Babies are adorable, handy, cute, delicate and more but these little beings get fussy, and they seem inconsolable.

A study  performed on infant crying suggested that the frequency and the decibels of the cries of a baby can help determine neurological problems. 

Babies naturally are like an alarm system that go off when they’re ill, distressed, hungry or bored. Whatever the reason might be, sometimes, a burb, rocking, feeding, a lullaby, a gentle touch, coarse voice or making funny faces may do the trick. Other times, you’ll have to dig a little deeper.

Firstly, check the obvious culprits:

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By Nurse UK

-Empty tummy -

Babies are born hungry! At birth, their tiny stomach can barely accommodate 3 spoons of milk. The younger the baby, the more frequent the hunger. Colostrum is rich, but your baby will need more to stay full and well hydrated as it grows.

For day olds, three hourly might be okay. If your little one is up to 2 weeks – 2 months, you might want to make it eight times or more per day. So, how do you know your baby is getting enough milk? Child’s play! Seriously now, being happy and playful immediately after nursing is a good sign. Happy times are a good indicator that all is well but, if your baby makes a fussy sound soon after being fed, then it likely wants more!

-Wet diaper -

A wet diaper is nothing to tolerate. Say your baby is 2 weeks – 2 months old, you’ll need about six per day. So, be very mindful of the baby’s bowel opening and urination.

-Colic -

All babies cry but Colic is when a baby cries for no apparent reason. It is neither a disease nor diagnosis. It serves as an umbrella term for prolonged and intense crying cycles. This, especially for new parents, can be extremely frustrating.  Mothers have a different level of sensitivity to crying babies in general. Sometimes it leads to ‘tearing up’.

- Swollen gums -

A few infants are born with one or two teeth. Ordinarily, teething comes about when a baby’s teeth emerge from the gums around 6 to 24 months of age. Knowing how to sooth your bundle of joy would come in handy at such times. Babies become more irritable, tender and with swollen gums. Other noticeable signs include pronounced concerns with oral gratification — your baby would always want to place objects or fingers into the mouth in an attempt to reduce discomfort.

Here are a few things you can do to ease your child’s Teething Pain –

  • Sucking on a cold, clean and wet cloth would help. This works like a cold compress which can help lower the temperature in your baby’s mouth/gum. This in turn will reduce pain and swelling.

The rationale: Generally, applying something cold to an inflammation restricts blood flow to the area, which can result in: slowing or stopping bleeding, reducing swelling and inflammation.

  • Gently massage your baby’s gums after dipping a clean finger in ice or carefully use the back of a cold feeding spoon. This will improve circulation and delivery of anti-inflammatory materials to the these areas. Supposing your baby’s gum is bruised following rigorous suckling, inflammation marks the beginning of the healing process.
  • Before purchasing over-the-counter medication, consult your dentist or doctor for teething ointment recommendations or prescription. Teething ointment numb and soothe the gums.
  • Use a teething ring – help your child bite down on a chilled, not frozen teething ring. Avoid a frozen teething ring as this can damage your baby’s sensitive gums.

When to call your pediatrician:

- Fever -

During a fever episode, addressing the high temperature comes first in trying to soothe the baby. Fever, a sign of illness, can be prompted by a handful of pathogens. Some pathogens are transmitted vertically (mother-to-child transmission) to unborn babies. These include: Toxoplasma gondii, (Listeria monocytogenes, Treponema pallidium, Parvovirus, HIV, Varicella zoster virus, amongst others), Rubella, Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Herpes viruses, malaria parasites, etc.  

Typically, babies are shielded from bacteria and viruses while in the womb. Hence, if a fever occurs, it most likely means that the baby might have picked up a cold or other viral infection.

Also, more serious infections like pneumonia, urinary tract infections, ear infections may be the culprit. In regions where parasites like plasmodium (malaria) and/or blood bacterial infections are endemic, fever serves as a warning sign.

It is important to consult your local health practitioner as soon as possible as laboratory investigations will be required.

-Runny nose -

Babies struggle with building antibodies to fight off pathogens as their immune system keeps developing. Runny nose in babies could result from cold as the delicate membrane lining the upper respiratory tract becomes inflamed. Sometimes, however, runny nose in babies could suggest a more serious contagion. Once this happens, the baby’s nasal discharge will increase and there will be nasal congestion. Your baby’s oxygen supply becomes greatly compromised owing to this. A runny nose is sometimes accompanied by fever and green or yellow snot.

Having older children around increases the chances of catching an infection even though it also helps your baby mentally.

To decongest your baby’s airways, use a bulb suction or a suction device like the NoseFrida to gently suction and clear the mucus. Give your baby lots of fluids. Be cautious in applying Saline drops or petroleum jelly. You can invest in a cool mist humidifier but please always consult your paediatrician before using them.

-Kernicterus -

Some babies are fussier than other babies. If your baby is inconsolable and you suspect there might be more to it, then you may be right. Kernicterus often hides behind the cloak of excessive fussiness and high-pitched crying.

