We don’t really have to set the scene because moms live it night after night, but let’s break it down for fun. Mom is exhausted after a long, tiring day, and all she wants to do is go to sleep. She can practically hear her bed calling her. Mom finishes up the last few things on the day’s list, washes her face, brushes her teeth, and slips under the covers.
Mom allows her body to relax and breathe out a long, well-deserved, sigh. Ahhhh, bedtime. Mom snuggles down into her pillow, closes her eyes, and begins to drift.
That’s when mom hears it - the “eh eh eh” on the monitor. Her body tenses on instinct, almost as if nobody moves, the baby will settle. Mom hears her baby inching around and realizes she's holding her breath.
“Eh eh eh.” It’s not looking good. Still, mom holds out hope. "Maybe she's just having a dream. Mom refuses to open her eyes. If any other mom is like me, then she waits to see if her significant other responds first. He's laying next to me doing the exact same.
“Ehhhhh.” The wailing starts. Nope, the baby is definitely not drifting back to sleep.
Here’s where mom has to play baby whisperer and read this little one’s mind. What’s wrong and how do she solve it? Sometimes it’s quick. Other times she's in for a night with an inconsolable, fussy baby.
There are solid, tried and true techniques for dealing with the crank pot, and many more questionable tactics. We’ll cover the latter.
16 Swaddling The Newborn
Whoa, whoa, wait! What? Swaddling is the go-to for many moms. When babies are small, it promotes a feeling of security and often calms them. So why would this method be considered questionable?
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a studying, questioning the link between swaddling and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While the conclusion wasn’t shocking, it bears mentioning as any measure we can take to keep our babies safe is worth considering.
The study found that infants positioned on their side or belly while swaddled incurred a higher risk of dying from SIDS than those not swaddled and placed on their backs. The reason is, simply put, that infants don’t have the ability to adjust that position if they find themselves face-down. They can't roll back over.
If mom wants to swaddle, be sure to do so only while her little one is positioned on her back or in your arms.
15 Attempting A New Sleeping Position
We’ve all heard it from well-meaning grandmas. “The only way I could get you to sleep through the night was on your tummy!”
We're not here to tell you it didn't work, but was it safe? No.
When a baby who isn't able to easily roll from back to front and front to back, placing her on her tummy increases her risk for SIDS. Being stuck on her tummy without sufficient neck and body strength to roll back over means her face could be trapped against the bed.
Never place your baby on his tummy, side, or in any other position until he’s able to proficiently roll over. Before that time, it's just not safe.
Also never place a sleep positioner or otherwise use a prop, such as a rolled blanket, to position an unattended child while she sleeps. If you're trying to diminish reflux symptoms by raising your little one's head, consult with your pediatrician for safe methods.
14 Giving The Baby A Stuffed Toy
Babies love teddy bears to cuddle, but they can be dangerous if placed in a sleeping or unattended space with the baby. No matter how far that stuffed animal has been placed in the corner of the crib, babies can shift just enough to turn that teddy into a risk.
Blankies and other lovies (comfort items) can cause the same level of risk. They're often plush and can easily entangle a baby or cover her face. Both situations pose a suffocation risk.
So while holding, or even being in the same crib as the baby, something soft might seem like a great way to help your little one drift off, the risk isn't worth it. It’s best to wait until after the one-year mark before introducing a lovey for the purpose of creating comfort when it’s time to rest. By that time they're able to move around enough to get untangled, if necessary.
13 Playing Loud Music
A friend once swore that her baby loved heavy metal music. Every time her tiny guy would fuss, she’d crank it up, especially in the car, and he’d fall right to sleep. The correlation between the two was undeniable, but was it the best option? Probably not.
Baby ears are sensitive, as are their developing nervous systems. Loud music, especially tracks with startling sounds are overwhelming to them. What's especially dangerous is is the small space of a car, which can make music sound particularly intense.
So while loud music isn’t ideal, music, in general, isn't out of the question. You just may do better with something soothing at a moderate volume.
Loud sounds are also still an option. Just go with something like a vacuum, fan or white noise machine, both of which provide noise at a consistent volume in an open space that blocks out other sounds but doesn't damage little ears.
12 Automatically Feeding Or Changing A Diaper
A baby’s cry means something and parents can pretty much narrow down the cause pretty quickly. Typically they are hungry, tired, need a new diaper, are in pain, or otherwise unhappy. There are two in that list, however, that you shouldn’t automatically assume.
