Strategies for calming a fussy baby

The transition from the womb to the world is a challenging one for your baby. Leaving the consistency and comfort of the womb for the ever-changing, highly-stimulating world can be a big adjustment. By creating an environment that mimics the womb, one can make that adjustment much easier for your baby. These same principles can also be applied with your toddler/ child when they are sick, frustrated or over-whelmed.

Calming strategies to try:

Swaddle your baby – this provides them with the calming deep pressure that they are used to in the womb and makes them feel safe and secure. It is important that when they are swaddled, their hands are placed in the middle of their chests and stick out of the blanket, so that they can use their hands to suck on for self-soothing. Wrap them tightly in a stretchy blanket.

Make sure they are warm enough, but not hot – the womb environment provides nice neutral warmth and this is the temperature one should try to mimic. (If you live in a very hot climate and use air-conditioners or fans, make sure the air doesn’t blow directly on your baby as this can be a very stimulating sensation on their skin).

Make use of white noise – many babies sleep better if they have some calming background noise, which also mimics the sound of the fluid in the womb e.g. white noise apps on a phone or tablet; the sound of a fan; natural sounds like the sound of the sea or of rain.

Gentle rocking – In the womb, babies feel the slight movement of the fluid, and thus find very slow and gentle movements e.g. rocking, to be calming. Using a sling or a pouch can also be helpful in providing this type of sensory input.

Avoid strong smells – babies are calmed by comforting and familiar scents and their favourite smell is mom’s natural smell and the smell of milk. They are very sensitive to smell initially and can be over-stimulated by strong fragrances.

Keep decor neutral and minimal – babies and toddlers can be easily over-stimulated by too much visual input in the environment around them. Avoid having their eyes look directly at bright lights.

Baby massage – this provides deep touch input which is also calming and helps your baby to relax, and also promotes bonding.

 

Written by Tamaryn Hunter – BSc (Occupational Therapy – Occupational Therapist)

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