You have a newborn baby, Congratulations! This is an amazing time in your life but can also be a stressful one with lots of ups and downs. One of the challenges all new parents face is how to soothe a crying baby once they’re fed and have a clean nappy. What next? They’re still crying what should I do?
I'm a professional newborn photographer with over 8 year’s experience under my belt (you can see my work here). I’ve seen just about all kinds of baby upsets you could imagine and I’ve developed a workflow for dealing with them too. I decided to share my top tips for settling a baby in this blog to try and help other parents with this problem.
How to stop a baby crying?
This is the pattern I follow to soothe an upset baby, in brief:
- Hunger (not discussed in detail, self-explanatory)
- Nappy (not discussed in detail, self-explanatory)
- White Noise
More tips and each one except hunger and nappy are discussed in more detail below.
Firstly, before we begin are you absolutely sure they’re not hungry? Sometimes babies have growth spurts, breastfed babies will often eat more in the evening (cluster feeding) and frankly if he/she is hungry then nothing here will help settle them. Once you’re sure then you can follow on to these steps:
Wind is my absolute no. 1 enemy. Many new Mum’s are told breastfed babies don’t need winding and whilst this may be true for some in my experience generally an upset baby has wind and it can take ages to get it out! If you’ve tried the usual positions for winding baby and it still hasn’t worked then try this:
- While sitting down lay baby across your thighs on their tummy and rub their back
- Place baby on their back and lift babies knees up to the tummy (so they have bent legs) hold for a few seconds then lower their legs to straight position again, repeat 5 times (this helps them produce bottom burps, you may find at nappy changes the same happens for the same reason!)
- Try and straighten baby as much as possible, newborns spend their whole time curled up so when you wind them in the sitting position (with your hands under their chin) try and lift them slightly to help straighten the posture – this will straighten the oesophagus and make it easier for the wind bubbles to rise up and out.
- Infacol is a very gentle medicine which can be used from birth and available in most supermarkets and pharmacies. It helps the gas bubbles to stick together and make a big bubble which is easier to burp up. Note this isn’t something I would do during a photoshoot unless the parents were already using it, however I do mention it a lot to new parents to try at home.
- Breastfeeding Mum’s might want to consider their diet. In my experience Mum’s who’ve eaten garlic, spicy food or a lot of citrus the night before generally results in a grumpy, windy, unhappy baby during the photoshoot. Also, I’ve found pizza can produce the same in babies the following day!
Ok so they’re fed and winding is not helping what next? Rocking, bouncing, movement of any kind is great for soothing upset babies. Try the following:
- Still have that giant birthing ball lying about? Try sitting on it squarely with feet spread so you’re safe and not likely to fall off. Hold baby on your shoulder so they upright and bounce! They love the gentle bouncing motion as it simulates the movement from inside the womb (this is also why they like being in a moving car)
- Put them in the car seat (yes they will probably cry at the putting in) then move the handle into the upright position and lift it up. Swing back and forth gently, they love this the only problem is getting them out again without waking them up!
- Get a baby sling. My second son was so unsettled he refused to go in a Moses basket or cot completely. I ended up getting a few different slings and we both fell in love with them. Baby is strapped to your chest, can smell you and feel supported and comfortable. The movement of you walking around is similar to being in the womb so he feels relaxed. Chances are he’ll fall asleep in there.
- Go for a walk. You probably already know this one but sometimes you can’t beat getting out in the fresh air with baby in the pram or in a sling. The change of environment helps you both and can be excellent for diffusing a stressful situation.
3. WHITE NOISE
This goes hand in hand with rocking. You’ll often find me during a newborn photo shoot bouncing baby on my shoulder whilst making a long shhhhhhhhh sound into their ear. It really does help settle them.
- Many parents go sh sh sh in small quick sounds. What babies prefer is one long shhhhhhhhhhhhhh instead close to their ear. You can even buy a baby shusher now (which I have and thoroughly recommend) to do it for you (although that doesn’t go close to the ear). I got mine off amazon but there are multiple stockists available. Find the baby shusher here - (disclaimer: I have no connection with this product and am not affiliated in any way)
- Put the Moses basket/car seat/birthing ball next to the washing machine whilst it’s in use. The noise and the general warmth that you usually find in a utility room is perfect for baby settling! This also works with hoovers although is harder unless baby is in a sling as the noise is coming from different places as you move around.
- As parents we found at nighttime that lullabies and toys which play music can be helpful although not so much when newborn. These are better when babies are slightly older but definitely worth a try anyway. During photo shoots I play ‘Piano Lullabies for Babies’ which is available on spotify and amazon music.
Is your house cold? Babies hate the cold. This one is tricky because of course we are constantly being told these days to be careful of overheating and absolutely you do need to keep an eye on this. However it’s worth trying wrapping an extra blanket round while you’re cuddling them to see this helps sooth the baby.
- Another thing to try is warming the cot/moses basket with a hot water bottle before you put baby in. If they’re asleep in your arms then taking it out right before you put baby down should help make the transition easier (NOTE you must remove the hot water bottle before you put baby down – leaving it in could result in overheating)
Always a sensitive subject! If you don’t like this idea then just ignore but personally despite my good intentions prior to becoming a Mummy I found a dummy invaluable. My two were both milk monsters and constantly wanted me until I was felt completely drained. The dummy helped a lot so I could grab a shower/cup of tea etc. I also find it really useful during photoshoots to settle a crying baby.
- Tip … after putting the dummy in try tapping on it gently to encourage baby to suck. They might need a few attempts at it over a few days it won’t come naturally first time to them
So that’s it! I really hope it might help a new parent out there (or possibly a more experienced one). If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask, I might not have all the answers but I’m happy to provide a comforting ear and help if I can.
Lastly if you suspect there might be something more troubling for your babies crying never hesitate to ask your midwife, health visitor or doctor. Trust your instincts Mummy’s!!
Much Love to you all