You have tried everything. You fed. You burped. You rocked. You swaddled. You are tired, and pretty darn distressed yourself.
Since you are the only adult in the room, you have to act like one and soothe your crying baby.
You thought you hit all the checkboxes but for some reason it isn’t enough.
Before we further investigate what’s going on, let me tell you this…you are doing a GREAT job mama!
In my previous years as a NICU nurse there were times I had no idea what I should do for this sweet little creature I was charged to take care of.
It is important to remember to be patient with yourself and this brand new family member as you get to know each other.
When you have done everything that seems natural to soothe your fussy baby it might time to look at the situation analytically, or as a nurse would…
From the top of their tiny head, to the bottom of their little toes.
This post contains affiliate links. Please read our full disclosure here.
How to Soothe a Crying Baby When You Can’t Figure Out what’s Wrong
As I mentioned before, babies who won’t stop crying likely have a physiologic reason that they can’t get comfortable.
The hard part is figuring out exactly what is wrong because they can’t use words.
In this post I am going to teach you how to do a simple assessment of your baby so you can intervene and make them comfortable. We will start with the top of their head.
Physiologic reasons for pain
- Feel the top of your baby’s head where the soft spot is. Is it sunken in like a valley. This could mean your baby is dehydrated. Try to push fluids. If they won’t breastfeed, use a plastic syringe and slowly place drops of breastmilk in the side of their cheek.
- Take your baby’s temperature with an at home thermometer. Make sure you do this under the armpit. Normal infant temperatures ranges from 97 to 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit. There is no need to take an infant’s temperature rectally. The axillary temperature gives an appropriate indication of the infants true temperature therefore it is unnecessary to subject your baby to the additional stress and the invasive hazards of rectal temperatures. (source) If your baby is too hot, try removing layers. If you are concerned your baby may be sick then support them naturally by keeping them hydrated. Do not try to artificially lower an infants temperature with Tylenol. Their body is doing this for a reason.
- Is your baby hungry? Newborn babies will drink breastmilk or formula every 1-3 hours. As babies grow they can sustain longer periods without eating however, every child is different in how often they like to eat. General guidelines for infant feeding schedule found here.
- Is your baby eating too much? Feel their tummy in the upper left corner. If it is bulging out and she is continuously spitting up, it may be a sign of overfeeding. Just like we do not feel good from overeating (think thanksgiving dinner) babies can experience over-fullness as well. Although it is very rare to overfeed an infant, it can happen. Perhaps your baby is eating too fast and swallowing air. Try to slow the pace by pulling her off the breast or removing the bottle. Burp your baby by gently tapping and rubbing her back.
- Could he be having pain from reflux? This is quite common because their esophageal sphincter is still developing. Signs of reflux include: arching, spitting up, hiccups, refusing to eat, and irritability while feeding or shortly thereafter. Hold baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding to aid in the forward movement of digestion. Natrum Phosphoricum 6x is a safe and effective homeopathic remedy that neutralizes stomach acids and aides in digestion. It can be given 3 times a day and continued until symptoms resolve. To give to a very small baby, dissolve 1 pellet in a tbs of water and use a syringe to feed it to your baby.
- Does your baby have gas pain? Babies can develop gas for many reasons including drinking too fast, swallowing air bubbles from mixed formula, or extended crying. Breastfed infants can develop gas when mom eats certain foods such as cabbage, beans, or dairy. If you are worried that your baby is reacting to something you are eating you can try an elimination diet. I must admit this will be no fun for you, but if you are determined to breastfeed it may be helpful. Help your baby release the excess gas by gently massaging her belly in a circular motion. You can also place your baby tummy down on your chest and rub her back. If this does not help, lay them on their back and slowly bicycle their legs. There are also some safe, natural remedies for gas such as gripe water.
- Are you a breastfeeding mama? If so, look at your diet. Are you eating a lot of fast food or processed food. This stuff isn’t great for you or your baby and chemicals could be passing through your breastmilk and making your baby feel sick. If you can, switch to eating organic whole foods. Check out my list of the best foods to eat for breastfeeding moms.
