You’ve fed them, changed them, cuddled them, put them down for a nap. But they’re still grizzling. We’re not talking about the distressed cries of a baby in physical pain or the relentless bawling of colic – just enough low-level noise to make it clear they’re feeling cranky and need some attention.
With no language available to them, you may never discover the root of your little one’s fussing but there are a number of ways you can soothe or simply distract them. Next time you have a grouchy baby on your hands, work your way through these tried-and-tested tricks.
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Holding your crying baby in your arms while swaying your hips from side to side is a natural, primal response for mums. In fact, it’s not uncommon for new mums to find themselves doing it in supermarket queues and at bus stops when the baby isn’t even around. And now there’s scientific evidence to suggest it really can work. A Japanese study published in Current Biology found that the heart rate of crying babies slows down when they are in put in the arms of their mothers and carried about – so long as she stays on the move.
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The art of wrapping a baby snugly from the neck down has been practiced by countless cultures for thousands of years. The idea is that by mimicking the cocoon-like environment of the womb, it promotes a feeling of security and calms the baby down if they are distressed or over-stimulated. If you are going to try the technique, always use a thin blanket or muslin to prevent your baby from overheating and ensure their legs are in natural ‘frog’ position – and not forced straight – to avoid potential hip and joint problems.
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Whether it’s the sound of a hairdryer on full blast or the quiet hum of a car engine, many babies are soothed by the sound of white noise. “In the womb, babies are… constantly surrounded by the loud whoosh of blood rumbling thorough the placenta (it’s noisier than a vacuum cleaner!),” says paediatrician Dr Harvey Karp in a blog for the Huffington Post
. “This sound switches on the calming reflex and helps infants (and many big kids and adults) drift into slumber.” And if walking back and forth with the Hoover doesn’t appeal, there are lots of white noise apps available that mimic the sounds of household appliances.
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Soothing techniques are useful for calming down an over-stimulated baby. But what if you have an under-stimulated baby on your hands? This calls for some multi-sensory action, so get out the rattles and shakers, put on some pumping sing-along tunes and blow away the cobwebs with a musical jam session.
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Spending the day cooped up inside isn’t good for you or your baby. Take them out in the pram or for a drive to help snap them (and you!) out of a grizzly mood. The change of scene, fresh air, and endless stream of sensory stimulation passing by are ideal for perking up an under-stimulated baby, while the soothing motion could calm them down if they’re feeling over-stimulated. Even better, see if any other local mums are free for a stroll round the park. Just the sight of a friendly face can be a great release for you when you’ve been listening to a crying baby all day.
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Sometimes a baby just needs his mother’s loving touch. Newborns, in particular, have just spent nine months cosseted in the womb. It’s not surprising the world can feel like a daunting place. If a simple cuddle isn’t doing the trick, take off their vest and your top and soothe them with some tender skin-on-skin contact. You could also try giving them a calming massage, which can be especially beneficial when they’re feeling frustrated or over-tired.