Soothing solutions for peak crying times
Howard Chilton and my tips for dealing with those peak crying times. As seen here.
If in doubt, feed your baby
“If babies wake during the night, it may be because they are hungry,” says Dr Howard Chilton, neonatal paediatrician. “Breastmilk can pass through a baby’s stomach within 32 minutes. You shouldn’t be concerned you’re ‘overfeeding’ in those early months,” he advises. “You cannot ‘overfeed’ a newborn, especially during the night.”
Feed bub to sleep (really!)
“In those first few months, never feel guilty about feeding your baby to sleep. Babies are born with a sucking reflex and feeding is intensely soothing,” advises Dr Chilton. “When your baby reaches three to six months of age, you can start to think about encouraging them to disassociate the act of breastfeeding with the act of falling asleep. You can do this by placing them in the cot when drowsy but awake.”
* Don’t be hard on yourself
Jo Ryan, founder of parent advisory and support service, Babybliss, reassures parents that newborns can be difficult to re-settle. “I tell parents that if they can put their newborn to sleep without much of a fuss even a quarter of the time throughout each 24-hour period then that is great,” says Jo. “It will get easier over time. In the meantime, don’t be too hard on yourself.”
Day naps are a must
“Regular naps prevent overtiredness,” advises Jo. “Parents may not realise that newborns need to ideally be awake for no more than 60 minutes at a time during the day,” she says. “This means that within each 60-minute period that your baby is awake, you should change them, feed them, wrap them and have them in their cot ready to be re-settled to sleep.”
Head for a quiet room
“If your baby just won’t re-settle during the day, take them into a quiet room, jiggle them, walk around the room and say ‘shoosh’,” says Jo. “You might notice that their crying comes in cycles like ‘waa waa waa’, then it drops off as they fuss a little, and then it will start up again,” she says. “These cycles usually happen around four times before your baby will finally fall asleep.”
“When settling your baby in a quiet room, don’t get dissuaded halfway through and think ‘they’re still crying, I’ll put them in the pram instead’, as this change in scenery will only further stimulate them,” advises Jo. “Instead, stay in the room and persist and your baby will eventually fall asleep,” she says. “Once they’re asleep, you can stay with them in your arms, until they reach that deep sleep around 15 minutes later.”
- Wear your headphones!
“If you’re having one of ‘those’ days, where you just can’t stop your newborn crying, consider listening to your iPod while you settle your baby,” suggests Jo. “I learnt this tip from a mother. Her headphones got her through some particularly intense crying periods!”
The witching hour is a period, often in the evening, when your baby is very unsettled. And it’s incredibly common. “My feeling is this occurs as a result of overstimulation and mum’s milk ‘dropping off’ at the end of the day,” says Jo. “I recommend cluster feeding your baby through this period, as frequently as every two hours.”
Schedule some bath time
“A bath can certainly help during the witching hour,” advises Jo. “Try to time baths to coincide with this period, as the floating sensation should help settle baby.”
* It may just be out of your hands
“There is a condition which affects newborns up to the age of eight weeks, called ‘unsoothable episodes’,” explains Dr Chilton. “Early indications suggest they are caused by the development and maturing of your baby’s brain connections. “If your newborn has an ‘unsoothable episode’, all you can do is hold them,” advises Dr Chilton. “Reassure yourself that there’s nothing you have done to cause this. This is an entirely normal part of your newborn’s development and it will pass!”
You’re not alone!
“Most newborns don’t seem to like having their clothes (or their nappies) taken off,” says Jo. “So take any pressure off yourself by accepting that your baby will probably cry while this is being done. Once your baby is changed and swaddled, you’ll find their tears are likely to stop.”
Ensure the water is warm
“I find a lot of parents are too scared to put their baby into a warm bath,” says Jo. “Make sure the water is warm enough, so that you could imagine comfortably getting into the bath.”
Run a deep bath
“A deep bath can really help to settle a baby,” recommends Dr Chilton. “Support your baby by floating her on her front but place her chin so that it rests on your hand. Also, make sure her limbs don’t touch any edges or the bottom of the bath. You want your baby to experience a floating sensation,” he says.
* Keep essential items at hand
“It helps to keep essentials items (such as a towel, nappy and change of clothes) close by,” recommends Jo. “Newborns generally don’t like getting undressed and changed so keep everything you need right beside you, to make this process as quick as possible.”
Bed time ritual
“When your baby reaches about eight weeks of age it can be a good idea to create an evening ritual, in order to help trigger the all-important wind-down process,” advises Jo. “I would suggest that you give your baby half a feed before they have their bath and the other half once they’ve finished their bath. Over time, this ritual can help your baby to wind down for sleep.”
Keep the lights low
“Try to keep the lighting low,” suggests Jo. “This helps your baby to understand it’s night-time, which can help to regulate their day and night rhythms in those early weeks.”
- Wind down with a massage
“Baby massage is a wonderful wind-down tool for babies, and not only that, it can actually also help to soothe your frazzled nerves after a long day! You may be surprised by how much enjoyment you get out of it, too,” recommends Jo.
Unsettled or over-stimulated baby?
Neonatal paediatrician Dr Howard Chilton offers an interesting biological explanation for the intense crying periods that can occur during your baby’s first three months
- “If you have a very unsettled baby, it could be because they need extra help to switch off the stimulation around them. You can help your unsettled baby by limiting their exposure to visual stimulation (this can also include well-meaning visitors!)”
- “To explain a little of what is happening during this stage: in comparison to other mammals, human babies are born relatively immature, to ensure they are small enough to fit through our narrow pelvis. In fact a baby’s brain is only 25 per cent developed at birth.”
- “It is only when your baby reaches three months of age that you will notice they are able to switch off and look away to regulate the amount of visual stimulation they receive. This is why babies aged between three to six months cry much less – and why the witching hour magically disappears around this time!”
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