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From Washing Machines to Baby Swings: How to Soothe a Fussy Infant
Figuring out how to comfort baby isn't always easy. In fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges new parents face. That’s why it’s good to know some of the tried and true ways to soothe a crying child.

For an infant who isn't hungry, the oldest trick in the book is to rock baby in your arms. A variation on this is baby dancing, where you hold your child in your arms and dance around the room. Dip baby down, hold baby up and vary your steps to find one that baby enjoys. Gentle patting is always good, but never shake a baby, as you can do serious harm.

When your arms grow weary, you can let an automated baby swing or bouncer seat take over while you offer reassuring words. Before purchasing a swing, evaluate how easy it will be for you to take the baby in and out of it. You may want to look for a model that doesn't make too much noise, which could wake a baby.

Sounds can be soothing, too. Experts think babies enjoy static sounds— such as a washing machine, vacuum cleaner, fan or running water— because they mimic the body noises they heard in the womb. Lullaby-playing mobiles and other soothing products can encourage your baby to stay in peaceful slumber, even in the middle of the night. And don't underestimate how soothing cooing, shushing or your own singing voice can be.

It might help both of you to just step outside, take a walk or give baby a stroller ride. A ride in the car is a classic, as the rhythmic motion and humming sounds can calm baby right down. Some babies are calmed by a bath.

Sometimes, however, there will be nothing you can do. If you've tried everything, and your pediatrician has given your child a clean bill of health, don't feel guilty about setting your infant in a safe place and letting the screams fly for a few minutes. Stay within your child's view, and offer comforting words, kisses and hugs. You'll be surprised at how much more together baby is after the storm has passed.

Finally, consider this: While you don’t want to place stuffed animals or blankets in a baby’s cot before the age of 1, by his first birthday your child may have connected with a comfort object to calm himself. And though it may not seem like it while your baby’s in the midst of a crying jag, that birthday will be upon you in no time!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education