How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part Two

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So, as promised in Part One, here are some of my trade secrets with video demonstrations. It’s times like this I really wish I had Google Glass. These are kind of embarassingly bad. Maybe someday I’ll be able to record these in a higher quality! With lighting! and makeup! and more than two takes! and better camera angles!

Well, hopefully you’ll get the idea.

Trade Secret #0—Start clean.

Start with a baby who’s been fed, burped, and changed in the last 15-30 minutes.

Trade Secret #1—the Head Jiggle.

There are 3 ways I jiggle baby’s heads. NEVER SHAKE A BABY! When jiggling your baby’s head, always make sure that the head and neck are supported. You want a gentle head bobble to relax the baby. This isn’t a shake that’s going to sever their spinal cord.

Here are the first two methods:

Another head-jiggle method:

Trade Secret #2—How to Rock a Baby to Sleep

I don’t rock my kids to sleep every night because I don’t want to HAVE to rock my kids to sleep at night. You follow me? But when my baby is overtired and can’t settle down, I rock him and he falls asleep. Here are my tricks to rocking a baby to calm him or lull him to sleep:

  1. Hold the baby close, chest to chest. Swaddling is optional; I recommend it. (You can watch a few different ways to swaddle hereherehere, and here.)
  2. Sway from side to side while bouncing the baby.
  3. Shush the baby (Shhhh, shhh, shhh). Added benefit? It reminds you to breathe and calms you down, too.
  4. Rock him from light to shadow (rock with your back to the light). This causes the baby’s eyes to open and close more frequently and eventually roll back as they fall asleep.

Here’s the video. Again, poor quality, but you can see Lion fussing and then begin to fall asleep.

Trade Secret #3—Baby Massage

I’m not making videos about this, because there are already good videos online about them. Baby massage is great for calming fussy babies, especially if the fussiness is due to gas or colic.

This video playlist demonstrates the more common anti-colic massage techniques.

For just calming the baby, I do one of two things:

  • Rubbing or stroking the sides of the face with the sides of my thumbs. I go from the outer corner of the eye to the ear or above and around the ear. I also Shush while doing it and bring my forehead close to the baby’s. I learned this trick from a woman who works with Alzheimer sufferers.
  • Rubbing the legs just above the knees. I’m not sure why this is soothing or where I heard about it, but it works!

I use those massages on my toddler, too, when he gets worked up about something.

A colicky baby of a friend of mine greatly improves with chiropractic adjustments. I don’t suggest you try that at home, though, unless you’re a licensed chiropractor.

Trade Secret #4—Spend time with your kids

The more time you spend with your kids, the more you’ll experiment and find out what works for each baby. Captain has been holding our boys a certain way for years, and apparently it actually has a name—the “Tiger in the Tree technique.”

I frequently have one leg up on a chair or couch (half cross-legged), lay Lion in my lap, and bounce my knee. DIY bounce chair.

When Lion is really losing it (usually around the bewitching hour of 11 o’clock), I swaddle him, do head jiggle method #3, and sing “Young and Beautiful” to him. It is the ONLY thing that will stop his crying and settle him down. With one of my friends, it was Colbie Caillat on repeat. For Champ, I think I played Jack Johnson’s In Between Dreams album.

I think that’s it! If I can think of any other secrets, I’ll add them here. Any other moms have input on secrets they’d like to share?

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How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part One

So, you’ve got a crying baby on your hands. Look no further! A baby, just like you, has a hierarchy of needs. When troubleshooting a baby’s crying, start at the most basic needs and move from there. To illustrate, I created a graphic for you—one that I’d love you to share on Facebook or Pinterest, hint, hint!

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Physiological Needs

Is he hungry?

I usually start with this one, but that’s only because it’s easiest to rule out since my son will NOT eat if he’s not hungry. You can’t make him. Only two months old, and already stubborn. (I think he got a bigger dose of my Irishness than Champ did.)

It’s pretty easy to tell if a baby is hungry, especially breastfed babies. Breastfed babies start hunting for breasts. It’s pretty obvious, and also hilarious when they start snorting like little piggies looking for truffles. Another way you can tell if a baby is hungry is if he opens up his mouth and sticks out his tongue, like he’s tasting the air, or if he’s “going to town” on his pacifier as though he is trying to get milk out of it.

