8 Ways to Soothe a Fussy Baby


8 Ways to Soothe a Fussy Baby

It's 5:00 PM, that time of day when things are winding down, you're ready to sit down to a nice dinner and maybe some music or TV before bed. Or, as your baby likes to call it, the witching hour.

Crying, fussing, cluster feeding, squirming – your baby seems almost inconsolable even though they just polished off a breast or bottle. This can make your stress levels rise until you feel dangerously close to combustion, and be pretty disruptive to your family's evening routine. So here are eight tips for calming a crying baby and bringing harmony back to your home.

  1. Walk

Babies may not be able to tell day from night, but they can sure tell when you've put them down and sat on the couch. Almost all babies will stop crying if you hold them securely while walking and swaying back and forth.

2. Swaddle

To a new baby, who is accustomed to being tightly curled up in your womb 24/7, suddenly being able to flail about can understandably be a bit alarming. Young babies usually benefit greatly from being tightly swaddled in a soft, thin blanket, keeping them warm and allowing them to feel snug and secure. Check out this swaddling technique video!

3. Sing

Your baby likes the sound of your voice, and even recognizes it from being in the womb. Sing to your baby – it could be a lullaby, or Led Zeppelin for all your baby cares – and you'll see them start to take notice and give you a suspicious look even as they slow the crying.

4. Bounce

This is the advanced version of walking, for super grumpy babies. If you think about it, they were bounced all the time whenever you moved around in pregnancy. Try gently moving them up and down in your arms, or lying them across your lap and jiggling your legs. You can also use an exercise ball to sit on and hold your baby while typing, visiting with a friend, or doing another task.

5. Pat

Whether your baby is lying in the crib, in your lap, on the floor, or in a bouncer, you can use the flat of your hand to soothe them with firm patting on the back or bottom. This will create a gentle body rocking motion that not only soothes and settles, but encourages falling asleep as well.

6. Shush

White noise helps many babies settle down and fall asleep – and stay asleep. Try using a rhythmic shushing pattern with your mouth while you walk, bounce, or pat your baby. You can also use a white noise machine, app, or even this unique baby shushing tool (it really helps!).

7. Turn Out the Lights

By the time 5:00 PM rolls around, your baby could easily be suffering from overstimulation from the lights, sounds, and activities of the day. You can help by turning down the lights and creating a darker, more peaceful environment for your baby. Bonus: this will also help your baby start to learn the difference between day and night.

8. Recreate the Womb

This is the ultimate takeaway for you today: recreate the womb for your baby. Understand that while yet unborn, your baby was perfectly content with snug security, constant movement, muffled sound, and darkness. You can mix and match any of these techniques to find the perfect combination of movement and sound that works to calm your fussy baby. As your baby grows older, you may find that you need to try new things as their needs evolve.

A fussy baby is an added stressor on top of the usual demands of round-the-clock feedings, spit-up laundry, and recovery from childbirth. While these techniques will help to calm and soothe most babies, you should also ensure adequate support as well as rule out any medical conditions causing your baby discomfort. Sometimes, conditions like ear infection, colic, sore neck, or a tongue tie can interfere with your baby's ability to eat, poop, and sleep properly. You should know that it is completely okay to place your baby down in a safe place for a few minutes so you can collect yourself, if you become overly stressed.

Your postpartum doula is a lifesaver for the witching hour. She can keep the baby calm and happy while you perform your evening routine, or serve dinner and color with your older kids while you lie down in bed with your cluster-feeding baby. Whatever your support system during the newborn phase, your new normal will eventually settle down into a pleasant predictability – we promise!