How to Calm a Fussy Baby: Learn What Works

White noise, swaddling, carriers and pacifiers

A swaddled baby crying.

White noise, swaddling, carriers and pacifiers

Babies communicate through crying, and their parents usually understand what they’re trying to express. Infants cry differently when they’re hungry, tired or feeling out of sorts. But sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what they want.

Staying calm and using soothing techniques to comfort your infant can help while you figure out what’s bothering your baby.

“Calming a fussy baby can sometimes require a bit of trial and error. It’s okay if one method doesn’t work. Simply try another,” says Dania Lindenberg, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest in San Diego. “Gently rub your baby’s back, sing to them, or even take a walk outside. But most importantly, know that it’s okay to seek help.”

When to seek help

“If you’re ever unsure about why your baby is crying or you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to call a friend or family member. They might provide the support and fresh perspective you need,” Dr. Lindenberg says.

Always remember that if your baby cries a lot and nothing helps, there might be a problem. Your baby may be sick, or there might be some discomfort they can’t communicate. In such cases, always consult with your pediatrician.

4 ways to soothe crying baby

Remember a few general tips before learning specific soothing techniques. Check for the basics: a dirty diaper, hunger, or a sign that the baby might be unwell, like a fever.

The following tips are ways to soothe a fussy baby.

1. Calming noise machines

A white noise machine can work wonders for parents struggling with a fussy newborn. The sound reminds them of the constant noises they heard in the womb, which can be very soothing.

When the baby cries, activating a white noise machine can often help them calm down and even drift into sleep. This method is especially effective during the night when everything else seems quiet.

2. Swaddling

Swaddling your baby can make them feel secure, much like how they felt in the womb.

Swaddle snugly enough so that the arms stay down, but make sure there is enough room for movement of the legs. The blanket should be loose, allowing your baby to breathe easily, but not too loose that they can escape or suffocate.

A well-swaddled baby will often stop crying as they feel snug and secure. Make sure the baby isn’t wrapped up for too long each day. It’s essential for them to have time to move freely and exercise their limbs.

In addition, only swaddle when it is time for baby to sleep. Once your infant can roll over, usually around 4 months of age, stop swaddling.

3. Slings and carriers

Holding a baby or using a sling to carry them close can make them feel safe. Walking or swaying in a rocking chair with the baby against you can calm them down.

Carrying your baby in a sling is safe. Just make sure to keep their nose and mouth uncovered. Also, make sure their airway is clear.

Make sure that your infant is not in a curled position, with the chin to the chest, which can obstruct breathing.

“I encourage parents to wear their babies,” says Dr. Lindenberg. “It’s a great way to have skin-to-skin contact and bond.”

Baby carriers like slings and wraps are also a handy way to keep your baby close when you're out and about.

If you have concerns over how to properly wear your baby, babywearing groups can help — ask your pediatrician to recommend one.

4. Pacifiers

Pacifiers rank with many parents as a must-have to calm a fussy baby. Many babies are happiest when sucking on something. A pacifier can help settle a fussy baby and keep him or her content.

If your baby is still fussy after feeding, offering a pacifier might help. Some babies simply enjoy the comfort of sucking, and a pacifier can meet this need when it's not feeding time.

“Avoid the risk of choking or strangulation by never tying a pacifier around a child’s neck or hand. Always make sure the pacifier is clean and be cautious of over-reliance,” Dr. Lindenberg adds. 

“As parents, we all want to make sure we are keeping our baby happy and safe,” she says. “My best advice is to stay calm and carefully research methods of soothing your infant. In most cases, using restraint and caution will keep your baby happy and safe.”

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