- Does your baby constantly poop? Some infants will develop a mean diaper rash. If your baby’s butt looks very red, try using some Redmond Bentonite Clay paste to provide a barrier and heal their skin. I wrote a whole post on how to heal diaper rash related to yeast overgrowth.
- Teething could be the culprit. Infants start teething at various times but can be as early as 4 months. You may notice that your usually happy baby becomes fussy for no apparent reason. She may start to have sleep regression or diarrhea. A very common sign of teething is drooling and you will start needing a bib on 24/7. There are natural options to relieve pain from teething and provide comfort.
Psychological Reasons for pain
Once you are assured that baby’s crying is not due to a physical need, it is necessary to consider your child’s emotional requisites.
- Overstimulation could be a cause for fussiness. Babies may be in sensory overload if they are exposed to a new environment, passed around by many people, hear continuous loud noises, or if they are kept awake for extended periods. Decrease stimulation by not talking for a bit or take your baby to a quiet room. If overstimulation is the culprit, avoid continuously rubbing your baby. It may seem against your instincts but just hold her in a relaxed steady manner. If she becomes calm, you may even take this chance to lay her down in a safe place to sleep. It is important to protect children against too much stimulation because their new bodies can’t take it. This includes the TV because of the rapid moving objects and changing lights.
- Understimulation is also a reason for fussiness. Just like adults, children get cabin fever. Moms I know you are tired and it is tempting to stay around the house all day, but changing the scenery will help stimulate new neuron connections in your baby’s brain. Go for a short walk. It’s a great way to provide a low-key enriching experience for yourself and your baby. Yes, home delivery from Amazon is convenient, but there are many shapes and colors for your baby to observe at the grocery store. Opt to give your young baby a new visual experience every once in a while.
- Babies need physical touch. Without it, your child could experience cognitive development delays. Skin to skin contact is extremely beneficial for infants, especially during the early newborn phases. One great way to increase physical contact with your baby while still being able to use your hands freely, is by using an infant wrap. The bouncing motions you create while babywearing will soothe your little one like they were in the womb.
- Perhaps your baby is feeding off your behavior. If you are in a chronic state of stress, the atmosphere will exemplify that. Stress hormones can be passed through breastmilk. (source) Take a moment to evaluate the things that are adding to the stress in your life and make changes to minimize them.
Techniques to comfort your baby
- Swaddle baby tightly
- Make shushing noises or turn on white background noise
- Place baby in a swing
- Bouncing motions
- Place baby belly down and gently pat their butt
- Administer the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla for inconsolable babies
- Nurse for comfort
- Get baby outside for fresh air
- Put baby down for a nap
How to Deal with Colic
Colic is defined as excessive and intense periods of crying in an otherwise healthy infant. There does not seem to be a clear underlying reason for this and no amount of comforting helps. Colic can develop early but may peak from 6 weeks to 4 months of age.
If you think your baby has colic keep in mind that you may not be able to quiet your baby from crying, but your efforts are still comforting and providing positive feedback. This too shall pass.
Sadly, one in five infants may develop colic. It is best not to face this situation alone. Hearing your baby cry can be very distressing and you NEED to take a break.
There will not be lasting psychological effects from colic, which is why it is important that you as a parent do what you can to keep your sanity. NEVER SHAKE YOUR BABY.
You may not be in a situation where help is easily available.
I am a military spouse so I know this first hand. When I cannot console my son I simply place him safely in his crib and go to a place that I can’t hear him to take some deep breaths.
It helps me to read forums where other mothers have told similar stories. This provides a sense of community and a knowing that it will not always be like this.
Please feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with soothing a crying baby. Just remember that these moments we are navigating are a blip on the map in comparison with the lifetime of joy ahead.
If you can practice positive mental affirmations during this time you will have a better experience no matter how difficult the situation. Life is really lived between the ears.
Remember to take care of yourself and do something everyday that is just for you. Something that makes you happy.