It is extremely disconcerting when you’re a new parent, and you can’t settle down your fussy baby.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own mom close by, you may be amazed at how quickly she is able to calm your baby. This is not necessarily because she is a baby whisperer, but rather because, over time, moms figure out the proven methods of calming their fussy, colicky babies.
And you will too!
Below is a helpful guide to help you become a pro at settling down your fussy baby. This guide is a collection of advice offered by experienced moms who have been where you are.
Scroll down for your FREE “How To Calm A Fussy Baby” Checklist.
How To Calm a Fussy Baby?
This is super obvious but it needs to be said – babies can’t talk so they communicate by crying. Therefore, calming a fussy baby is the process of figuring out why he/she is crying.
As you become more experienced, this will become second nature to you. Before long, you may even know what is wrong by the sound of your baby’s cry.
Fussy Baby? Check The Basics
Figuring out the source of your baby’s fussiness is a process of elimination.
You’ll want to start by ensuring your baby’s basic needs are met. They are as follows.
Is Your Baby Hungry?
Keep track of feeding times and look for early signs of hunger, such as lip-smacking or moving his/her little hand to the mouth.
If it will help, keep a diary of when your baby is awake, asleep, eating, and crying. Write down how long it takes your baby to eat or if your baby cries the most after eating. Talk with your child’s doctor about these behaviors to see if her crying is related to sleeping or eating.
(If you are breastfeeding and you want to maintain your milk supply, it is important that you nurse on demand. If you nurse on demand, your baby’s fussiness will not be due to hunger.)
Is Your Baby Wet Or Soiled?
Some babies are okay with a wet diaper. Some are not and they’ll let you know, too. Check the diaper and eliminate that as a cause of your baby’s fussiness.
Is Your Baby Hot Or Cold?
Check your house temperature. Also, check if your baby is near or under a vent/ draft.
Dress your baby in about the same layers of clothing as you are wearing to be comfortable. For example, if you are wearing a t-shirt and a sweater, your baby may need that too.
Do keep in mind that if your baby is in a baby swing, he/she may feel cold because the swing is closer to the floor.
Is Your Baby Spitting Up, Or Vomiting?
Spitting up is common in new babies and it’s nothing to be concerned about. Some babies may also have symptoms of acid reflux/ gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Acid reflux too is quite common and your baby is likely to spit up quite a bit.
However, if you feel uncertain or you think your baby is vomiting, do contact your pediatrician. When it comes to babies, it’s always better to be safe.
Is Your Baby Overstimulated?
Having a new baby in the house can be very exciting, especially for guests. Perhaps your baby was passed around so many times that he/she is overstimulated.
It’s also entirely possible that the bright lights of the tv may be annoying for your baby, or the music in the background may be too loud and rowdy.
If you suspect your baby is overstimulated, turn off the lights, tv and all electronic devices.
Is Your Baby Sick?
Does he/she feel warm? Have you checked for a fever?
If your baby is younger than 2 months and has a fever, call your child’s doctor right away.
If your baby is 3 months and older, he/she could be teething. When teeth cut through gums, it is painful for babies and other than being fussy, there may be no outward signs.
Are Your Baby’s Clothes Uncomfortable?
Check your baby’s clothes. There could be a tag scratching him/her.
Also, check that it’s not too tight or uncomfortable. The fabric may be itchy on your baby’s skin.
Check tight-fitting pants that could push against the belly and cause uncomfortable gas pains.
Is Something External Bothering Your Baby?
A hair may be twisted around your baby’s little finger, cutting off circulation. Check the diaper too – a hair may be twisted around his little penis. There could be a hair in baby’s mouth, or eye.
Your baby’s foot may be cramped, or maybe your baby wants to be taken out of one position and put into another.
Is The Pacifier Clean
Perhaps your baby wants the pacifier, but spit it out because it had a bad taste. Rinse it thoroughly to be sure.
Is Your Baby Uncomfortable During Feedings?
If you are feeding your baby with a bottle, check the bottle nipples. Perhaps the milk isn’t coming out fast enough or it’s coming out too fast. You may need to test a few bottle nipples to see which baby bottles your baby prefers.
Perhaps your baby is hungry and eager to eat, but sucking or swallowing is hurting. Acid reflux may be a cause – check with your pediatrician.
If you are nursing and you had spicy or garlicky foods, your baby may not like the taste of your milk.
Has Your Baby Been Burped?
Gas can be extremely uncomfortable for a little person. Always burp your baby after feeding.
Does Your Baby Have Excess Gas
If your baby has persistent gas even after being burped, here are two effective methods to relieve your baby’s gas:
- Sit down on a chair and lay your baby across your legs. Gently rub your baby’s back. Your baby’s belly on your legs, along with the gentle rubbing on his/her back is often enough to get rid of the excess gas.
- Lay your baby on his/her back and move their legs as if they’re riding a bicycle.
If you suspect there’s more gas but you can’t get rid of it, talk to your doctor about over the counter medicines that you can use, like infant gas drops. Lots of babies take gas drops.
Is Your Baby Tired?
Babies get really cranky when they are tired, and for the most part, babies are unable to go to sleep by themselves.
Unless they’re being lulled to sleep by a moving car or a swing, they usually won’t fall asleep by themselves. Put your baby to sleep according to a schedule. If you are unable to do that, make sure you put your baby to sleep the moment you first see them yawning, rubbing eyes or ears.
How To Comfort A Fussy Baby?
Babies love to be held and comforted. Often, picking up a baby will stop the crying.
Once you know that none of the above-mentioned basics apply to your baby, you can try any of the following tips to soothe your fussy baby.
