How to Soothe a Newborn

January 1, 2017
How to Soothe a Newborn

It is normal for babies to cry when they are hungry, tired, overstimulated, have a dirty diaper or are ill.  Sometimes babies seem to cry for no reason.  It can be very frustrating to be around a crying baby.  If you feel overwhelmed and/or angry, try to get someone to help you care for the baby.  It is OK to put a crying baby in a safe place (like a crib) and give yourself a break and go into another room for a few minutes if you’ve had enough.  Walking away with your baby in a safe sleep space (where they can be alone) is much better than getting to a point where you can’t control your actions.  You can also always call your baby’s doctor and let them know you are overwhelmed and can discuss strategies to help soothe the baby.

A Note about Touch

The importance of touch is now well researched and can provide many benefits to your babies’ growth physically and emotionally.  Use gentle touches and skin-to-skin contact during care routines (bath, diaper changes) and to soothe your baby when they are upset.  Touch can help facilitate the bond between you and your infant.

Tips to Soothing a Baby

Try to remember the following ways to soothe a fussy baby and help them sleep or settle down.

  • Sucking – try a pacifier – many babies are soothed by sucking on a pacifier, your finger or their own hands.   Pacifiers are fine to use once breastfeeding latch has been well established, have been shown to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and should be used when placing your infant down to sleep.  Pacifiers should be cleaned and replaced often, never coated in any sweet solutions and should only be offered when you are sure that the infant is not hungry (never delay or replace meals with a pacifier).  Never tie pacifiers to the crib or around your child’s neck or hand.  At one year of age, you may discuss how – and when – to start weaning your child from the pacifier.
  • Swaddle – most babies love the secure feeling of being swaddled.  The swaddle can help soothe a baby and decrease crying from their startle reflex.  Swaddles can be done with arms down, arms up by the infant’s face, with one arm out, etc – as long as the infant appears comfortable.  Swaddles also need to be snug so that the baby does not easily break out of them (remember, no loose blankets in the crib!) and it is fine to transition to Velcro swaddles as soon as you wish.  We recommend removing the swaddle and transitioning to a sleep sack after a couple of months or when your baby is consistently breaking out from the swaddle.  Never place a swaddled baby on their side or stomach.  Also, remember to make sure your child is not too warm even if it is winter time.
  • Shushing – many babies will quiet down when they hear “white noise” – this can come from a white noise machine, an app on your phone, you saying “shhhhh” close to their ear, or a household sound like a vacuum or hairdryer.
  • Stand and bounce – find the right rocking/swaying position that works for your baby.  Sometimes the “stand and bounce” can be very successful for calming little ones down and keeping you moving.
  • Your voice – trying talking or singing to your baby when they are upset.  They know the sound of your voice and it can help to calm them (as long as your voice is soothing and not stressed!).  Talk about anything (we call this Sportscasting) that you see around you or things you are feeling (even if it is frustrated!).
  • Most importantly – NEVER SHAKE A BABY!!