for you when you breastfeed is a feeling of deep relaxation. Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is also known as the anti-stress hormone and is responsible for feelings of love and bliss.