Swaddle Your Baby
Babies love to be swaddled. The idea of getting your arms tied down and unable to move may feel like torture to us but for a baby, it is very comforting. It reminds them of being in the womb. It makes them feel safe.
When it is done right, swaddling can help calm your baby and also make it easier to get your baby to sleep.
Swaddle your baby in a large, thin blanket. Muslin blankets are perfect for swaddling.
Shhh Your Baby
The ssshhhhhh sound mimics the sound your baby heard when he/she was in your womb. While your baby is swaddled and you’re holding him/her close, whisper ssshhhh into your baby’s ear while rocking them.
Rub Your Baby’s Back
Hold your baby over your shoulder and rub his/her back. If the cause of baby’s fussiness is gas or digestion, this will help.
Offer A Pacifier
Sucking soothes and relaxes a baby.
Play Calming Music
If the cause of your baby’s fussiness is that he/she is tired, the soothing sounds may be distracting.
Turn On White Noise
White noise can be very calming because it can remind your baby of what it was like in the womb.
You could use a white noise device, a fan, a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, or install a white noise app on your phone.
Or, you could put on 10 hours of white noise, courtesy of YouTube.
Carry Your Baby In A Baby Carrier
All babies want to be close to their mamas! It beats lying down in a crib, all by themselves. Being carried in a baby carrier is very soothing, and being strapped to you can also remind your baby of being in the womb.
Take Your Baby For A Car Ride
The consistent movement of a car can easily lull a baby to sleep. Babies love falling asleep in a moving car.
Gently Rock Your Baby
Do this by holding your baby close and supporting his/her head and neck. Rock your baby no more than 1 inch back and forth. Watch the video for expert instructions.
Put Your Baby In A Swing
The rhythmic motions of a baby swing is very soothing for little babies – kind of like a moving car. Do make sure that it’s not going too fast.
Hold Your Baby Skin To Skin (AKA Kangaroo Care)
The Kangaroo Care method is very effective, especially for preemies. It is an old method but it is still used in hospitals today.
It’s simple – both moms and dads can do this.
Kangaroo Care is the act of holding your baby chest to chest, skin to skin.
You will need to undress your baby down to a diaper, and put him/her against your naked chest. If it’s cold, you can cover your baby’s little body as seen below.
Push Your Baby Around In The Stroller
Babies love gentle movement, so a walk around the neighborhood in the baby stroller will be very soothing.
Rock Your Baby In Different Positions
This effective method, shown below, is very effective at calming a fussy baby.
Hold your baby on his/her stomach, hold their heads securely and gently shake their booty.
Use The Vibrations Of The Washer/ Dryer
If you happen to be doing the laundry, put your baby in the car seat and place the car seat on top of the washer/ dryer – ALWAYS holding firmly onto the car seat. The vibrations of the washer/ dryer are very soothing.
Offer A Baby Massage
Babies love to be touched. With a massage, they receive the benefits of a relaxing massage and your touch.
Soothe Baby With The Colic Hold/ 5S Method
For this to be effective, hold your swaddled baby facedown on your forearm – like a football. Cradle baby close to you and rock him/her gently. Offer a pacifier and ssshhhhh your baby.
Change The Scenery
If all the obvious problems have been eliminated (hunger, fatigue, gas, etc), a simple change of scenery may turn your fussy baby into a calm baby. Often, distracting your baby is enough to calm him/her down.
Relieve Your Baby’s Boredom
Older babies do get bored. Dance with your baby, play peek-a-boo or have some playtime on the mat.
Cuddle Your Baby
For the 9 months, while your baby was in your womb, he/she was always with you. Now that your baby is out of the womb, it may get lonely in the crib, all by themselves. Sometimes a cuddle is all they need.
Your baby will grow quickly and if you miss the opportunity to hold your baby now, you may regret it later once they’re bigger. Don’t worry about those who say that you will spoil your baby. Food spoils. Babies don’t.
When All Else Fails, Give Dad A Shot
This is an effective method because the change may catch your baby off guard. That may be enough to stop the fussiness. It also allows you to take a much-needed break.
Fussy Baby: The Usual Culprits
Overfeeding causes discomfort. Try to wait at least 2 to 2½ hours from the beginning of one feeding to the next.
Bright Lights And Noises
Some babies like different kinds of music and lights, some don’t. See if there is a change in your baby’s fussiness if you bring down the noise and lights.
Also, if you’re changing your baby’s diaper during the night, avoid bright lights and noises, like the TV.
Breastfed Babies – Discomfort From Mom’s Diet
Food sensitivity is often the cause of discomfort for breastfed babies. Your intake of dairy, caffeine, gassy or spicy foods are often the culprits. Speak to your child’s pediatrician for advice.
Don’t worry about needing to cut certain foods – babies tend to quickly outgrow these food insensitivities and you may resume your usual diet.
Formula Fed Babies – Sensitivities to Formula
If your baby is particularly fussy after eating and being burped, ask your child’s doctor if you should try a different formula. A change in formula has been shown to be helpful for some babies.
If your baby vomits after drinking formula, your answer may be more obvious.
Either way, do check with the pediatrician.
Note From The Author
I have 5 children. My first two were fussy but miraculously, the following 3 were not. This is not because they were just good babies, but because I had learned so many tips and tricks that I knew what to do.
If I could offer advice – make sure your baby eats and sleeps enough. Honestly, if you feed your baby, burp him/her and put them to sleep regularly in a quiet room, you usually should not have hassles. Of course, I am not counting illnesses, teething, and acid reflux here.
With my first baby, I thought that if he was tired, he’d just fall asleep. Despite reading so many books about babies, I was so ignorant then! I laugh about that now but I share that with you because just putting my baby to sleep regularly would have saved a lot of fussiness.