tips for calming a fussy baby

Calming a fussy baby

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Calming a fussy baby

There are few things more stressful than a very fussy baby that won’t stop crying. The most common reason babies get fussy is because they’re overtired. But when babies are overtired, it can be even harder for them to fall asleep. It's a cruel, vicious cycle, but below are some tips.

1. Is your baby overtired or is it something else?

if your baby is fussy, check for physical discomfort
Check for physical discomfort

Change soaked or poopy diapers.

Check if baby is hot or cold by placing your hand on baby's neck or belly. If baby feels cold, add a layer of clothes. If they feel warm or sweaty, take off a layer. If they feel very warm and look flushed, take their temperature to make sure they don't have a fever.

if your baby is fussy, check if baby is hungry
Check if baby is hungry

Offering a feeding; your baby may be hungry even if they ate recently.

if your baby is fussy, assess whether baby is overtired
Assess if baby is overtired

The length of time young babies stay awake at a time (known as a "wake window") can be shockingly short.

If your fussy baby has been awake longer than or at the high end of their window, they are likely overtired.

Newborn Wake Window Guide

Newborn Wake Window Guide

2. If you suspect baby is overtired:

Help baby calm down and fall asleep however you can by replicating the womb to the extent possible. Then in the future you can work to prevent overtiredness and teach baby to fall asleep independently.

if baby is overtired, get away from stimulation
Get away from stimulation

Remember, the womb was pitch black with muffled noises - replicate that!

Go to a quiet, dark room with no screens.

if your baby is overtired, make a steady calming noise
Make steady noise

Continual whooshing sounds can mimic sounds of blood flowing near the womb.

Turn on a sound machine, make your own "shushing" noise, or hum softly.

if your baby is overtired, try moving around slowly

Mom's every movement rocked the baby while in the womb, often to sleep.

Rock, sway, walk back & forth in a dark room; babywear for a walk outside, or even go for a car ride.

if your baby is overtired, try feeding or nursing
Nurse / feed or pacifier

Sucking has a calming effect on babies, lowering heart rate and stress levels (especially when it comes in combination with warm milk).

3. If you think it's something else:

Other tips parents swear by for calming fussy babies:

Give baby a warm bath

Go outside; there's something calming about being outside for all humans, big and small

Go skin-to-skin

Bounce on an exercise ball

Snugly swaddle baby

If your baby is at least several weeks old and still early in their wake window, they could be bored. Try:

Dancing, singing, playing with a fun toy or high contrast book, looking in the mirror, or just being goofy

If your baby is relentlessly fussy for hours and nothing is working

Give your pediatrician a call to make sure nothing else is going on

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