Does she want to nurse or suckle at a pacifier?

I know, I know. I used the word “suckle.” Sucking is a physiological need for babies. Some want to nurse for comfort, and others want a pacifier. Some go for fingers or their fists. And then there are those remarkably acrobatic infants who suck on their own toes.

Does he need to be burped?

Bottle-fed babies need to be burped more often than breastfed ones. I often don’t have to burp Lion at all, but if he starts to stiffen his little body and stretch out his legs and arch his back, I know he needs to be burped and/or given a tummy massage to work out the bubbles. My favorite method with Lion is holding him upright (he has good head and neck control), putting his feet on a surface, holding him around his torso just under the arms, and then pulling him down into a squat. His knees go up to his tummy, and this works the bubbles out. You can do bicycle movements with his/her legs, too, if your baby prefers lying down or doesn’t have head control yet.

Does he need to be changed?

This isn’t just about diaper changes, though that’s the big reason babies cry. Some babies also cry if they are too hot, too cold, if the fabric is itchy, or if there’s a loose thread or hair wrapped around them under their clothes. Undressing a baby can also distract him enough that he will forget why he was crying in the first place.

Is she tired?

The problem with tired babies is that by the time they start crying, they are already overtired. (Like when you start to feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.) You have to try to catch them and get them to sleep when they start showing signs of tiredness, like rubbing their eyes, turning away from lights or sounds, or getting heavy-lidded. If you can do BabyWise, go for it!

Note: Babies need sleep more than the other things above them on the hierarchy pyramid, but if they are overtired, they will probably need to feel secure or be distracted before they can settle down and fall asleep.

Recreating the Womb

Does she need some security?

Newborns can easily overstimulate themselves or wake themselves up by their randomly flailing limbs. You know when you are just about to fall asleep, and you get that sensation of falling, and it scares the crap out of you (and anyone sharing your bed) because all of a sudden your whole body spazzes out? I’m pretty sure that newborns feel like that all. the. time. So feel sorry for them, and be sure to wrangle their wild appendages into submission if they are trying to fall asleep but can’t. Lion always wants, no—needs—to be swaddled at night at around 8pm. If your baby doesn’t like being swaddled, you can hold her closely instead, but know that as soon as you put her down, she will probably wake herself up again until she has control over her arms and legs. I suggest a monster swaddle, because just because a baby can easily get out of a tight swaddle, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like being swaddled. It might mean that you just need to try a different approach to swaddling. You can watch a few different ways to swaddle hereherehere, and here.

You can also give your baby security by wearing her in a baby carrier. If the baby is especially fussy, try going skin to skin, and let your baby rest her head on your chest so she can hear your heartbeat.

Does he crave rhythmic movement?

When the baby is in the womb, he is constantly moving in response of his mother’s movements. Put a baby in the arms of a veteran mom, and he will almost immediately start swaying back and forth. (Lots of moms will, when they hear or see a baby crying, start unconsciously swaying back and forth if they are already standing.) Babies like to be swayed and rocked, bounced or swung. Swings and vibrating bouncy chairs can be a lifesaver if you or your arms need a rest. A ride in the car or stroller can also help lull a fussy baby.

NEVER SHAKE A BABY. That should go without saying. However, if you support the baby’s head, you can gently, GENTLY wiggle him to settle her down. Nothing that would snap his neck, obviously. You can try laying him on his back, putting your hand on his tummy, and shaking your hand to make him vibrate. His head and neck are supported by whatever he’s lying on, so it’s safe.

Does she want white noise to soothe her?

If you’ve ever heard “womb noises” or listened to an ultrasound taking place, you can hear the whoosh whooshing of the mom’s blood circulating. It’s probably unnerving for a baby to go from constant noise in the womb to relative silence after birth. On the other hand, babies can also be overstimulated by too much noise. White noise works well in either situation. Shushing the baby—holding her close and going “Shhhhh, shhhhhh” at a medium volume can help settle her down. If that doesn’t work, try other white noise, like a fan, a blowdryer, or a vacuum. You can try music, but to avoid overstimulation, stick to something calming and peaceful. Be wary of classical music, because it often is highly emotional. I stopped playing classical music for Champ at bedtime when he woke up in a panic to “Ride of the Valkyries.”

