You’ve fed your baby. You’ve changed your baby. You’ve soothed your baby. You’ve sung to your baby. He’s been burped. You’ve fed the baby again. You’ve tried everything!
He. Is. Still. Crying.
What do you do now? Why did no one ever teach you how to stop a baby from crying?
Relax and take a deep breath. That’s why we’re here! Read on to find out what you can do about it so you can get back to enjoying the fun parts of being a parent.
The 5 S’s
One of the simplest methods for learning how to stop a baby from crying, “The 5 S’s” is a technique developed by Dr. Harvey Karp to simulate the feeling of being in the womb.
Some experts refer to the first three months of a newborn’s life as “the fourth trimester.” Basically, they theorize that babies are born “too early” and are not developmentally prepared to be outside of the womb. By recreating a womb-like environment outside of the womb, however, you can “trick” the baby into thinking they are still cuddled up safely underneath your rib cage.
So, what are the 5 S’s?
Wrapping your little one up like a “baby burrito” looks strange, but it provides a snuggly sensation that babies love.
The idea behind swaddling is that the tight (but not too tight!) wrapping mimics the snug feeling of the womb. Think about it: your baby has spent the last few months being snugly held in place in a warm, dark environment. Suddenly, they’re pushed out into a bright, cold world. Yikes!
Swaddling helps remind your baby of the “good old days” when they were still in the womb. Ahh…memories…!
2. Side/Stomach Position
The second “S” refers to placing your baby on their side or stomach to soothe them. This works so well because it overrides the Moro, or startle, reflex.
Although the term might be unfamiliar to you, you’ve likely seen the Moro reflex in action. This occurs when a baby is startled and extends their arms and legs in response. While adorable to watch, your baby is usually not comforted by this reaction.
Most researchers believe that the startle reflex is an instinct that hearkens back to when our environment was a bit more dangerous (think saber toothed tigers). It is thought that should a baby fall, it can reach out and grab on to their mother. Don’t try that though. Seriously. Don’t.
When a baby is placed on their back (the safest way to sleep!) it can sometimes feel like they are falling. When the Moro reflex is triggered in this way, your baby wakes up feeling scared…and starts to cry.
When soothing a crying baby, therefore, place them on their tummy or side. This acts as another type of swaddle and can even encourage them to burp (if that’s what’s causing their fussiness). Remember, never allow your baby to sleep on his or her belly until they are at least a year old.
No, you’re not going to shush her like you’re in a library. Shushing creates ambient noise, which is a useful tool when trying to calm a baby.
Most parents tiptoe around their newborn babies, so as not to disturb them. But remember, it is VERY noisy in the womb. With spikes of 90db it’s no wonder that a quiet room can make a baby uneasy. Recreating some of that noise can help your baby to feel calmer.
You don’t have to make this noise yourself, however. (That would be exhausting!) Rather, invest in a good sound machine or run a vacuum cleaner.
Did you know that a baby waking at night is partly the mom-to-be’s fault? Sorry moms, but it’s true!
During pregnancy, the mother’s walking actually rocks the baby to sleep. As soon as you lie down for the night, your baby wakes up for a midnight dance party. After birth, however, all that lovely movement suddenly stops. Baby is stuck in a crib or bassinet most of the time.
This is where a swing can save the day (and your arms!). If you can, try different positions (incorporate the side holding with swinging) until both you and your baby are happy.
Your baby is born with the sucking reflex fully developed (which is great…can you imagine teaching a newborn how to eat?). Sucking is how newborn babies eat and the action brings a sense of comfort and fulfillment.
When your baby starts to cry, most parents’ first instinct is to feed them. But what if they’ve eaten a full meal and they’re still inconsolable? The problem probably isn’t lack of food, but lack of the comfort of suckling.
If you’re just starting out breastfeeding, allow your baby to nurse for a bit to calm them down. Once your baby has developed a good latch (or you’re bottle-feeding), you can offer a pacifier or allow them to suck their thumb.
You won’t be able to figure out how to stop a baby from crying if you’re nervous, stressed, or angry. So, ask yourself how you’re feeling.
Are you feeling stressed, sad, or overwhelmed? Tired? Hungry? Self-care can be difficult for new parents, but it’s important to take care of yourself. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
If you’re feeling frazzled, hand the baby off to your partner and take a breather. If you don’t have help, put her down in a safe spot so you can regroup. Sometimes we just need a minute to regain our composure and THAT IS OK.
Emotions are a normal part of being human…especially as a new parent. But if you are unable to function or you’re having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, consult your medical professional so they can screen you for postpartum depression. Nobody will judge you and they will be armed with the tools to help you feel better.
Take a Walk
Not only is it great exercise, but the sensory stimulation and fresh air might be just what you need.
With plastic, light-up baby toys in bright primary colors inside a room where you can’t see the sun or feel the breeze, modern homes have a tendency to be simultaneously over- and under-stimulating.
The Great Outdoors, however, has the perfection level of distraction. Baby will see the world bustling around her, hear the birds chirping, and see the cars zoom by. She might just forget that she was crying in the first place!
Swaddling and swinging are great, but sometimes, you’ve got to have two hands. Enter: babywearing!
Find an ergonomic baby carrier that allows your baby’s legs to splay out in the M-shape recommended by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. This brings the baby close to you (like the womb!) AND gives you your hands.
Bring on the arms so we can tackle the dishes! Or the remote. Either works.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a parent that has ever said having a baby is easy. But it is manageable. After all, humans have been doing it since the beginning of time.
With these tips, you should know how to stop a baby from crying—if not all of the time, then at least some of the time. When all else fails, remember that these periods of newborn crying are a phase. Before too long, you’ll be able to ask them what’s wrong (and actually have them answer!).