Though Kernicterus is a rare illness, it’s a serious form of brain damage that starts as jaundice. In contrast to physiologic jaundice in which “the bilirubin levels drop to normal”, in kernicterus, “the levels continue to rise until the baby’s nervous system is overstimulated and pain occurs”. At this point, excessive bilirubin might have flooded the brain, thus causing irreversible damage.

Occasionally, other illnesses present similar symptoms as kernicterus. These include absent startle reflex, poor feeding or sucking. Notably,  lethargy, soft bulges on the head, seizures, intellectual disability, arched back while crying, or a movement disorder are also not left out.

Once you suspect anything is wrong, schedule an appointment with your physician.

-Brain Damage -

Babies do not come with an operating manual, hence spotting a malfunction such as brain damage can be tricky. It may be the last thing to cross your mind when your baby has a high-pitched cry. This is because “crying is a nonspecific means of communicating pain or high-sensitivity”. In addition to wailing, signs of brain damage to watch out for include changes in vision or hearing, disorientation, maintaining balance and obvious sleep disorders.

Soothing a high-pitched cry is important, but, a more urgent problem is soothing the pains. Brain damage or brain injury is difficult to bear and crying is the readily available outlet for babies

What your baby’s cry (sound) might mean

Baby’s cry is a universal language, one common thing we share. Here’s a clue to what the sounds baby make when crying might mean:

  • The ‘Neh’ sound  – hunger – the sound usually accompanies the baby fiddling for the nipple. It can be triggered by the sucking reflex when the tongue is pushed up to meet the roof of the mouth.
  • The ‘Eh’ – upper wind (burp) – sometimes, your baby might just be feeling like a puffer fish. At such times the distress call might result from a large bubble of air trapped in your little one’s chest. Your baby is most likely to respond with the characteristic ‘Eh’ sound. Usually, they adopt it in an attempt to release the trapped air through their mouth. Quite smart eh?
  • The ‘Eairh’ – lower wind (gas) – remember the bowel sound? That’s what this sounds like. It passes on valuable information. Sometimes, a good fart makes things more comfortable. Air trapped in the lower part of your baby’s gut goes out in the form of flatulence or an upset tummy. The ‘Eairh’ sound is prompted when air from a burp couldn’t be expelled and ends up travelling back to the intestines. The intestines then tighten to force the air bubble out. This is why the ‘eairh’ sound may also mean that a bowel movement is ongoing.
  • Heh – discomfort (hot, cold, wet) – babies also have a fair share of Experts explain, babies make the sound reflex ‘Heh’ when they feel stressed, discomfort or when it’s ‘diaper time’. Since stress is usually caused by our external environment, irritants may be from a skin reflex, such as a sweaty or itchy feeling.
  • Owh – sleepiness – the ‘owh’ sound gives off a ‘bored’ vibe. Experts suggest that [2]  babies yawn if they are tired. Other times, it could be an indicator that your baby’s brain needs a little more oxygen. Cries interrupted by yawns might point to hunger, fatigue, boredom, lack of sleep or even excessive sleep if the baby just wakes up.


After ruling out the major culprits and you still have a fussy baby on your hands, below are simple tips you can adapt to help both you and the baby. 

How to soothe a crying baby by swaddling the baby

  • Swaddling is a timeless practice of wrapping a baby in blankets or similar cloths so that movement of the limbs is controlled. This technique keeps your little bundle of joy feeling cozy and secure. Authorities believe swaddling appeals to babies because it creates a womb-like feeling. Even some caregivers find swaddling helpful. Having used this technique while working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I can agree that it to helps them settle down faster and sleep longer. However, each baby is unique. Not all babies like their arms wrapped up. If your baby sucks fingers or enjoys freedom, you should allow your baby’s arms to be left out of the swaddle.
Watch the video below  “how to soothe your baby” by swaddling

How to soothe a crying baby by encouraging sucking

  • Suckling comes naturally to babies – one of the earliest birth assessments is the suckling reflex. However, most babies often soothe themselves with non-nutritive sucking. This doesn’t fill their tummies but it calms their nerves. To their developing brains, it supposedly serves as a healthy distraction by creating a sense of satisfaction, consistent with the actual sucking. 

    Whilst there’s no substitute for the real deal, you can ease an inconsolable child by offering a clean pacifier or your little finger, clean and turned downward. However, experts would always advise making sure breastfeeding is well established before getting your baby hooked on pacifiers.

    Babies should also be weaned off comfort nursing/non-nutritive sucking to prevent changes to their dentition.

how to soothe your baby

How to soothe a baby by wearing your baby

Wearing your baby  and walking around is an excellent way to soothe your baby. Babies tend to enjoy the feeling, closeness and the pace of your movement. Experts believe babies that are worn are happier, calmer and well bonded with their parents. Across Africa, it is common to see women go about their activities of daily living with their babies strapped to their back.

There are various ways  to snuggle your baby without having your hands tied or using a wrapper. Carriers designed specifically for this purpose abound. This technique is quite convenient as your hands remain free for other tasks. How to do this depends on your chosen method.

