Here are Some Tips:
Your baby is upset and crying and you have tried everything to calm her.
You’re more than just confused, you’re downright befuddled as to why your newborn won’t settle. The goal of this post is to give you the top reasons why your newborn won’t settle and tips on how to handle each situation.
Why Newborn Won’t Settle
Newborns’ bodies are growing fast and constantly cycling through a process of feeding, digesting, peeing and pooping. They get tired quickly and the time between tired and overtired can be as little as 15 minutes for a newborn baby. Naturally there are moments and even days when it’s all just too much for them.
I’m sure you can relate.
If your newborn won’t settle, it doesn’t mean you are a bad parent. It simply means that you are learning how to parent this tiny, ever changing human and figuring out how to help her when she is having a bad day.
I want to stress that when your newborn cries, you should tend to him as quickly as possible. The newborn phase is not the time to introduce independent sleep or self soothing. Newborns need to be fed, changed, held and put to bed frequently. It is not appropriate or beneficial to let them cry for any period of time. On the contrary, this can be dangerous so when your newborn is crying, it is best to do what you can to calm him.
The Newborn Age Range
Most pediatric healthcare experts define a newborn as an infant that is 0 to 8 weeks old and some experts narrow the newborn age range to 0 to 28 days.
The Typical Amount of Crying for a Newborn
If you are parenting a newborn baby, some crying is expected and completely normal. A disproportionate amount of crying is characterized by crying for more than 3-4 hours a day, 3 days out of the week. If your baby is crying this much, especially on a consistent basis, you should explore this with your healthcare provider. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong. It simply means that your healthcare provider should see if there are symptoms accompanying the crying that could be signs of an allergy, intolerance or medical issue.
The Top Reasons
Gassiness is definitely a reason for why your newborn won’t settle. Here are some signs that your baby is gassy:
- Squirming and jerky movements, especially when held in a cradle or when she is placed on her back.
- Refusing feedings.
- Intense crying to the point of redness in the face.
- Pulling legs up to the chest.
Tips for relieving your newborn’s gassiness:
Gently pumping or peddling your newborn’s legs
Lay your baby on her back and gently bend her knees toward her chest, putting a little bit of pressure on her tummy. Pump both legs at the same time or alternate her legs in a pedaling motion. Do this softly and slowly, perhaps even singing a lullaby while keeping rhythm with the pumping or peddling. This will help push gas up and out of your baby’s tummy and digestive tract and will also aid in digestion. The change of scenery and singing also helps to distract and calm her.
The Colic Hold
This hold takes practice but after a few tries, you will be a master at holding your newborn in this position. When I was first trying to master this hold, I started from a seated position and I encourage you to do the same. Once you have your baby in the hold, you can move to a standing position. If you would like to see a demonstration of how to get your baby in this position, you can view my step by step video here.
If you are right handed, drape your baby over the back of your left forearm so her arms and legs are dangling over your forearm. Bring her body close to yours. With your right hand you can stroke or pat her back. Because she is lying on her tummy, any gas that is trapped in her stomach or digestive tract can be coaxed out. The position also gives your baby a different view of the world, which can calm her down. Rocking your baby in this position can also give her some relief.
Tummy time helps with many things and can be particularly helpful with gassiness. Like the colic hold, your baby is placed on her tummy, so gas is pushed up and out of her stomach and digestive tract. Tummy time can be introduced when your baby is as young as one week old, provided she was born full term and her umbilical cord stump has fallen off. Remember that tummy time, especially with newborns, should ALWAYS be supervised. Never leave your newborn unattended during tummy time.
Gripe Water or Cocyntal
Gripe water and Cocyntal are over the counter remedies that can help with infant tummy troubles. There are three things to remember before you use these products:
- Speak with your healthcare provider before using them. Perhaps bring it up during a routine visit, before your baby exhibits excessive crying. This way, you will have them on hand if you have a bad night with your baby. Most healthcare providers can even provide you with samples.
- Remember that these products are not recommended for babies under 1 month of age.
- Read the package carefully before using these products, paying special attention to dosage instructions.
Hunger is often a reason for everyday crying but excessive crying can also be linked to hunger.
Make sure your baby is getting full feeds and not just “snacking” especially if you are breastfeeding. If your baby is only feeding for a few minutes, it’s possible that she is only getting foremilk, which is the milk that lets down first. This milk contains less fat and calories than the hindmilk, the milk that lets down later in the feed. Aim to feed for 7-10 minutes per breast.
