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Before I had children, I had friends who had children. These friends had happy babies. Their babies went with them to church, to the movies, to restaurants. Their babies spent their time gazing happily around them, perfectly content to observe the goings-on of the world. Oh, sure, their babies might have fussed a little here and there to let their mothers know they were ready to eat. But as soon as their needs were met? Back to happiness.
When I found out we were going to have a baby, naturally I assumed my baby would behave like all other babies I had met in the past.
HOLY MOLY THAT WAS NOT THE CASE.
And I’m guessing if you’ve landed on this page, you’ve come to the same upsetting realization that I did.
Your baby is not a happy baby. He or she is thoroughly dissatisfied with their passage out of the womb and into the world, and they’re making sure you know all about it.
My oldest daughter cried for the first 4 months of her life. It was one of the most miserable experiences we’ve ever been through.
I don’t say that to scare you if you have a newborn who won’t stop crying, but just so that you know that you aren’t alone. I’ve been right where you are!
My husband and I spent approximately 14 gazillion hours just trying to get the baby to shut up. I can’t say that we ever discovered the magic button that always worked, but here are some strategies we used that helped the baby stop crying…at least sometimes.
Check the Basics
These probably seem way too obvious, but sometimes when you’re running on only the 30 minutes of sleep you got last night, you forget the obvious. So make sure to ask yourself:
Is your baby hungry? In my experience, newborns like to nurse as often as every hour, sometimes more. I’m a total advocate for breastfeeding on demand. Don’t worry about a schedule. Try offering a breast, even if he or she just ate 30 minutes ago. Breastfeeding non-stop is pretty much what life with a newborn is all about.
Does she have a dirty diaper? Newborns hate being wet and dirty. Later in life they stop caring so much, but for now, just try a diaper change. It might help.
Is he tired? Every kid is different, but on average, newborns can really only stay awake for 1 to 2 hours before they’re ready to go to sleep again. So if you’ve tried both things above, just put them to bed and see if it helps.
Utilize the 5 S’s
When I was pregnant with my first baby, someone told me about the 5 S’s for babies from the book, the Happiest Baby on the Block. The premise of the book is that babies will stop crying and be happy if you can mimic the sensory environment of the womb (assuming that their other basic needs like being fed and changed are taken care of).
Swaddle. Most babies have a hard time transitioning from the enclosed environment of the womb to the wide open world where their limbs can flail around freely. It freaks them out, so they cry. Swaddling helps simulate the environment of the womb and helps them feel better. Just make sure it’s not too loose, you really want them to be able to feel the pressure of the swaddle and not be able to get their arms out. Try a Woombie or SwaddleMe if your swaddling skills aren’t up to par. Your sanity is 100% worth the expense.
Sucking. Babies have an innate need to suck, so a pacifier can help when it’s not time for a feeding. Although, it’s basically always time for a feeding in those first few weeks. But a pacifier can still be useful when you need to put them down for a minute or at bedtime. I recommend MAM pacifiers for young babies. They are small and easier for a tiny baby to hold in their mouths without falling out.
You know, so you don’t feel the urge to duct tape the pacifier to your baby’s face quite so often.
They also have glow-in-the-dark varieties, so you can find it when it falls out of the crib at night.
Shushing. Babies love loud noises that mimic the sounds they heard while they were still inside you. Get thee a white noise machine (here’s the one I use) and crank the volume. You’ll thank me later.
Side. This one I didn’t find worked too often for me, but that doesn’t mean it won’t for you. Just put your baby on their side while you’re holding them in your arms or on your lap. Babies don’t really like being on their back, although that is the recommended position for sleep safety. But if you’re right there and awake to monitor their breathing, it’s totally fine.
Swinging. Babies like to be in motion. Once again, it reminds them of the womb. So invest in a swing, a Rock’N’Play, a rocking chair, anything will do. You could also just bounce them in your arms, but that gets exhausting real fast.
You can try the S’s one at a time, or if your baby is really fired up, try utilizing all five of them at once.
Worried you’ll forget all these tips next time your baby won’t stop crying? Enter your email below to receive a printable checklist to help you remember!
Get to Know Your Baby
Maybe some of the above tips will work for you, maybe they won’t. It may just take time for you to get to know your baby and figure out exactly what she likes.
For example, I figured out that my second daughter not only had to be swaddled tightly, but wanted to be propped up on my shoulder while I held her head still between my shoulder and the side of my face while I rocked her. I spent 4 to 5 hours a night in that position with her. It was terrible, but better than the crying. It did allow for a lot of guilt-free Netflix binging, however.
So try different things, figure out what works for you.
Help Your Baby Relieve Gas
Sometimes babies won’t stop crying because their tummies hurt because they are having trouble pooping or passing gas. This little trick might help.
Sit on the floor with your knees out in front of you, and draw your knees up towards your chest. Put your baby on your lap so that his head is on your knees. Firmly push their knees up to their chest so that they are sort of in a squatting position and let ‘em rip. This helps align their insides so that it’s easier for them to move things along and they’ll feel a lot better afterwards. It’s like squeezing the crying out.
Wear Your Baby
If your baby insists on being held all the time to stay happy, trying wearing them so you can have both hands free to get some things done. Baby is happy, you’re happy, everyone’s happy. There’s tons of other benefits to babywearing so I definitely recommend a baby carrier even if you have a baby that doesn’t cry all the time. I have a Lillebaby which I loooooove. They have some super cute patterns, too.
Give Yourself a Break
Listen, if you’ve tried everything I’ve suggested here and your baby still won’t stop crying, please give yourself a break. Put them down in their crib, close the door, and put some headphones on so you can’t hear them.
Don’t feel guilty about it.
Sometimes what’s best for the baby is what’s best for you. And you, mama, need 10 minutes without a baby screaming in your face.
Who knows, maybe they’ll wear themselves out and fall asleep!
I know it feels like this stage with your baby will never end, but I promise you that it will. You have easier days ahead of you, so remember that on the hard days.
Good luck, mama! I hope your baby takes a nice, long nap for you this afternoon.
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.