The REALLY Important Information: Practical Tips and Tricks for Soothing Crying and Promoting Sleep PART 2

SOOTHING BABY

Your baby is not able to regulate her body very well when she is little.  What does this mean….?  It means she didn’t get the instruction manual either!

In the same way she needs your help to keep her the right temperature (through physical contact and making sure she’s wearing the right clothes), she needs you to help keep her emotions on an even keel and assist her in staying calm and getting to sleep.  All of the things listed below are useful for soothing your baby.  This means if she’s crying they will hopefully help her calm down and if she is sleepy they will hopefully help her go to sleep.  Try any, some or all…

With my first baby I felt like it was not ok if I fed him to sleep or let him sleep not in his own bed. With my second I threw out those baby books & just went with what he wanted.  I held him when he wanted, fed him when he wanted, put him to sleep when he wanted. He hated his basket so he slept with us.  It was a dream.  I hardly felt sleep deprived at all.   – TJ

Feeding and sucking

Baby’s love to suck – it seems to help them comfort themselves, calm down and fall asleep.  Mums are often told not to let their baby feed to sleep as they will ‘create bad habits’.  Until three months baby won’t be forming any associations around sleep so feel free to feed away until baby is snoring happily!  Once you get over those difficult learning to feed days, letting baby suck is a lovely way to soothe baby and help her get to sleep.  It also releases hormones in your body that help you feel calmer and happier about the world.

If you find yourself thinking, “She can’t possibly be hungry again!” don’t forget that sucking is often for comfort rather than hunger.  If your boobs are getting sore or baby is bottle feeding try a finger or dummy instead.

Physical contact

More than anything else baby loves to be in contact with you.  So if your baby needs soothing or putting to sleep you can try:

  • Holding her, in your arms, on your lap or chest, or over your shoulder.
  • Lying down in bed with her
  • Patting or rubbing her back
  • Stroking her head
  • Massaging her

Try ‘wearing your baby’.  Mums have been doing it for centuries but now it’s COOL again!  Baby wearing is using a piece of cloth to tie baby close to your body (The ultimate accessory – and I bet you thought you’d never having anything trendy to wear again!).  One of the advantages of baby-wearing is that it can leave you hands free to do other things.  And it soothes baby, just like being in the womb.  You can get lots of high tech pieces of gear for baby wearing like specially designed slings or front packs, but many people find a long piece of fabric works just as well.  For more info on how to wear your baby google baby-wearing.

Swaddling

Swaddling is wrapping your baby’s body (not head) up in a cloth.  After the womb your baby may find all the open space around her hard to deal with.  Her little arms and legs flail around like a novice skydiver and she has something called the startle reflex – this is when she’s gets a fright and her arms and legs fly out in a starfish shape.  All these things make it tough for a wee one to get to sleep.  She may feel calmer and safer if she is securely wrapped.  There are lots of different ways to wrap but the most simple is to lay her in the middle of a cloth, wrap one side over and then the other.

SWADDLING SAFETY NOTES:

Watch that baby doesn’t get too hot as it can be hard for her to cool off with her hands covered.

Wrap over the shoulders rather than around the neck so your baby can get out it she needs and won’t choke.

Use a natural breathable fabric like cotton gauze.  This won’t overheat baby and means if she pulls it over her head she will still be able to breathe.

A related option you may like to try is a “sleeping bag”. These are rather like a long dress that is sewn shut at the bottom. It leaves baby’s arms free but keeps their body and legs covered. These are great for restless babes that like to kick the covers off.

Movement

In the womb your baby was constantly soothed by the rocking motions of your body.  So to soothe her and get her to sleep you can try:

  • Rocking her in your arms, or a rocking chair, or a bassinet or hammock if you have one.
  • Going for a walk (remember to take baby with you, unless this is your own time out!)
  • Going for a drive (I’ve known a few desperate parents who did this one at 3am in the morning).  Not great for your petrol budget, but at least you get to know your neighbourhood better.
  • Pushing her in a buggy or pram.  Your wakeful darling may particularly enjoy this if you push it on a bumpy surface – try over the edge of a rug, on a corrugated deck, or lay out your hosepipe and bump the buggy over this!  Don’t laugh it works!  During the day, getting yourself out of the house and into the fresh air may help you feel better and sleep better when you actually get the chance.
  • Wearing baby while you go for a walk or potter around the house.

Sanity Saving Tip:

If you’ve been trying to get baby to sleep for more than an hour with no luck, take a break and give up on the idea of sleep for a while.  Get out of the bedroom and go somewhere else.  Sit on the couch with baby and watch a DVD or go for a walk.  There’s nothing worse than sitting in the bedroom for hours all the time wishing for asleep! Alternately, take it in shifts.  You spend half an hour trying to get baby to sleep, then let dad take a turn and have a break.

Sound

In the womb your baby was constantly soothed by gentle noises, the sound of your blood swooshing and your heart beating, the sound of your voice and other’s voices, other environmental sounds.  Silence can be frightening!  So to soothe your sweetheart and get her to sleep you can try:

  • Singing to her or playing quiet music.  (There are lots of specially designed baby tapes but most mums find you don’t need anything special.  “We had some CD’s which my mother in law gave us with ‘womb sounds’ which worked, but then I just realised it was the noise in general she liked- she we often put the radio on, even overnight” – Bel
  • Tape of white noise or other everyday soothing sounds like the vacuum cleaner.  (Forget getting the ACTUAL vacuum cleaner out – tape yourself doing it once and then after that you can put your feet up while bubba sleeps.  Someone ELSE can do the vacuuming!  Washing machines or dryers are also good white noise.
  • Talking quietly to baby or making shhhh-ing sounds

Distraction

If all else fails to stop the crying try some distraction or stimulation.  This is unlikely to help baby sleep but may help stop crying.  Take her outside and let her look at the leaves or feel the wind on her face.  Go for a walk.  Hold some rattles or toys where she can see them.  Or pass her to dad and take a break!

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Posted on July 6, 2011, in Sleep and Crying. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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