5 ways to calm your baby during fussy periods

Just when you think you might be getting the hang of motherhood, and that you know your baby pretty well – bam! Your baby undergoes a personality change, and even the most easy-going of bubs can suddenly become an unsettled ‘velcro’ baby. The good news is that all babies go through normal fussy periods, and they’re actually a sign of healthy development.

During these periods, you might find that your baby is extra clingy, cries more, and perhaps feeds more (or less), and their sleep is disrupted. In young babies, these periods might last a few days, but as the changes in their brain and body become more complex, these periods can last for several weeks. You need to remember that your baby’s brain is working overtime: it’s making an unbelievable one million new connections every second! These huge changes can be incredibly unsettling to a baby.

So, here we look at five ways you can calm your baby during periods of fussiness:

5 ways to calm your baby during fussy periods

Fussy periods are different to growth spurts, and are often referred to as ‘wonder weeks’, or developmental leaps in a baby’s development. You can read more about that here. These periods are nothing to be concerned about, and will pass if you’re responsive to your baby’s needs, and provide plenty of reassurance, closeness, and comfort. Here are five ways to support your baby (and hopefully get a little peace for yourself):

1. Skin-to-skin time

One of the wonderful benefits of skin-to-skin time, or Kangaroo Care, is that it helps to increase the love hormone, oxytocin, for both you (or other caregivers) and your baby. This method of holding a baby can lower stress levels and decrease crying. Discover all of the other benefits here. Your baby may be wanting extra feeds (or fussing more at at the nipple or teat), so whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, you could offer feeds along with plenty of skin contact.

2. Baby massage

Gentle massage using a natural baby-safe oil has many emotional and physical benefits for both you and your baby, including relaxation and strengthening your bond. Baby massage stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, which is the feel-good hormone. This helps to lower your baby’s heart rate, and also reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Read how to massage your baby here.

3. Bathtime

Bathtime doesn’t just have to be limited to the end of the day wind-down ritual before bed. Water is a powerful calming tool for everyone. Some babies, particularly some newborns, protest loudly about baths, but a good strategy to try is to wrap your baby in a small towel and bath them in it so they feel more secure. Here is our step-by-step guide. Even better, have a bath with them on your chest for a relaxing (use a gentle cleanser that contains lavender to create a mini day spa experience for you both) and bond-strengthening experience.

4. Babywearing

Baby wearing helps to make your baby feel safe and snug, and it allows you to get on with things you need to, or get out for a walk with them while they sleep. When babies are held, they cry and fuss less, and keeping them close will enable you to read their cues more easily. If their sleep overnight has been disrupted or they’ve been resisting naps as part of this fussy stage, they might be more likely to nod off in a sling, reducing overtiredness. If you get tired babywearing,

5. Breathe! 

Finally, the number one way to care for and calm a crying baby is to look after yourself. Infants need secure, consistent, loving relationships to regulate their stress. A baby doesn’t have the brain power to self-regulate until they’re about three years old, so until then…they need you. This is why it’s important, especially during fussy periods to know your own limits and take time for yourself to recharge. Find the self-regulation technique that works for you when life with a baby becomes challenging, frustrating, and exhausting. This could be walking, meditation, mindfulness, or simple breathing exercises. Ask for help as well. All of the above ways of calming a baby can be done by other caregivers, so surround yourself with some good support if you can.

 

Please note: Before assuming that the reason your baby is fussy is due to a developmental leap, it’s important to consider whether your baby may be unwell. Rule out any medical causes, such as a fever, nappy rash, teething, an ear infection, or anything that could be causing them distress first.

Plas-plooij, X, Plooij, & Van De Rij, H, 2019, 'Wonder Weeks: A Stressfree Guide to Your Baby's Behavior', 6th Edn, W W Norton. 

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