What the Fuss?
You’ve fed, changed, and burped your little one and they’re still dissatisfied with the service? Try out these creative and soothing strategies from experts who speak baby.
Watch the witching hour.
Lots of little ones are cranky in the evening—often a case of tired babies meeting maxed-out parents. To fend off fussiness, aim for an early bedtime (7 P.M. is ideal) and two to four daytime naps of no more than two hours each. To help your baby connect day with being awake and night with sleep, keep things fun during the day (talk, read, and sing to them) and boring at night (keep lights dim, stay quiet, turn off your phone). If they cry for three or more hours a day at least three times a week, it could be colic, so talk to your pediatrician.
Summon your inner masseuse.
A back rub or a shoulder massage can reduce
crying and help your baby relax. To do it, lay them on their back or stomach and gently rub their head, neck, shoulders, upper back, waist, thighs, hands, and feet for a minute each. Then extend and flex their limbs. If you’re unsure, know that your baby will give you instant feedback: Smiling and seeming more relaxed are cues that it’s going well; stiffening or crying harder are signs to move on.
Change the scenery.
Babies can get cabin fever too. If putting them in their usual happy place doesn’t work, try going for a walk, popping them in a sling, or stepping outside. Babies can get overstimulated at home, so if they seem upset (jerky movements, clenched fists, wide eyes), move them to a quieter area. You can even re-create sounds of the womb by turning on a fan or vacuum.
Try baby wearing.
Contact crying—when babies cry because they want to know they’re safe—is real. You don’t need to pick up your baby every time they peep. But if they’re extra fussy, try wearing them. It checks a lot of happy-baby boxes: closeness to you, movement, and the chance to check out a new view. Pro tip: A carrier should hold your baby from knees to neck but never cover their head and face—you should be able to kiss the top of their head.
Check your stress levels.
At peak crying age (around 6 to 8 weeks old), about 25 percent of babies cry for two or more hours a day. If that makes you want to cry, too, you’re not alone: Babies can pick up on your nerves, so take breaks. Call on a partner or set your baby down in a safe place, such as their crib, for five minutes. Do some deep breathing or listen to music. You can also practice deep breathing with your baby: Place your hand on their chest and breathe in for four counts, out for seven. Notice how their breathing changes too.
Double down on diaper rash.
At least half of all babies get a diaper rash at some point, and fussing or crying is common when the area is touched. Most diaper rashes can be treated at home by amping up diaper changes, rinsing your baby’s bottom with warm water, using diaper ointments with petroleum jelly and zinc oxide, and making sure diapers aren’t too tight or too loose. What else is good for a sore bottom? Fresh air on the derriere. Set aside time for your baby to roam diaper-free—ideally on a towel to catch messes.
Sources: Pamela High, M.D., professor of pediatrics at Alpert Medical School at Brown University, in Providence; Joanna Mcneilly, founder of the Center for Babywearing Studies, in New York City; Nancy Mork, a licensed clinical social worker and director of the Fussy Baby Network, in Chicago.