This is for first time moms and dads!
First of all, congratulations!
I am sure that within a week or two of having your baby home you will fall into a natural pattern of soothing your baby. You’ll start to recognize that different cries mean different things soon also.
Even though your baby is finally here at home, those first few weeks can be difficult. If you’re the mom who just delivered, you’re tired and sore and maybe a bit overwhelmed. You may or may not have help. Not having help can be really stressful since you’re also recuperating and need lots of rest which you’re likely not getting. You’re still getting to know your baby and his or her preferences and there’s no such thing as a schedule yet.
Even if you’ve been preparing for this incredible time for a long time, you can’t know what it’s really like until you experience it.
As a peds nurse, I’ve learned that there are some really simple ways to soothe newborns. I’ve worked with some medically fragile babies who have had tubes and cords and ventilators and pumps and have felt very sick so I know if I could soothe a baby that’s not even my own that you can too!
Take a deep breath and just relax.
There are a few reasons babies cry, so the first thing I do is go through my little mental checklist to make sure it’s not a quick fix.
1. Are they hungry?
Newborns especially need to eat frequently to keep their blood sugar up. It’s always worth a try to feed them.
2. Are they hungry but not latching?
If they seem to want to suck but can’t latch or start sucking then stop to fuss often they may not be able to latch properly If you’re breast feeding you’ll have to try different positions. (Breastfeeding issues are their own entity as you may know. That’s a different post). For bottle fed babies, try different positions or a different nipple. Make sure the formula isn’t too hot or cold. If you’re having more problems than those quick fixes can solve, it’s time to see the pediatrician. when hungry, babies should suck readily and eat til they are full. The suck reflex is one of the first reflexes they are born with.
3. Do they need a diaper change?
Newborns aren’t used to feeling wet or soiled so they might find it uncomfortable. (Fast forward a while and they will be crawling around with a saggy diaper that is half their weight! Lol)
4. Are they too warm or cold?
Believe it or not some babies do not prefer to be swaddled/bundled. However, lots of babies do like to be swaddled so try different ways of wrapping him or her, different weight blankets and various pressures of snugness.
5. Are they sick or in pain?
Did they just get an immunization? Perhaps position them differently so they aren’t on the injection site. Some babies do get mildly ill after vaccines which is normal. They may even have a low grade fever. Do they need their nose suctioned? Are they gassy or need to burp? It doesn’t hurt to try burping them. Feel their tummy to see if it’s firm (gassy) and watch their face and body reactions to see if touching their tummy is uncomfortable. If they are gassy you can try lightly rubbing their tummy to get things moving.
Below is an image from Pinterest I found that shows correct positions to try for gassy babies.
(Some babies are born with gerd and need some interventions, whether it be switching formulas, not lying flat after feedings or more. If your baby vomits a lot after feedings and doesn’t seem to be able to hold them down let your pediatrician know right away. you’ll know it’s not the normal “spit up” babies have because it’s a lot more in volume and frequency. Other signs are very frequent hiccups and coughing during or after feeds in addition to fussiness)
6. Are they simply tired and can’t fall asleep on their own?
After doing a quick investigation of the above five points, try rocking them in a rocking chair while holding them close to you.
I would avoid bouncing them, shushing them or letting them “cry it out.” Newborns need to be close to their moms and dads a lot. Like, A LOT, a lot. They need their environment to be as calm as possible and are sensitive to the mood of their caregivers. If you’re anxious they will be less likely to settle down.
Another tidbit of advice is to not make it extremely quiet and dark at nap time. Babies should be able to fall asleep with a normal amount of house noise and lighting. If you start doing something special you will find that they need that special thing all the time. I know one person who would rub their daughter’s back to get her to go to sleep. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the parents turned it into a routine and were doing it even when the little girl was five! One of my baby patients needed his hand held in order to fall asleep. I am not kidding you that I had to put my hand through the bars of his crib and he would hold it so tightly that even after he fell asleep, when I tried to ease it away, he’d wake up instantly! It was a real struggle to get him out of that habit. In the beginning, it always seems sweet that your baby “needs” to have these cute quirky habits but trust me, it will be torture for your child and any other caregiver (when you’re not around) when they are trying to get them to go to sleep.
A little word about “self-soothing” now. Newborns absolutely, positively have no way of doing it. They can’t just automatically self-soothe so it is up to us to soothe them. You can introduce a lovey (a soft stuffed animal or blanket) as early as your like. A mobile, sound maker or heartbeat sound machine in a stuffed animal are all nice for when he or she is feeling fine and it’s nap time but a fussy baby means something is wrong. Crying themselves to sleep out of exhaustion isn’t healthy, in my nursing opinion.
I PROMISE that no matter how fussy your baby or how often they are fussy, with patience and diligence, you can figure out what works. I don’t make promises lightly but I have never had a baby patient that I couldn’t soothe just by going through these simple steps and then, of course, for medically challenged babies, going through more steps focused on their medical problems which I can write about also if anyone is interested.
You got this Mamas and Papas!
Feel free to ask questions or leave comments!
Best of luck to you today and always!