If your baby isn’t crying because he’s hungry, feeding him is likely to either cause frustration or a tummy ache. Overfeeding can lead to spitting up and, if you're breastfeeding, a fluctuation in your supply.
If his diaper doesn’t need changing, you’ll wake him even more by turning on a light and moving him about. Plus, the less we expose little bottoms to wipes and creams, the better. If she's dry, leave that diaper alone.
Your first course of action, unless you know hunger or a dirty diaper is the culprit, should be to comfort your baby by holding him, attempting to get a burp out, walking, bouncing, or speaking to him softly.
11 NOT Assuming Hunger Or A Dirty Diaper
Hey, growth spurts happen! And when your baby is growing like a sweet little weed, she’s likely hungrier than usual and going through more diapers. Even if you just fed her or changed her diaper, these could still be cause for whining.
Isn't that the exact opposite of what I just said above? You're not wrong, but let me explain.
Once you’ve tried some typical soothing techniques like rubbing her back or rocking her for a few minutes, move on to checking her diaper or get a bottle warmed. No matter how rock solid the feeding and changing schedule has been, babies don't seem to care. When they're growing, all bets are off!
Fun note, not only will babies consume more at a feeding, which require more diaper changes. They'll also demand more frequent feeding, which can mean more time together during the overnight hours. But don't worry, it's temporary. It'll pass.
10 Turning On The TV Or Firing Up The iPad
You’re not wrong here. A little entertainment for you or the baby wouldn’t so bad as you’re pacing the floor, waiting for the fuss to pass. I'm guilty, too! I'd be embarrassed to admit how much Netflix I watched in the overnight hours to pass the time. Between you and me, there may have been a few cartoons too. I was desperate!
Unfortunately devices create both light and sound. If you fire them up when you're trying to soothe and lull your baby back to sleep, you're actually stimulating him.
They’re likely to engage your tiny one and while that might stop the crying, it’ll also wake him up. That’s the exact opposite effect you’re aiming for. Instead, try to keep things as serene.
If you absolutely must distract yourself with a device or TV, keep the volume as low as possible. Also consider adjusting the brightness setting to keep the light level low.
9 Playing With The Baby
You know a belly tickle or round of “Mommy can make funny faces!” always solicits a smile, but when you’ve got to pay attention to the time of day. If you’re trying to settle your baby so he’ll sleep, engaging with him and getting him energized is the wrong approach.
When it's nap time or the middle of the night, babies need cues from you that remind them that it's time to sleep. That includes keeping things as quiet and dark as possible. It also means you should limit engagement.
What this doesn't mean is that you should limit hugs, back rubs, gentle massages, or other soothing touches and sounds. My little one was always a fan of quiet "shushing" sounds while having her back gently patted.
Now if it’s mid-afternoon and your little guy is just being a grump pot, then go for some playtime! A good laugh might be just what he needs!
8 Giving The Silent Treatment
Some have suggested that when dealing with a fussy baby, especially during the overnight hours, a good policy is one of silence. If you don't speak to your little one or interact with him, he's more likely to fall back to sleep faster. While it might work for some, but there's a problem with this practice.
When you’re a baby and feel wet, hungry, lonely, scared, or otherwise unhappy, you want your mommy or daddy to make you feel better. You've grown to know, trust, and love them. Now how would it feel if, when they arrived after hearing you cry, they weren't speaking to or looking at you much?
You want to connect with them. You want to hear them say it'll be okay. You want to see them smile down at you. These all help take the sadness away. Chatting up a storm isn’t likely a great option, quiet and gentle “shhhhhh” or “hushhhh” can be soothing.
7 Using Caffeine To Deal With A Fussy Baby
When you know it's going to be a long night, it's tempting to crank up the Keurig and have a cup of coffee or tea. You might as well be alert, right? Wrong.
First, the caffeine interrupts your natural sleep cycle. If you use it to keep you away during a time you would normally sleep, you're giving your body mixed signals. And as important as sleep cues are to your baby, they're equally important to you!
Second, if you’re breastfeeding, that caffeine can transfer from your milk to your baby, having the same effect on him. Good luck calming a little one who just had a second hand Venti Cappuccino.
Instead, up your water intake. It’ll support your milk production plus hydrate your body so you don’t feel sluggish. Plus, you’ll log extra steps with all of those trips to the bathroom. Daily exercise equals higher levels of energy! Okay, that’s a stretch, but limit or skip the caffeine.
