Q: I am a new mom and my newborn cries- A LOT. The doctor says there is no medical reason my new daughter cries so much. She just does! I feel like an awful parent. What can I do to comfort my baby?
A: You are not an awful parent. In fact, it sounds like your daughter’s crying actually has nothing to do with your parenting. Knowing that may help you be more kind to yourself, but having a constantly crying baby can take a toll on a new parent. Here are some suggestions, which may help to comfort your child (and you!).
Swaddle: New babies tend to find comfort in being wrapped up snugly. For 9 months they have lived in a super confining space. Wrapping a baby snugly in a light blanket actually simulates the confined space feeling and for many babies that translates to comfort.
Pacify: Babies have a strong sucking instinct. Providing an outlet for that instinct may comfort a crying baby. Nursing, pacifier, thumb- whatever it is that you decide is an appropriate outlet for pacifying through sucking. (Side note: people tend to feel very passionately about sucking pacifiers and thumbs and will express their opinions as criticism, which can be very hurtful to a new mom.)
Vary holding positions: We usually hold new babies cradled in our arms, facing us. This way we easily support their head while gazing at their sweet face. But varying the holding position may help comfort a crying baby. Varying the holding positions varies the pressure the baby feels which might bring relief (or even just distraction). Just be sure to properly support the baby’s head and neck.
Get moving: Babies are not used to being still. All those months living inside their mother was constant movement. Movement can calm a baby and provide a change of scenery for a wrought new mom. Strap your baby on and go for a walk– even if it just a walk in your home. Movement is good for both of you.
Hum: Placing your baby on your chest and humming may sooth a crying baby. The closeness is important, but babies may also find comfort in the vibrations felt when you hum. (Deep, audible breathing can also have the same effect.) In fact, some babies find comfort when a baby-wearing parent is vacuuming! It is the same concept: closeness and vibration.
Give yourself some time to get to know your new daughter. You’ll figure out what helps to calm her and she’ll figure it out too. Until that time, try the above suggestions, but also ask for help if you need a break.
Asking for help is excellent parenting!