Having a crying baby on your hands is distressing for any new parents, especially if you have no idea what’s causing the situation. This can be even worse for individuals who are used to having more control and find the seeming chaos of early infancy hard to deal with.
The truth is, babies will cry, sometimes for specific reasons and sometimes not. Knowing how to soothe a baby to sleep with a few useful tips and tricks, as well as being able to interpret and respond to your babies distress in the most effective way, is important for all parents.
1. “Shooshing” and Bouncing
Pretty much all parents will come to use the rocking and shooshing method at some point. It’s an almost universal technique used by parents around the world. The extent to which you bounce or rock your little one, and how loud to choose to make a shooshing sound, is up to you, but generally this can have a moderate effect on children who are fussy and displeased.
People believe this works for various reasons, ranging from simple distraction to relaxation of the muscles and mind through repetitive movements.
2. Reduce Stimulation
Could your child be overstimulated? Are they exposed to too much TV or loud sounds that could be overloading their senses?
If so, a solution could be to put them in a dark and silent room and reduce any and all noises from the home that could distract them. Even if it’s just the sound of your phone vibrating on the kitchen counter.
By blocking out unnecessary stimulation, you’ll also let them recharge their batteries a little bit so they are less vulnerable to overtiredness.
As babies are much more sensitive to slight changes in the environment, which can evoke the moro reflex, paying attention to the kinds of stimulation your baby receives can help to reduce triggers from your baby’s life, whether it’s phone’s ringing, loud music, TV or even just people talking too loudly in the room down the hall.
If you want to learn more about the baby startle reflex, take a look at our popular blog: Moro Reflex: How to Stop It so That Your Baby Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep.
3. Take a Soothing Drive
It’s not just babies, but adults almost love the relaxation experience of being driven around. It’s probably why so many people fall asleep during long road trips.
The consistent motion of the car combined with the calmly distracting sensation of the world passing by outside can help to induce some serious calm, even in the fussiest or displeased kids. But if you don’t have access to a car, it might also help to take your baby for a walk in their stroller.
The consistent motion of the car combined with the calmly distracting sensation of the world passing by outside can help to induce some serious calm.
Movement in the form of repetitive vibration can also be relaxing for babies. If you’ve ever wondered how to soothe a baby and haven’t tried this one, we highly recommend you taking your baby’s infant seat and placing it on or beside an appliance like your dryer or washing machine.
As well as the effect of white noise (more on this later). Your little one can enjoy the gentle, repetitive vibrations and achieve some well-needed calm. Just make sure your child is strapped in safety and the seat can’t slip and fall from a dangerous height.
5. A Change of Person
To the frustration of many parents, changing the person holding your baby can sometimes be the fastest way to soothe them. While this can lead to the bloated ego of a relative who considers themselves to be an instant child expert, it’s sometimes worth the price when you can get your baby to finally stop crying.
The reason for this could be that the sensation of a new person is interesting for a child, and they may become curious and distracted by the smell and feel of another person's body. It may also be that the other person is bigger, stronger or just less exhausted so can give your child a property bounce.
When you’re really tired and stressed from all the crying, your child may be picking up on your energy, and taking a break from each other can do you both a great deal of good (if you have the luxury of this).
6. A Baby Swing or Rocking Chair
Even the cheapest baby skins or rocking chairs can offer some great relaxation benefits. Inducing a kind of rhythmic bounce motion, they’re a favourite of many parents who can take a break from rocking their baby in their hands by allowing the swing or rocking chair to do most of the hard work.
7. Swaddle Your Baby
You’ve probably tried this already, but if you haven't, try swaddling your baby for greater relaxation and calm. The feeling of being tightly bound and restricted by a cozy swaddle has helped to alleviate the frustrations of millions of parents battling with the challenges of a fussy or unhappy baby.
Just make sure you follow best practices and don’t swaddle your child for too long. Some babies don't actually like the swaddle that much, and might prefer transitional products that offer more flexibility and movement. Our Zipadee-Zip for example is designed specially to soothe babies and keep them healthy and comfortable while transitioning the baby away from the swaddle.
8. Soothe Away Discomfort with Music and White Noise
In a number of studies carried out on newborns and infants, it has been found that white noise can have a positive effect on encouraging sleep, helping neonates to drop off in as little as five minutes in some cases.
Many child experts say that white noise can mimic the kind of sounds babies hear when in the womb. This can be a kind of distorted, muffled, and repetitive sound that drowns out everything else.
There are a number of ways to achieve this, and some options might work better than others, but if you haven’t tried white noise already and have been wondering how to soothe your baby to sleep, this is definitely worth a shot.
Try one of the below options and see what happens!
- Turn on the dryer or washing machine and place your child nearby
- Turn on a fan
- Start hoovering (a great way to kill two birds with one stone!)
- Make a shushing sound
- Play a Youtube recording of rainfall, the ocean, or any other prerecorded white noise sounds
Make sure you reduce the volume to healthy levels so the noise won’t contribute to any hearing loss.
9. Change the Scenery
Going from one room to another could be enough to distract your baby and induce your calm. Going further than this, you could take your baby outside or even go for a stroll down the street to a neighbor's house. A new location might draw the attention of your baby and change their mood considerably.
Going from one room to another could be enough to distract your baby and induce your calm.
10. Baby Massage
An infant massage is actually quite easy to do and can significantly help to relax your child. You can do this during bathtime, just after or simply when your child is crying and fussing. Some parents like to use baby-friendly oil to massage into the skin, while others use water and soap (more practical when your child is actually in the bath).
When to Call the Doctor
If you’ve tried absolutely everything to soothe your little one from a fit of crying our fussiness, run through some basic checks for sickness and illness. And if you’re worried it’s something serious that you can’t identify yourself, don’t feel guilty about asking a doctor for some advice.
They may be able to offer a diagnosis or help to identify signs of illnesses or related symptoms, like constipation, if you may not have discovered yourself.
When you’re trying to soothe your baby to sleep, make sure you’re still always following best practices for safe sleep. It might be tempting to give your baby a comfort blanket and toys when they’re crying in their crib, but as this increases the risk of SIDS, it’s best not to until they’re at least 12 months old.
Soothe Yourself First
Recent CDC research shows that about 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression. Many others are simply prone to exhaustion and some natural blues when faced with raising a child for the first time.
Sometimes you just need to focus on your own body to soothe your baby. Taking back a sense of control and silently communicating your restored balance can spread a feeling of calm and relaxation to your child. Despite what many people think, babies are incredibly intuitive and can pick up on what they’re parents are going through.
If you are able to, take some time for yourself to exercise and destress. Even if your baby still cries when you return, you’ll be better prepared to handle the situation and can gain some much-needed perspective. You don’t necessarily need to book a spin class to get those endorphins pumping, simply finding a way to rest and get away from the crying for a few minutes can do more than you think.
Sometimes you just need to focus on your own body to soothe your baby.
Final Tips for How to Soothe Your Baby
There’s no one thing that can help your baby to relax and stop crying. Finding out how to soothe a baby is an ongoing process that you and your child will perform together. As you get to know their needs and preferences you should be better able to calm them down when needed, and walk away at times when your little one simply needs to cry it out.