6 Driving The Baby Around
We’ve all heard the stories of exhausted parents driving around during the wee hours of the night in an attempt to calm a fussy baby. While it can work, it’s not the best idea.
Tired drivers aren’t the safest drivers. In fact, they show some of the same characteristics of drunk drivers. They're likely to drift outside their lane, hit the rumble strips on the side of the road, or totally forget the last several miles driven.
We go through the trouble of buying the best car seat we can afford, properly installing it, and securely buckling our little bundle of joy in it. Why would we then proceed to risk her life by driving while drowsy?
Besides, who wants to start a habit of requiring nighttime scenic excursions? Instead, step outside with your baby. Often the change of temperature and environment will be enough to stop the fussing.
5 Staying The Course
When you have a bag of tricks that typically works, it feels comfortable to stick with them. Maybe the baby usually loves your beautiful combination of walking up and down the hall while gently patting his bottom. So what happens when it doesn’t work? Babies are constantly growing and developing. He might need something more. So reach back into your bag try something new.
Babies love singing, some time in the swing, and snuggling with Mom and Dad. They may need a little more food or a little less. Sometimes they just like to nurse for comfort.
If you haven't tried a pacifier yet, maybe it's a good idea. Maybe your baby would like a soothing massage. It's possible she just wants to lay head against your chest, listen to your heartbeat, and your body taking long, slow, deep breaths. Babies can be fickle. Never assume their fussiness is your fault. Just keep trying to sooth her.
4 Overlooking A Baby’s Need To Be Alone
Some days, after you make attempt after attempt to stop the fussing, a mom feels desperate to try something, anything new. What she’s missing might be obvious, though.
Sometimes babies require downtime, just like adults. There’s nothing wrong with laying your little one down in the crib and turning on the mobile for a bit to see if the crying stops.
Some days there's nothing I need more than sitting quietly, alone, and staring into space (preferably at the beach). I often find myself in this mood after a super busy day or when there's just too much noise. Babies are no different.
Little ones need to get away from the hustle and bustle, even if that hustle and bustle is from the everyday activity associated with your household. Older siblings have busy schedules. Dogs bark and phones ring. We zip around from spot to spot and the TV is on. It's a lot!
3 Have A Drink To Get Through It
That bottle of wine looks tempting. Trust me, we’ve all been there, and typically it isn’t a problem. A nice glass of red will take the edge off. Well, at least your edge. The problem is that it’s also likely to make you sleepy. If you have more than a glass, it could impair your judgment.
Fatigue and a fussy baby who just won’t quit is a pretty terrible mix. You'll long for your head to hit the pillow and your baby will long for some TLC and attention. You'll struggle to keep your eyes open after the calm creeps in and your baby will cry more loudly. It's a losing battle. Make sure if you do have a drink there’s another adult available to hand the baby off to if needed.
Another important point to mention is how alcohol can be passed on to the baby if she's breastfeeding. You'll need to wait at least two hours between finishing your adult beverage and nursing.
2 Disciplining Toddlers
No doubt, a crying baby, especially one who can’t seem to be satisfied, gets frustrating. The calmest of parents have been known to lose their cool.
This, however, isn’t the time for a stern “No!” or “It’s time to quiet down.” Even if your mother-in-law talks about how she disciplined your partner and that quieted him right down.
Your little one is looking to you for comfort. If you feel yourself losing patience, take a breather. For many parents, it comes in the form of putting your baby down in a safe place for a few minutes and hiding. Suitable hiding places include but are not limited to the bathroom, the laundry room, and a pantry stocked with chocolate.
A short break and several deep breaths can do wonders for restoring your perspective and patience. It takes you from, "I can't deal with this one more minute" back to, "Mommy's got you, baby."
1 It's Okay To Ask For Help
When you feel like this cranky little human has brought you to a breaking point, call in reinforcements if at all possible. It might be a partner, grandparent, sibling, or friend. Everyone needs help. Ask for it when you need and accept it when it’s offered.
When my children were young, I had this overwhelming sense of obligation to respond with, "I can't do it" or "I got it" when someone offered help. I was the mom. I should be able to handle it. Just trust me on this one. That whole situation was exhausting, both physically and mentally.
When a grandma wants to take a shift or a grandpa wants to try to calm the baby down, let them. When Dad offers to take the midnight feeding, get in bed FAST before he can change his mind. When a friend offers to come over so you can take a nap or get out for a bit, say yes and thank her later. You won't regret it, I promise.