If you use a carrier, you’ll have the baby face your body in a front-pack carrier or a sling for the first three months. This is because during these early days your baby would need extra head support. you can adopt a sling especially when you practice on-the-go nursing. The sling can be converted to a side or back hold when your baby gets older and weightier. Some babies might balk at being in a sling or front carrier at first, but keep trying.

As John Locke puts it, babies are a clean slate with no predeterminations except those imprinted by nature or nurture.

How to soothe a baby by rocking in a chair or glider

  • Rocking chairs are designed to create calm movements that make your baby feel relaxed. Nowadays, parenting gadgets permit some hands free and easy to operate rocking options. Other devices are motorized baby swing, vibrating bouncy seat or an automatic cradle.

    For best results, always follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions regarding the age and weight restrictions for these devices.

    Experienced parents advice not letting your baby get in the habit of dozing off in them and eventually becoming hooked (dependent) on the motion to fall asleep over time. This will cause some level of psychological dependence.  Instead, allow your baby enjoy the rocker just to the brink of sleep, and then be transferred to the cot.

    Sadly, if the wailing persists, all these devices will count as nothing.

    Note::::::> If you’re yet to decide on whether a rocker or glider is preferable for your baby, always bear in mind that the major difference is the range of movement that’s possible. Rockers usually have an intense movement that you can control with your body while gliders have an even, smooth motion. Both are prodigious options for your baby’s nursery.

How to soothe a baby by using a ‘white noise’

  • Sleep experts accept as true that white noise (4) works by reducing the difference between background sounds and a “peak” sound, like the humming sound of a car engine. It creates ambience, giving your baby a better chance to relax.

    Besides using gadgets like White noise machines and mobiles, you can experiment other things like turning on a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer or fan. Better still, the good old fashioned “Shhhhhh…shhhh…shhhh…” sound still works. Anything to block out random, disturbing noise.

How to soothe a baby by singing

  • Some babies might calm down to rhythmic whispering sounds, which may remind them of the womb. Researchers have agreed that around 18 weeks of pregnancy, your little one hears their very first sounds. By the time babies are born, those little ears have undergone incredible development. You know the best part? Your baby doesn’t care and truly has no idea whether you sing off-key or with perfect pitch. So go ahead, sing on!

Soothing bath

  • Newborns are extremely sensitive to change in temperature. In a gentle manner, with your baby’s head resting on your arm and your palm under the butt, use your other hand to hold your baby’s arm firmly. Then, feet first, gradually slide your baby into the bath water. Even when your baby can sit up, keep one hand on his/her back at all times. Support is non-negotiable.

    Most babies enjoy bathing or being immersed in water. Perhaps, it reminds them of the womb. If your baby is this type, fill up the tub or bathing bowl with warm water and make it chill-out time. Create a routine, so, your baby can get used to it. Add special treats such as adding a few drops of lavender oil or chamomile etc. So long your baby enjoys it? Go get it!

How to soothe a baby by Massage

  • According to the International Association of Infant Massage (IAIM), massaging your baby may help stimulate the circulatory and digestive systems. The IAIM suggests that parents introduce touch as soon as the baby is born. Massage time is ideal for bonding. It forms a foundation to interact with your baby in a deep and  somatic way. It connects and communicates trust, love and care to your baby. Anecdotal reports propose this relaxation helps soothe the baby, improve their sleep.

Here’s some insight on how to go about massaging your baby:

Firstly, you can play around with lotion or special baby massage oils, but neither is necessary. Be subtle and gentle on the fragile being but make sure it’s firm enough not to chuckle .

  • Rub your baby’s chest from the center outward. Be creative. Make small circles on the stomach and advance toward the belly button.
  • Mildly, with great care, roll the baby’s arms and legs between your hands, taking turns with each limb.
  • Alternate your hands in a “milking” motion as you stroke gently each limb from inside-out till you get to the extremity.
  • Unfold your baby’s fists and rub the palms and fingers smoothly.
  • Massage and tickle the soles of your baby’s feet and straighten out the toes as well.
  • give your baby a premium, get your baby on his/ her tummy and stroke the back from side to side, then up and down.
  • the ‘colic carry’ vs tummy times – both techniques apply pressure to the tummy. You can try any.

-Tummy time-

  • Gently lay your baby on its tummy, across your stomach or lap. The change in position may help soothe your baby. You can also stroke your baby’s back, which is both soothing and may help gas pass through. Tummy time technique may help your little one build stronger neck and shoulder muscles.

how to soothe a baby

-Colic carry-

    • On your forearm, lay your baby on its tummy, supporting the head in your hand.
    • Use your other hand to soothe and rub the Place your baby across your lap, with one knee in the tummy and the other stabilizing the head.
    • Take hold of your baby upright, with the abdomen on your shoulder.
    • Lay the baby on its back and push its knees up to the tummy for 10 seconds, then release and repeat, to help relieve gas. 

    Though tiring, keep in mind that this too, shall pass and you’ll come out with better knowledge.

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