NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Calming a Crying Baby

cuddling a baby


Do you ever catch yourself swaying back and forth while you watch a mom or dad doing the same thing in an effort to calm their own crying baby? 
I do! 

Swaying a baby is one of techniques in a five-step sequence that can help stimulate the calming reflex when a baby is fussing or crying.   Using all five techniques, in the proper sequence, and in the proper manner, creates an environment that makes the baby feel safe and secure.  When that happens, the baby’s own calming reflex is stimulated, which is very beneficial to the baby and his/her care providers. 

Being over-stimulated, as well as being under-stimulated or sensory deprived, can cause babies to cry.  The five-step process for calming a crying baby helps prevent both extremes.

The five steps are:
Side/stomach position when being held
Shhh-ing (shushing)
Swinging (swaying)

Swaddling is nothing more than wrapping a baby snug, but not too tight.   It prevents the baby from flailing his arms and hands.  Care must be taken so that the swaddling blanket doesn’t become loose and endanger the baby.

Holding the baby securely in a side laying position or up to your shoulder also helps keep the baby from flailing.  However, it is vitally important to remember that babies need to be laid on their back when put to bed to decrease the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Shhh-ing means creating a “white noise.” Say a long, drawn-out “Shhhh” about two to four inches away from baby’s ear over and over.  Other alternatives to create “white noise” are to run a bathroom exhaust fan, faucet, hair dryer, or white noise machine, or play recorded sounds.

The fourth step is swinging.  Support the baby’s head, neck and shoulders and start with gentle, tiny, short (narrow), quick, rhythmic, repetitive movements that are more like quivering or jiggling than swinging, while at the same time maintaining the three previously described steps.  Rocking chairs, bouncy seats, or baby carriers may be helpful.  Gentleness is key. 

The baby’s head should always stay in line with his body and never go more than two inches from side to side.  Any more than that, and you run the risk of causing shaken baby syndrome.  If you have become tense, frustrated, anxious, impatient, or angry, put the baby safely in his crib for a few minutes while you calm down, or ask someone who is better in control of them self to help you. 

Sucking is the fifth step.  It is a self-calming activity for babies.  A pacifier is helpful for this reason.  To help the baby learn to have a strong suck, slightly tug on it 10-20 times a day when he is calm.  This will stimulate him to suck hard enough to keep it in his mouth.  

For more suggestions, visit https://medcom.uiowa.edu/health/how-to-calm-your-fussy-baby/

Photo Credit:  https://pixabay.com/en/baby-boy-child-cuddle-cuddling-84639/  (Downloaded 4-6-16)

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