We all know the stressed out feeling of having your baby cry and you can’t solve it.

Maybe you’re driving home from the grocery store and baby starts to fuss. You sing a song and that works for a minute, but then then the whimpers escalate into a full fledged, purple faced, bottom jaw quivering wail. Suddenly you’re all sweaty and yelling at the cars in front of you to just, “Move faster!!” Milk starts leaking down to your belly button and neither you nor baby can take another minute of this.

Or maybe you decided that tonight was the night you were going to surprise your partner and cook a little something special (as in something hot for once) for dinner. Baby is usually so good in the little bouncy seat in the kitchen in the late afternoons, but tonight, she just won’t settle. You have raw chicken on the counter and so as baby starts fussing you use your foot to help bounce the seat a little. At first baby thinks maybe this will be ok, but then, as you put the chicken in the pan, baby starts really getting upset. You go through the list, “I just fed her. Diaper was clean, but do I smell yogurt? Is it gas? Too tired? Not tired at all? Bored?” You wash your hands and check everything, but now the chicken is burning and baby is still crying.

Moments like these you might start to panic. You might feel like screaming yourself. You may want to cry. You go through a thousand checklists in your head of what you should be doing, but is any of this going to work? What can I do, I’m only one person and I guess I don’t speak my baby’s language?!? AHHHHHH!!!!!!

So, what can you do when baby just won’t stop crying?

First, try to relax. Breathe slowly and deeply. One thing we often overlook is that babies pick up on our feelings and emotions. So if you are feeling stressed and upset, baby will respond by feeling…stressed and upset.

Second, while babies cry to communicate something to you, know that you may not be able to solve each of their problems. That is okay.

Third, just holding (when possible) and talking in a soothing voice, or singing their favorite song, will reduce their stress and the cortisol rushing to their brain; so even if it doesn’t end their crying, your love and care does make a difference

Let’s look at our two common scenarios and see what you can try.

In the car, first and foremost, remain calm; because being so stressed you end up in a car accident will solve exactly zero problems. Pull over somewhere safe and check baby out. Feed them a little, give them a new diaper. Make sure they weren’t too hot or too cold. Cuddle and kiss them and tell them they will be ok. Take a short walk if you can, even if it’s just a few laps around a parking lot, it may help. Once baby is calm, start singing a song to them and keep on singing as you buckle them in and return to driving.

If you must get home right away and cannot take a few minutes to stop, try singing your baby’s favorite song. If that doesn’t work, open some windows and see if a little fresh air can help. Find a blank radio station on the dial and play the white noise static nice and loud. If there are a few adults in the car, move someone to sit next to baby so they can hold hands and make eye contact and reassure your baby they aren’t alone.

If the car is an ongoing problem, try moving them from their infant car seat into a convertible seat intended for newborns. These seats tend to be a little more upright and higher, and for many babies they make a huge difference. Sometimes, a mirror so they can see you may help, though I’ve heard from some people that those mirrors actually make their baby motion sick–so try both!

For our dinner scenario, when it seems like maybe dinner isn’t going to happen as you planned, start by accepting that this is okay. It’s only a short while of time when making a simple dinner will seem like climbing Mount Everest without having trained first. Check baby out, and try OBC’s DFG checklist. Is it their diaper? Are they hungry and need food? Could it be gas? Once you have tried these, try rocking baby in your arms, singing a song and dancing a little around the kitchen. If you need to tend to the dinner, buckle baby back in their seat for a moment, quickly turn the chicken or chop a veggie, and then pick baby back up. It may be that this in and out routine will be enough. If baby just won’t settle and this isn’t working, and you’re super stressed, remember, “This is okay. This is one dinner in a lifetime of many dinners.” If you can, safely put meal ingredients back in the fridge (remember half cooked meat would need to be tossed as that could pose a food safety risk) and try again tomorrow, or have your partner finish cooking when they return home.

What’s the take-away though?

  • Trying to remain calm is the first, and honestly, the most important thing. Your baby will cry thousands of times between now and when they hit college, but when you are able to remain calm you are reassuring them that this feeling they are having won’t last forever, that you are there to help them, and that together the two of you will make it through.
  • Check the DFG basics first. Do they need a new diaper? Is it a need for food? Do they have gas that they can’t pass on their own?
  • Next, try to rock or bounce baby. Motion goes a long way towards settling a fussy baby.
  • Try some sort of noise. Whether that’s their favorite song, your soothing voice, or a nice shushing noise close to their ear, noise can distract and help sooth a sad baby.
  • Get some fresh air if you can. The number of times I have soothed a crying baby by walking outside at 2 am is impossible to count. Even when it’s cold, bundle them (and yourself) up. I swear this trick works 9 times out of ten.

Finally, remember there will be times that baby will just keep crying. Try your best, remain calm, and know that baby knows that you are trying to help them, even if they aren’t settling down. Some days are just extra hard, but you are doing this right, and your baby knows that you are there for them no matter what.

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