Soothing a newborn can be anything but, well, soothing. And now that my little girl is over 4-weeks-old, she’s starting to show bits and pieces of her personality – including her need to continually fight sleep. Calming her for naps and nighttime has proven to be an experiment in patience for my husband and me, as we’re always guessing which technique will work at any given moment. Is it bouncing she wants? Dimmer lights? Soft conversation? A massage? And of course, what appeases her for two minutes will suddenly stop working in an instant. Our evenings are often spent trying various soothing techniques, one after another, until finally she decides that sleep is really all she’d like. Fortunately, we quickly realized that calming a baby has as much to do with ourselves as it does with our little girl. Here are a few tips we swear by for keeping our cool while soothing our newborn:
1. Switch off.
My husband and I have an agreement that when the crying gets too much and we start to feel ourselves stressing out, we hand the baby over. Whether it’s been 5 minutes or 50, we’ll keep switching until the more stressed parent gets a break to collect themselves. And you know what we’ve found? The calmer the parent, the calmer the baby. Sometimes just switching hands will work wonders for the baby’s energy and she’s fast asleep in a few minutes flat.
2. Breathe and focus.
When I feel a cryfest coming on, I’ll often set her down in her swing and take ten deep breaths to prepare for our “soothing session.” To truly calm a baby (without getting frustrated) requires a certain state of mind, so it’s important to get in the mode early on. Then, once you pick your baby up to begin soothing her (in whatever way works for you), focus on that single task. I’ve found that when I let my mind wander to work, laundry, cleaning or errands, I can’t properly study her signals to see what she might be asking for (and I’m raising my stress level considerably!). As difficult as it may be, this is not the time to multi-task!
3. Ear plugs.
This sounds so incredibly negligent, but during those evening hours when our sweet baby is perfectly fine but really wants to exercise those lungs, my husband and I will put in ear plugs as we walk her up and down our hallway and pat her back. It helps to keep us focused and calm, which is essential when your baby has been crying for twenty minutes and nothing is doing the trick. We’ve found we can soothe her much more quickly with ear plugs than without!
4. Get flexible.
Understand that what worked last night (or even earlier in the day) might not work for her current needs. It’s a maddening feeling, yes, but once you accept that newborns are fickle and indecisive, it’s much easier to maintain your sanity when pulling every trick out of the book. Know that the moment will pass, and eventually, you’ll know your baby better than ever. But until you can decipher each cry, rest easy knowing that it’s not you – it’s your baby. They’ll settle down eventually, but it might take some time (and a lot of fortitude!).
5. Praise your partner.
During one of our daughter’s more “intense” crying sessions, my husband was attempting to soothe her and I commented on his technique, noting that she doesn’t like to be bounced so vigorously. Wrong move. Nothing makes for a more stressful situation than a screaming baby and a wife that disagrees with the way you’re handling her. Instead, wait until the baby is calm to offer suggestions, and realize that everyone has different ways of soothing a baby. What has worked for me doesn’t work for my husband, and vice versa. Just as our discipline methods will be slightly different as she gets older, our calming techniques are also unique. Praise your partner for their efforts, and when that baby finally gets to sleep, give ’em a big high five for their patience.
Happy soothing, friends! And I’d love to hear your tips for keeping calm while calming your own babies!