Soothing your crying baby
Did you know that crying in newborns usually peaks just after 2 weeks of age? Crying is considered a normal newborn behavior, but that doesn’t make it any less stressful for new parents.
Colic – The Rule of 3’s
Some new parents might assume that a fussy baby has colic. Colic is defined as frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in a healthy infant. In fact, the traditional term colic cannot actually be considered a possibility until a baby is at least 3 weeks old, and must follow the rule of threes to be considered to be experiencing colic:
- Baby cries constantly for at least 3 hours per day
- For at least 3 days per week
- For a period of at least 3 weeks
Most babies do not have colic, they simply go through the normal process of crying during the newborn period. It is estimated that only about 1 in 5 babies actually have colic, so if you can watch your baby’s behavior you can often proactively respond to their needs. This alone will help decrease your baby’s crying.
Soothing your crying baby
There are some great techniques that help soothe your fussy or crying baby:
Skin-to-skin contact – This is a timeless strategy that seems to work as a “reset” for both baby and caregiver. Especially during the first few weeks postpartum practicing of skin-to-skin contact is proven to decrease the amount of crying.
Slings or wraps – Another great strategy to decrease crying is baby wearing using a sling or wrap. This practice is proven to promote brain development in your baby while also keeping them calm and happy.
Shushing – Using repetitive soothing techniques such as a “shushing” sound helps to mimic what your baby experienced in the womb and helps to quiet and calm your baby.
Supporting your baby to learn self-soothing
The ability to relax and fall asleep is something that even adults struggle with, so to expect your brand new baby to do this consistently is unrealistic. While you can begin to teach your baby some self-soothing skills in the early phases of the newborn period, in reality your baby may not be able to fully self-soothe until closer to 6 months of age. It is for this reason that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that sleep training be delayed until about 6 months of age so your baby has adequate time to develop these important self-soothing skills.
To teach your baby self-soothing techniques, begin with basic strategies of touch for comfort, and provide a consistent sleep environment conducive to falling asleep. In the womb, most babies automatically use touch for comfort. When they are in the womb, the small space lends itself to an immediate sense of comfort because it makes your baby feel secure. Your baby also practiced sucking behaviors and used their hands for comfort in the womb. Most babies are in an arms-up position in the womb, so you should support this position after birth to encourage more self-soothing behaviors to emerge. Swaddle your baby with access to their hands as it mimics the position of your baby in the womb and helps to reduce Baby’s startle reflex. Swaddling before sleep is recommended for the first 8-10 weeks after birth as one of the strategies to support soothing and sleep. Stop swaddling your baby once they can roll over.