Every parent knows that there are some days when babies are just especially cranky. Their diapers are dry, their bellies are full, they don’t need a nap, but they just aren’t happy.
Babies are each so unique too — what works for one baby will just annoy another, and sometimes it’s the strangest things that do the trick for them.
When I had my first baby, I tried to soothe her with traditional things — rocking in a rocking chair, singing her lullabies and gently swaying. It turns out she hated all of that, and loved big movements and entertainment. She liked to march down the hallway, facing out, while I made big, exaggerated bounces (and lots of stops to look in the mirror as we passed). My second baby was more traditional — rocking and swaddling were her go-to favorites (along with Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page”). The third and fourth babies each had their own little magic buttons too.
It’s generally pretty easy to know the root problem of your baby’s fussiness. Perhaps he’s gassy or has teeth coming in. Maybe she’s overtired but just doesn’t want to sleep. Sometimes babies are just bored and unhappy. Knowing the basic problem helps find the best remedy. You wouldn’t want to do bouncy, loud activities for your overtired baby, for instance, but one of the mesmerizing tricks might be just the ticket. Wide awake babies who are fussy from mild pains might appreciate the distraction of peek-a-boo, and overstimulated babies often respond really well to baths and swaddling.
For those days when your usual tricks just aren’t working, here’s a list of 40 things to try to turn things around.
1. Nurse her or give her something else to suckle on (suckling releases feel good chemicals in babies and toddlers).
2. Look in the mirror together and make faces.
3. Take a bath together.
4. Carry him in a sling. Try fast walking, swaying and dancing especially.
5. Give her a pacifier if you use one.
6. Go for a walk outside and change the scenery.
7. Look at a book together, especially one that features pictures of babies or bright colors.
8. Hold baby facing out, under the arms or around the tummy and swing and bounce (he can see the world, move, and the pressure may relieve gas pains).
9. Try teething tablets or other homeopathic teething remedies.
10. Use white noise like vacuums, showers or running the dishwasher.
11. Try swinging together.
12. Add some clothes or take some off. Some babies are bothered by stiff clothes and uncomfortable materials, while others might be fussy because they’re cold.
13. Try skin-to-skin contact. Put baby just in a diaper on Mom or Dad’s bare chest. Many babies find this immensely soothing.
14. Switch off (sometimes babies just want a different face for a while).
15. Give him a stack of cups and show him how to take them all out and stack them, bang them and nest them.
16. Swaddle him.
17. Distract her with toy keys (traditional keys contain lead), bells and other noise makers.
18. Turn down the stress level– reduce the lights, the noise and the stimulation.
19. Try a CD of soothing sounds such as the ocean, a stream or rain.
20. Entertain him with finger plays, funny songs or other silliness.
21. Rock in a rocking chair together.
22. Show her something mesmerizing. Babies are often fascinated by simple objects that spin or move, such as pinwheels, mobiles, snow globes and even ceiling fans.
23. Give him an icy washcloth to chew on in case he’s teething.
24. Lay baby face-down across your lap and gently pat his back and bounce your legs slightly. This can help with gas pains.
25. Play a video or CD that features children singing. Many babies are especially captivated by children — watching them and listening to them.
26. Put on headphones and dance with her (the headphones help your nerves!).
27. Try a scented massage with a soothing scent like lavender (massage the tummy especially, in case baby is gassy).
28. Whisper “shhhhh” softly while comforting him.
29. Be totally silly.
30. Videotape or record him and play it back.
31. Sing songs. Try all different ones. Babies tend to have their own preferences.
32. Play peek-a-boo
33. Hold baby facing out, under her arms (across her belly) and walk around. Be especially bouncy. This helps on three counts — baby is entertained looking at the world, baby is bouncing, and the gentle pressure across her belly helps relieve gas pains.
34. Go for a car ride.
35. Dr. Sears (askdrsears.com) recommends the “neck nestle.” He says: “Here’s a high-touch baby calmer where dad shines. While walking, dancing, or lying with your baby on your chest, snuggle her head against the front of your neck and drape your chin over her head. Then hum or sing a low-pitched melody like “Old Man River” while swaying side to side. The vibration of your voice box and jaw against your baby’s sensitive skull can often lull the tense baby right to sleep. “
36. Try a bouncy seat. Some even vibrate and have hanging toys to distract little ones.
37. Sympathize. One of my babies would only be consoled by hearing, “Poor baby, yes, poor little boy…” over and over again in a soft voice close to his ear.
38. Try playing various kinds of music with different types of instruments.
39. Go find a fish tank. Many babies are fascinated by watching colorful fish.
40. If all else fails, give the baby to someone else who’s loving, calm yourself, and give yourself a break — babies pick up on our stress level, so you have to keep yourself happy too!
Feel like you’d like some more guidance in parenting matters? Here’s a list of organizations that offer parenting classes in the Mankato area.