The most important skill to have as a new dad (if you wish to maintain your sanity) is being able to calm your baby when she cries.
Whether your baby cries a lot or a little will largely determine whether your new dad experience seems easier than you thought or a whole lot harder. Unfortunately, whether you get a really happy baby or a cantankerous caterwauler is pretty much a crapshoot. Regardless of the straw you draw, here’s how to soothe their wailing.
Why is my baby crying?
It may seem like your baby is crying as part of some malevolent plot to melt your brain. But usually there’s a reason; remember, when something is bothering her, she doesn’t have any way to communicate besides howling. Therefore, when you’re trying to soothe your scream-machine, it’s helpful to run through a mental checklist of what could be putting a bee in her bonnet:
- Dirty diaper?Doesn’t have to be full of poop. A big ol’ wet, soggy diaper can bring them to tears too.
- Needs to burp?Try the different positions mentioned in our other article ( how to burp your baby) to get the burp out.
- Gas?Try laying your baby on her back and then moving her legs and hips up and down like she’s riding a bicycle. Or gently massage her tummy in a circle. You can try over-the-counter remedies like simethicone and “gripe water,” but they haven’t been proven to work and honestly we had zero success with them with either of our kids. I think when people believe they work, the gas would have gone away on its own anyway.
- Physical discomfort?Is the baby too hot or cold? Is there something on her that’s too tight or scratchy? I once had a very fussy Scout on my hands, and she wouldn’t calm down no matter what I tried. I was getting pretty annoyed with her, when I realized the little pieces of hair that had stuck to me after getting a haircut that morning were now all over her. Gave her a bath, and once again had a happy baby on my hands.
- Lonely?The world is a big, unfamiliar place for your baby. If she wakes up and no one is around, she might cry out for some company and just want to be held.
- Overstimulated?The womb was a pretty boring hang-out, so too much new stimuli all at once can make your baby feel overwhelmed. Take her somewhere quiet to decompress.
- Hungry?Give her a bottle or hand her over to mom for some breast milk.
- Tired?Time for a nap.
- Fever?An easy-to-use forehead thermometer is a must for when you have a baby. If the reading says she’s running a temperature, you can give her some paracetamol syrup. Be sure to check with you doctor for the right dosage, which depends on the babys age/weight. Never self medicate or overdo the dosage! Please consult with the doctor before administering the remedies
If you go through your checklist, and none of the fixes stop your baby’s wailing, you may just have a case of undiagnosed crankiness. Happens to all of us. Here are some potential soothers:
- Stick a corkpacifier in it. Not all babies take to the pacifier, and there are pros and cons to using one, but they can definitely work wonders in silencing a cantankerous newborn.
- Put the baby in a motorized swing.Neither of our babies ever really liked the ubiquitous baby swing, but works like a charm for others.
- Babies like being tightly wrapped – it reminds them of being back in the womb. Swaddling a baby using a blanket is pretty simple – but we really like these Velcro swaddlers for further idiot-proofing the process.
- Run the vacuum.The womb was a surprisingly loud place, so replicating that kind of white noise can put your baby at ease. Running your vacuum next to them can be amazingly effective; it’s like a hypnotist snaps his fingers and says, “Sleep!”
- Take ‘em for a drive.When all else fails, stick the baby in her carseat and take her for a drive. Highly effective at calming a baby down — and your wife will be incredibly grateful to you for removing the scream-machine from the premises.