This can be difficult if your baby falls asleep during feedings. Try to feed your baby when he wakes from naps and in the morning so he is hungry and alert. Avoid feeding to sleep as this can result in short feeds and you cannot burp your baby if he falls asleep while feeding.
Also remember that it is tricky to get your baby on a feeding schedule when your baby is under 3 months old. Many healthcare professionals recommend feeding every 2 hours but during the first few weeks or during growth spurts, it’s not uncommon for your baby to demand feedings more frequently. When in doubt, offer a feeding, even if your baby just ate. Most of the time, this will calm your baby.
Overtiredness is very common with newborns. Because they are growing so fast and their brains are processing a lot of information, they get tired very quickly. Wake windows for newborns are short and often within 90 minutes of waking up, they are ready for sleep again. Although I caution caregivers that they should not immediately assume that their baby or toddler is overtired, I do think this is often the issue with fussy newborns.
It is difficult to settle an overtired baby, making overtiredness even more stressful. Here are some tips to settle your newborn when he is overtired.
Overstimulation and overtiredness usually go hand in hand with newborns. If you have had a busy period, with lots of visitors and playing, it’s possible that your baby is not just overtired, she’s overstimulated too. Bring your baby into a quiet, dimly lit room and hold her close. This alone may not calm her right away but try some of the methods below while in the room.
I have written about the benefits of swaddling in other posts and I still feel that it is one of the best ways to calm a cranky, overtired newborn. Swaddling reminds newborns of the womb and also helps to combat their Moro reflex from jolting them out of sleep. Not sure how to swaddle your baby? Check out my step by step video here.
More Great Tips
White or Pink Noise
White or pink noise is often used when sleep training older babies because it absorbs household noises that could easily wake up a baby. However, when used with newborns, the white or pink noise can calm them and help them settle. The noise reminds babies of the slow, steady sounds of the womb environment. It also helps to regulate the flood of sound stimulation that newborns are constantly hearing. Remember that as adults, we have grown accustomed to a constant flow of noises meeting our ears. Newborns have not yet gotten used to this, making white or pink noise a great way to give their ears a break.
I often get asked about white noise machines and there are several good ones on the market but you can also download white, pink and other noises on your phone or tablet. Some are preloaded on your Google Home or Alexa as well. Check out some examples here.
Stroke Your Newborn’s Nose
I can personally attest to this cranky baby hack. If your baby is overtired, overstimulated and inconsolable, head to a dim room, swaddle them and give it a try. It worked with my kids until their toddler years. Check out my video on how to use the baby nose stroke hack here.
Use your index finger and place it at the top of your baby’s nose, toward the middle of the forehead. Gently run your finger toward the tip of his nose and repeat. This will cause your baby’s eyes to close and will also stimulate the millions of nerve endings in your baby’s forehead and nose. If your baby is crying, it will help to calm him and if he’s tired he will soon fall asleep.
Walking / Wearing your Baby
When human beings perceive danger, our fight or flight response drives us to move; either to get away from the perceived danger or to fight it. Walking around with your baby while she is upset due to overstimulation satisfies the fight or flight response that she cannot activate herself.
If you’re newborn won’t settle, try walking around with her or wearing her in a baby carrier, baby sling or baby wrap. The movement should help with crying and the closeness to your body will comfort her. Wearing your baby also frees up your hands so you can get a few things done while comforting your baby.
The Shush Pat Method
The Shush Pat Method is often used to settle newborns and can also be used to sleep train older babies. It is considered one of the gentlest forms of sleep training. The shhhh noise is one of your tools for calming a fussy baby. This sound alone is often effective for calming babies and toddlers, especially when combined with holding and rocking.
The Shush Pat method combines the shhhh sound with rhythmic patting on the back or tummy. Put your baby in her swaddle, place her in her crib or bassinet, turn her on her side and gently pat her back while making the shhhh sound. If your baby falls asleep, remember to place her on her back. You can also pat your baby’s tummy while she lies on her back. Try to maintain physical contact until she is completely settled or asleep.
Take a Break
If none of these tips work and you have checked in with your healthcare provider to rule out allergies, intolerances or illness, it’s time to take a break.
Stop trying to calm your baby and remember that she can sense when you are stressed out.
Take a breath and just let her be in a bad mood. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do. Allow him to have a bad day and try to roll with it.
Take a walk or take a drive. If it’s too cold for a walk, go to the mall or the library. Sometimes a change of scenery can help. Take comfort in the knowledge that your baby will eventually calm down, even if it feels like the fussiness is neverending.
Are you wondering why your newborn won’t settle? Book your complimentary 15 minute enlightenment call with me today.