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Calming your Newborn

It is normal for your newborn to have times where they are fussy and cry a lot. A newborn baby will cry an average of 1 1/2 – 3 hours every day. (Read my blog on Newborn Crying to understand more about why they cry so that you can try to understand your baby better). Hearing your baby cry can be very stressful and no parent likes to see their baby distressed but your baby’s crying is not only their way of communicating with you the needs that they have to be met, it is also a means of releasing anxiety and tension.

There are certain things that newborns like and that they respond positively to and there are things that they do not like which will cause them to feel stressed.

Babies respond to:

  • Being close to you
  • Being held and cuddled
  • Skin to Skin contact
  • Your familiar smell
  • Your familiar voice
  • Your heartbeat rhythm
  • Sucking
  • Movement

Babies are stressed by:

  • Sudden changes or movement
  • Being left to cry
  • Hunger
  • Being over tired
  • Being over-stimulated
  • Loud noises, bright lights
  • Busy households
  • Anxious/Stressed parents

There are many ways to calm your newborn that are really effective. Most of these are based on the replication of the womb environment. It is really important to understand this stage in your baby’s development and the key to this 4th Trimester is to manage your baby as if they are still in the womb during your baby’s first 3 months of life. The best way to do this is by replicating the environment of the womb itself and most newborn calming techniques are based around this.

Calm or settle your baby in a dark room with reduced light

Your baby has been used to being in a really boring place with the same muted sounds and dim-lit environment for the past 9 months. So try to manage your baby’s environment by reducing the level of stimulation during times when they are unsettled. Take them into a room that is dimly lit, swaddle them, play white noise and give them close physical comfort. Talk to your baby and give them reassurance from the familiar sound of your voice.

Swaddling

Swaddling gives newborns the security and comfort that they felt in the womb. It can instantly calm most babies. If you can imagine the limited amount of space your baby had in utero, particularly towards the end of your pregnancy, then imagine how strange it must feel to your baby now that they have so much space around them. 

  • Babies are born with a primitive reflex called the ‘Moro or Startle reflex’ . This is an involuntary reflex that is stimulated when a baby is startled by movement or sound, which can startle your baby and wake them up. Swaddle reduces these movements.
  • Ensure that you don’t wrap your baby’s legs too tightly, instead swaddle them in their natural ‘frog legged’ like newborn position.
  • Swaddle your baby until your baby learns to roll over or to around approximately 14-18 weeks when their startle reflex diminishes. Some babies will want this ‘secure feeling’ to continue, so a safe-t-sleep is a very worthy replacement.

Movement

The womb was a constantly moving space. Every time you moved, your baby was moved, so your baby has been used to movement and it reassures and comforts them.

  • Sway, jiggle and rock your baby, not to sleep but to calm them when they are unsettled

Skin-to-Skin Contact

Being skin-to-skin is heaven for your baby and is such a lovely experience for you too. Being so close to you will relax and calm your baby as she hears those familiar sounds and is comforted by your smell.

  • Your baby wears nothing but a nappy and lies on your bare chest with a blanket covering you both
  • It has so many great benefits, not only for helping to calm or settle your baby but it will also stabilize her temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood glucose, stress hormones and will stimulate the release of oxytocin, the love and bonding hormone

White Noise/ Sounds

Babies love sound. For the past 9 months your baby has been living in a really loud environment; soothed by the sound of your heart beating, the continual sound of your blood whooshing through arteries around them, your bowel and bladder emptying and your stomach digesting. Studies have shown that babies are exposed to up to 90db – that’s louder than a vacuum cleaner or a bulldozer idling! It’s loud.

  • Babies are simply not used to a quiet environment so restricting sounds and whispering around your baby can actually cause them more stress
  • There is compelling research that shows that babies who are exposed to ‘white noise’ settle more quickly and sleep more deeply than those babies who are not. You play the white noise every time your baby sleeps and when they are unsettled.

Sucking

When babies are unsettled their instinct is to want to suck as it is deeply comforting for them.

The sucking reflex release a chemical in your baby’s brain that reduces their stress level and activates their primitive ‘calming reflex’. This was a reflex that kept your baby calm in the womb and was like an automatic ‘off switch’ for crying.

So offering the breast , a pacifier or even a clean little finger can work like magic.

Pacifiers are a really effective feeding tool for premature babies and a great settling for babies up until around 4 months of age. Never use a pacifier to delay or replace a feed.

If your baby is hungry, no calming technique is going to work so observe your baby for hunger cues and feed your baby. Remember baby-led feeding is always the way the go.

Deep Bath

The womb was a lovely warm fluid filled place so giving your baby a nice deep bath can really calm them.

  • Most babies will not appreciated the getting in or out process as they lose a bit of security but when they are submerged it is deeply relaxing for them and they tend to sleep really well following it

Wear your Baby

Babies love close physical contact . Hearing your heart beat and being reassured by other familiar sounds and movement closely resembles the womb-like environment. So wearing your baby in a front pack or sling is a fantastic way to calm your baby.

  • A great advantage to carrying your baby this way is that you will keep your arms free to carry on with other things
  • It is great for Dad’s to do and can really help them with their bonding process

Choose your carrier carefully as some do not allow for the natural newborn ’frog leg’ position or provide the support to your back or your baby’s back that is required. Don’t’ worry if your baby cries initially when you put them into a carrier, just start moving!

Getting out and About

You can go a bit stir-crazy when you are stuck in the house with your baby for a few days, so getting out is a fantastic thing to do to break your day. Fresh air does wonders for your soul and your baby’s so put your baby in a buggy or a front pack and enjoy.

If your newborn is struggling to settle to sleep after they have had a good feed and have had the right amount of wake time etc, consider using a settling technique to help them get to sleep. Newborns do not have the brain connections in place to be able to self-soothe or calm themselves so they need your help to do this for them until these connections are developed around 12-16 weeks of age. Newborn’s become over tired very easily so if they have even a slightly extended wake time they can become over tired. Over tired or over-stimulated babies get very distressed and are very difficult to settle. The settling technique that I recommend, is the most successful technique for newborns. Every time your newborn struggles to settle, you will pull this out of your tool bag. You will honestly be blown away by how successful it is, so it can be a real game changer!

Feel free to contact me at anytime if you need any further advice or support or if you would like to learn how to use this settling technique with your newborn. Take care and enjoy that precious baby of yours.

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