Ask Naomi: How to sooth a crying baby

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Question: My baby is two months old and cries a lot every evening. I offer to breastfeed but he pushes me away. I have a snugly and carry him a lot. What can I do to prevent his crying?

Naomi: I am deeply moved by your question. It used to be that mothers were told to let their baby cry. Today, more and more parents understand the need to respond to the baby and take his crying seriously. Like you, many feel heartbroken when their baby cries in-spite of constant holding and care. Yet babies often cry even when held and responded to promptly.

The infant who is constantly held will not cry when hungry, tired or wet. He will communicate these basic needs quietly because he is right there on your body and the littlest cue can be responded to. He learns that he can ask for what he wants without raising his voice (the first communication lesson.)

By being close and responding to gentle cues you also spare the baby the stress of having to cry just to get her needs met. At the same time you know that if she does cry, the reason is not a basic need.

When away from human care, a baby is likely to feel terror and cry in despair. This is because he is completely helpless and has no way of knowing that you will ever return. Still, your baby may cry even in your loving arms.

Always insure first that the baby is fed, healthy, dry and that there is no reason for concern.

Then kindly guess and try to respond to possible needs:

  • Always hold your crying baby in your arms. often all he needs is closeness.
  • The baby may be too hot, too cold, wet, feeling restricted in her clothes, or having something rub in her clothes or diaper.
  • Many parents over dress their babies; take a layer off and see how your baby responds.
  • Your baby may need motion. Carry her in a snugly and go for a walk, dance, or sit in a rocker or a hammock.
  • If the baby is arching back while crying, he may have gas pain or be constipated. If you are breastfeeding, avoid eating gas forming foods such as cabbage, broccoli, onion, sugar and dairy. Give the baby a few drops of chamomile tea, and gently massage her belly and back while bending her legs to help with her digestion.
  • Many babies calm down in a warm bath. It is worth trying.
  • Music can totally capture a crying baby, but nothing is as wonderful as a singing voice.
  • Running water or the sound of a vacuum cleaner have been known to calm a baby.
  • If your baby is over stimulated from going out, traveling in the car or seeing lots of people, he may need quiet time. Take him to a quiet room to rest with you.
  • Some babies want to breastfeed in a quiet room. They will cry and refuse to nurse until you take them to a calm private place.
  • Your baby may need to cry. Like you and I, a baby may feel overwhelmed and in need to let it all out in your loving arms. She may feel helpless, scared, uncomfortable, or over stimulated or sad.

Your goal is to meet the baby's need. If nothing seems to satisfy him, you can assume that your baby needs to cry. Hold him and be a peaceful and loving listener. Teach your baby to be comfortable with his own emotions by validating his feelings. You can connect with him when he takes those famous short breaks from crying. Hold him and say something like, "I know you need to cry now and I am here to listen to you." Or, "I love you laughing and I love you crying. I love you no matter how you feel."

Being the loving listener when your baby needs to cry may be the hardest of all. It is yourself that you must calm down so you can provide your baby with a peaceful and supportive parent. If you seem lost or you panic, the baby may feel more scared. Always keep a crying baby in your arms. He will be done crying when his "therapy" session is over.

Naomi Aldort is the author of, Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves. Parents from around the globe seek Aldort's advice by phone, in person and by listening to her CDs and attending her workshops. Her advice columns appear in progressive parenting magazines in Canada, USA, AU, UK, and translated to German, Hebrew, Dutch, Japanese and Spanish.

Naomi Aldort is married and a mother of three. Her youngest son is fourteen-year-old prodigy cellist Oliver Aldort

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