Nothing can quite prepare you for those first days with a newborn. The sleepless nights are one thing, but the crying baby that you haven’t yet figured out is probably the most trying part of those early weeks and months. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with a few strategies to try, and hope that one (or more) works for your little one.
No guarantees, but the below strategies have all worked for many parents, including myself.
First, Ask Yourself The Right Questions
Is your baby hungry?
Could they be gassy from eating and need a burp?
Is their diaper in need of a change? Yes, again. Sorry mama, they sneak those little messes in minutes later after a change sometimes!
Are they overtired? Overstimulated, perhaps? If you don’t have your little one on a solid schedule yet, trust me when I tell you that a regular routine really does help with the overtired, overstimulated episodes which lead to more crying. Your baby’s only way to communicate with you is through crying. And, when one they are in need of all of the above – that is how they will let you know.
Hold Them Like a Doc
Sometimes you can’t prevent crying because you know you are about to put your little one through something that will be uncomfortable, like getting their immmunizations. So, what should a mama do? Well, Dr. Robert Hamilton has perfected what he calls ‘The Hold’ where he calms babies in a matter of seconds. It’s the most amazing thing.
Shush and Bounce
First, this particular strategy doesn’t mean you’re bouncing the baby if they are a newborn and have no neck or body control. You are the one doing the bouncing at that age and stage. Hold baby close to you, supporting their neck and body, then go up and down in the same steady rhythm at the knees while making a shushing sound that matches the rhythm of your bounce.
I couldn’t believe it when I saw this used the first time. A friend of mine, male friend, not a father yet, just a guy who happened to be great with babies showed it to me when I was an exhausted new mother. I’ve never forgotten it and it was a tool in my crying-baby toolbox for all three kids. Give it a go.
Belly Down Sway
When baby is a little older and can comfortably and safely lay tummy down across your legs (independent neck strength is key here) you can sway them from side to side while supporting them with your hands on their back. If they have a gassy tummy, this can help work some of those tougher bubbles out. Sway slow. This isn’t a swing mama.
Swaddle Them Up
Many newborns love to be swaddled. This isn’t a practice meant for after they get to the age of rolling or mobility, because of the need for SIDS prevention, but it works well for those earlier days when they are on their back sleeping and you want to avoid the startle reflex and/or offer them that cozy ‘in the womb’ feeling. This can often comfort a new baby who is fussy. Add in a sway while standing or a shush from the strategies above, and that may help them settle down as well.
The most important thing to remember is that if you’ve made sure your child isn’t sick, their diaper is clean, and they aren’t hungry and you find yourself super frustrated – it is ok to step away for a minute and gain your composure. And, when I say step away, I mean, set them down in the safety of their crib or pack n’ play and step outside of the room, or just out of earshot on your patio to gain your perspective back.
We’ve all been there. That moment when you think you can’t take anymore and you don’t know what else to do. Desperation can sink into those moments and you don’t want to go there. Step away. Call in a friend to help you out. Trade favors with another mom. It’s ok to ask for help. Access your ‘village’ of friends of family to get through it. Your baby’s only way to communicate is crying, and in time, you and they will figure out how to manage this new world.
Looking to connect with moms who get the ebbs and flows of late nights and fussy babies? Download the mom.life app and meet them there! They know exactly how you feel.