Having a baby is a lottery – you might get the most placid little angel in the world or you might get a crier who screams his way through the first few months of life. Fortunately, even the grumpiest baby will usually outgrow it by his first birthday and, what’s more, it’s often the challenging babies who become easygoing toddlers.
While past generations believed comforting a crying baby would only encourage fussy ways, today’s research shows it’s not possible to spoil a child with cuddles. In fact, babies who are responded to quickly, especially in their first months, actually cry less than those who are not comforted right away. So next time your baby lets out a holler, try these soothing tips:
- Respond quickly. It teaches your baby that he will be listened to and taken care of, and that he can trust you as a parent. It may be that he needs to be picked up from the cot (after all, we all like company) or that he’s hungry (newborns go through sometimes unpredictable growth spurts and can become ravenous even though it’s not strictly time for a feed). Check that his nappy’s dry (the act of changing his nappy can be comforting) and that he’s not too hot or too cold. If your baby is shrieking (and isn’t usually a screamer), he could be uncomfortable and may need repositioning in his cot.
- Take a stroll. Sometimes all a cranky baby needs is a change of scenery. In fact, studies show most people feel less stressed when they’re outdoors.
- Try humming. Who cares if you’re tone deaf? Your baby is hard-wired to be comforted by the sound of your voice, while white noise (such as a de-tuned radio, the spin cycle on the washing machine or making shushing sounds) and soft music can also help soothe him.
- Play pass the baby. Sometimes the best thing you can do to comfort your child is to hand him over to somebody else – your partner, a friend, a grandparent – for a bit.
- Ask for help. If your baby screams for hours on end there could be something wrong, such as an ear infection, so speak to your GP. If you feel like crying yourself, contact Cry-sis for help and support.