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Sleeping & Soothing

7 Easy Ways to Soothe a Fussy Baby

Got a cranky baby? One of these expert-approved solutions can help

You know it’s totally normal for your baby to fuss and cry—after all, it's how your little guy communicates. But if your kiddo isn’t hungry or wet or tired, one of these baby-doc approved soothing strategies can help.

Wrap ‘em up

If your baby is under 4 months and not yet rolling over, swaddle her in a thin, breathable blanket, says Harvey Karp, M.D., author of the Happiest Baby series and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the USC Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles. Pay attention to your technique, too. “If the arms are too loose, the baby may cry more (and wiggle out), but the hips and knees need to be able to bend and flex and open up easily to avoid hip dysplasia,” he adds. And never, ever put your baby to sleep on her tummy while swaddled—the risk of SIDS doubles.

Make the right noise

A sound machine can work wonders, but babies may need different types of white noise depending on the situation. “When your baby is upset, he may be best calmed by a high-pitched white noise as loud as the level of his crying, like a vacuum cleaner or blow-dryer,” notes Dr. Karp. “Once your little one calms down, low rumbly white noise—like womb sounds—helps them stay that way.”   

Do a little dance

If swaddling and shushing doesn’t help your little baby, you could try Dr. Karp’s other “S” moves: swaying or shivering from side to side (no more than an inch each way) or holding your baby sideways on your lap or in your arms.

Avoid your device

It takes self-restraint not to whip out your phone when your older baby whimpers, especially if you’re out and about. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not over-using this strategy, as it prevents kids from learning how to self-soothe. Instead, try giving her attention in other ways—say, by snuggling over a book, says Paula Kelly, M.D., F.A.A.P., a pediatrician and author of First-Year Baby Care.

Pop in a paci

Try a few pacifiers—they come in all shapes and sizes, notes Dr. Karp—until you find one your baby takes. Or try this trick: “Offer the pacifier until your baby starts to suck…and then slightly pull back on it. Most babies respond by resisting the removal and sucking harder. Play that little game several times a day for a few days, and your baby will probably learn to keep it in much more consistently,” he explains.

Talk to your baby's doctor

It's always a good idea to check in with your baby's doctor to rule out anything more serious, especially if your baby is still inconsolable after you’ve tried calming her down or is often fussy. “There could be other reasons your baby is frequently cranky, including illness, teething, food sensitivity, acid reflux, and colic,” says Dr. Kelly. If you’re not sure, consult with your provider.

If all else fails, walk away

“If your baby is safe, fed, clean, and warm, it is perfectly acceptable to leave him alone,” says Dr. Kelly, especially if you need the time out. Your baby may settle down by himself. If not, walk back in to check on him, and try playing soft music that will calm down both of you.