Remember the last time you went to the grocery store without your baby? Remember suddenly realizing (after a minute or two of standing in the freezer aisle, staring blankly at the doors) that you’d been swaying back and forth the entire time? Don’t be embarrassed; every other parent in the store has done it, too. We’re hardwired to calm our fussy babies, even when they are blocks away.
Fussiness in babies is a generalization that can be applied to any number of irritants, and you might never know what’s distressing your little one, but the good news is that it might not matter. Calming your cranky baby is all about mastering the art of distraction. Next time you’re at a loss about how to calm your cranky baby, put some of these little secrets into action.
1. Wrap ‘Em Up
That womb was pretty tight and cozy. It’s a big world, and sometimes, your little guy just misses his small nest. Learn to swaddle your little one – It looks far more complicated than it is, and it can work wonders. Wrapping a very tiny baby with his arms inside the swaddle controls his flailing and can help him calm down sooner. If the lights are low and the blanket is warm (say, a couple of minutes in the dryer), it’s even more delicious for your baby.
Okay, this is obvious, but really, never underestimate the power of rocking your baby. Sometimes, the cuddling and repetitive movement is just enough to lull your baby back into a calm state. This also works while sitting in a rocking chair or bouncing on an exercise ball.
Some babies really dig the baby swing, which is a welcome relief for your back. You can get swings that rotate in several directions or at varying speeds, play music or white noise, and have mobiles. Chances are your child will fall asleep or be captivated by this contraption in short order. No swing? As a last-ditch effort, strap baby into her carseat and just swing the whole thing like a pendulum. Then take a painkiller, ’cause that can get tough on your poor body VERY quickly.
4. White Noise
Overstimulation is a pretty common cause of fussiness. Maybe your little peanut just needs to chill. You’d be amazed by the amount of ambient noisemakers in your daily life – put these to good use, just keep the volume low.
Turn on the hairdryer, or hold her while you vacuum (two birds with one stone, right?). You can even download “free noise” from several places online. The sound of *almost* nothingness can be just the lulling sensation your baby might be craving.
Soft humming or low, slow music can have a similar effect.
5. Good Vibrations
There are several models of bouncy-infant chairs that have a vibration mode. Creepy or hilarious as it may seem to you, it can make your baby very content. Alternately, you’ve probably heard of the notion of strapping your baby into her carseat and setting her down near the running washing machine (or on top of the machine ONLY if you have one hand on the seat at all times). It works. So does putting said baby into the actual car and driving around. If you knew how many sleep-deprived new parents were on the road at 1am, you would never go out.
6. Have some fun!
Let’s face it, your baby can get bored. Even if you’re exhausted, it doesn’t take that much effort to entertain your little one. Try playing music, dancing, making silly faces, or tummy time on the playmat. The mirror is a sure bet – try playing “near and far” with your baby’s reflection. Never underestimate the power of peek-a-boo.
7. One is the Loneliest Number
Sometimes, all it takes is a cuddle. Little babies really respond to skin-to-skin contact. If you’re in a place where you can do so (or you’re an exhibitionist), take your own shirt off, strip your baby down to his diaper, and lay him on your chest, near your heart.
8. Hands On Parenting
Sometimes it’s hard to be a baby. Just like you, occasionally your fussy little love just needs a break. Try giving your baby a massage. There are countless classes and resources on the proper way to practice this, but your baby will be equally content if you just slowly, methodically rub her soft skin with some calming lotion.
9. The Change-Up
If your baby is stuck in a screaming rut, try a change of scene. Almost all babies love to go outside, regardless of the weather (if there’s no hope of getting a coat on, just wrap her in a blanket or snugly inside your own jacket). A *real* breath of fresh air can do wonders for the soul.
10. Pass The Baton
There will be times when you’ve exhausted your supply of tricks. If nothing will placate your baby, try passing him off to someone else for a few minutes. Even the tiniest of babes can sense when he’s in the arms of his primary caregiver, and sometimes breaking that tie for a moment will be enough to catch him off guard and stop the whining. At the very least, you will get a chance to get back into the right headspace – remember that your baby’s cries don’t affect other people as much as they affect you (until toddlerhood).