Babies fuss for a variety of reasons.
The most obvious reasons are a hungry baby or a sleepy baby. Other common, but less obvious, reasons include:
Fed too much: Baby can feel bloated after too much milk.
Temperature: Baby may feel too hot or too cold
Dirty diaper: If a diaper is left soiled, it can irritate the skin and become uncomfortable.
Colic: Often a cause of recurrent crying in the first few months, crying for over 3 hours a day, other reasons ruled out.
Pain: Related to stomach ache, ear ache, diaper rash.
There are specific sensory-motor components that can calm a baby.
And those things are what your baby experienced for 9 months while in the womb. They include:
There are many calming techniques you can try.
Here are 8 baby-calming techniques, each of which incorporate those 4 sensory-motor calming components:
1. Wear your baby: Use a sling-type baby carrier, which provides great physical contact and calming deep pressure to the nervous system. Introduce movement with walking, swaying, or light bouncing and calming sounds like "shhhhh," or even just the sound of your voice. Offer a pacifier to suck on. However, as I have mentioned in previous posts like this one, limit the amount of time you wear your baby. Dedicate it to when your baby needs comfort or is sleepy, then take him/her out when she is calm, awake, and happy. Baby carriers restrict freedom for random and independent movement necessary for physical development.
3. Nestling at your neck: Such a snuggly position! Hold baby on your chest, supporting under his bum, with this head nestled in by your neck for great physical contact. Introduce some movement by walking, swaying, or dancing, and soothing sounds. Offer a finger or pacifier to suck on.
4. Walk in stroller: Carriages are designed to be comfortable, providing a physical support for your baby. Being pushed in a stroller provides a calming rhythmic motion. Introduce sound by talking to your baby, or using a sound device of some sort (lots of white noise app options on our phones these days). Offer something to suck on.
5. Swing baby: Swinging in a linear fashion can have great calming effects, as linear movement contributes to the overall organization of a baby's nervous system. But, be careful not to use swings too much, as a baby may bond too strongly with it. Offer support for sound and suck.
6. Dance with baby: Try linear movement like up and down, back and forth, side to side. This stimulates the vestibular system, which plays a big role in self-regulation and calming the nervous system. Be careful with spinning, as this is very alerting sensory input, and can be overstimulating. Sing to your baby while you dance, or put on soothing music. Bust out those ballroom dance steps!
7. Bounce baby: You can bounce in various positions and at varying speeds. Play around with this one and see what your baby responds best to. Offer a sound and a suck option.
8. Go for a drive: If none of the home-based strategies have worked, it may be time for a drive. Driving provides rhythmic motion and soothing sounds from the road.
Remember, babies have individual needs.
When trying a calming strategy, one size does not fit all. It may take a little while to find a technique that works well for your baby.
The bottom line: If you're trying to calm down a fussy baby, try to re-create the womb.
Experiment with the 4 sensory-motor calming components (physical contact, rhythmic motion, soothing sounds, and sucking), and you and your baby will find your fuss-busters!
meet the blogger
Austen is a pediatric occupational therapist with experience in schools, early intervention, and private clinic settings. She now runs her own private practice in Portland, OR specializing in movement based learning techniques. This blog's mission is to educate and empower parents and children by sharing insights into the complexities of learning and development.