How to Soothe a Newborn Baby

Newborn babies almost always need less stimulation rather than more stimulation.

Babies younger than six weeks rarely settle to distraction like play mats or toys, singing, talking, or direct eye contact. Rather, when a newborn baby is fussy, they almost always need to be fed or help settling themselves.

  • Lower the lights or change the scenery. Go to a different room, go outside, look out the window. 
  • White noise is the right noise. Loud white noise is what calms babies because it takes them “home” to the womb. SHHH loudly in baby’s ear, turn on a loud fan, run the water in the bathtub, or download a white noise app. It has to be fairly loud to work. Limit excessive loud talking, TV noise, or music.
  • Figure out the right movement. Babies don’t like to be put down, so sitting isn’t an option unless you are bouncing on an exercise ball (this is a great technique). Wrapping a baby in a sling or carrier allows babies to move on all planes of space with you (like when they were in the belly) while also freeing your hands to do other things.
  • Change baby’s position. For some reason, babies settle when lying on their side, so hold baby in your forearm like a football on his side. 
  • Tuck baby into the right restriction. Newborn babies do not like to have their arms and legs flailing. They hit themselves in the face and they feel like they are falling. Put baby in a tight swaddle with hands in (I know your baby doesn’t like it, but trust me). Then, promptly start moving.
  • Sucking! What settles babies most of all? Sucking. So, if you don’t want to nurse baby, strongly consider a pacifier. It is developmentally appropriate for an infant to have a pacifier, so let him have it! (It doesn’t mean he will be sucking it when he is 4!) Often newborns need you to hold it in their mouth for them. If they spit it out, it isn’t purposeful, so put it back in.
  • Put it all together. Sometimes you need to keep trying the same techniques in different combinations: Suck and swaddle and bounce on ball. Wear baby and use pacifier. Wear baby and go outside.

As a lactating parent, hearing your baby cry is particularly difficult. There is a biological, physical, and emotional connection between you and your baby when you are breastfeeding. When your baby cries, your body gets ready to feed and it can be physically painful to lactating breasts. 

This is normal. Move through this feeling by taking slow, deep breaths, telling yourself the baby is safe and it is ok to take this time to care for yourself.