Distractions

Newborns usually don’t get bored like older babies; they tend to get overstimulated. But distractions, in moderation, can help a baby forget why he or she is crying and then be more responsive to the other methods of soothing.

Babies LOVE lights. Take the baby by something bright—a window, a lamp, a mirror—and she might be distracted enough to stop crying. This works best before the fussiness evolves into full-blown crying. The same goes for toys.

A change of scenery is a gentle way of shocking the baby into forgetting what the fuss was about. I can’t tell you how often I took baby Champ out onto our screened porch and swung in the hammock with him to settle him down. Babies love fresh air. A walk or drive has the added bonus of rhythmic movements.

Singing is also a good distraction, even if you don’t have a very good singing voice. Babies especially love it when MEN sing or speak to them while holding them close because of the vibrations of the Adam’s Apple.

To Be Continued…

I have a couple other tips that I’ve found to be really effective in calming my own (and other) babies, but I can’t find videos to illustrate them, so I’m going to have to make my own. Aaaand it’s the Fourth of July weekend, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to make and upload the videos. So subscribe to my blog, or like my page on Facebook so you can be alerted when I finally get that posted.

UPDATE: Read Part Two here.

Confessions of a Sleep-Deprived Mom of Two

Anyone that has come over to my home or talked to me on the phone recently can gather one of two things: 1) I am entirely sleep deprived and 2) I’ve lost complete control over my household.

If I weren’t so sleep deprived, I likely would have the sense to not post any of the information below. But because I am sleep deprived, I tell myself that a future sleep-deprived self will be amused by it when I see it again in a few years. Behold, life with a toddler, puppy, and newborn baby.

Confession #1

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“Oh, I’m, I’m dazed and confused. I’ve been chasing this…this wee-naked child over hill and over dale.”

Oh, Doctor. You have no idea how relevant that line is to my life right now.

I just stepped out the front door, grabbed my toddler, and pulled him back inside. That seems normal enough—toddlers letting themselves outside. Mine was standing there, on the stoop, completely naked, wearing sunglasses. Then he ran off down the hall, the dog chasing after him, desperate to lick his bottom.

Confession #2

Champ has been getting quite a bit of freedom lately, as you can expect. In an attempt to stave off tantrums (or should I say, more tantrums), I’ve been giving him more leeway. He’s also regressed a bit in potty training, hence my letting him be naked (see above). The nakedness was progressive. He’s usually fully clothed—sometimes wearing the same pajamas or shirt for up to three days—but I’ve let him go shirtless like his dad a few times.

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This afternoon, I had to change his clothes, and I grabbed the first pair of shorts I could find, not realizing they were 18-months. So I help him put on his underpants and the shorts, and they are super short. Like, Daniel Craig’s swimming suit in Casino Royale short. Whatever, it’s fine. But then he decided to put on his backpack, and as he’s running around with a backpack strapped to his back in hilariously tiny shorts, I was suddenly reminded of The Hawkeye Initiative, which exposes (no pun intended) the ridiculous hypersexualization of women in comic books by replacing women with illustrations of Hawkeye doing the same poses. Like this:

Sorry, son. I’ll make sure you wear appropriately sized shorts next time.

Confession #3 (aka, you can stop reading here and go about your daily business)

You know that space between two people right before they are about to kiss?

harry-ginny

Yeah, right there. We’ll call it “the land of in-between.” THAT is where I’ve been living the past three weeks.

Abstinence is no stranger to the Captain and myself. We saved ourselves for marriage, we got through the birth (and thereafter) of our first child, and we made it through many weekends, weeks, and months away from each other when he was an Active Marine. We’re pretty familiar with sexual tension, too—from the moment we first met, there was a definite chemistry between us that rivaled the likes of these folks:

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Still, we had a strictly platonic relationship for quite some time before finally coming to terms with ourselves and each other, and most of that time was spent in that land of in-between. You can read our story here.

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Anyway, if you didn’t know already, several weeks after a woman gives birth are spent in abstinence, so her body can recover from labor and delivery. For most women, this is absolutely not a problem. And I think for some men who were present during the labor and subsequently traumatized, they can spend the time in recovery as well.

Apparently my hormones are completely whacked out, because I’ve got the opposite problem. I’ve got so much tension built up, just from the past 3 weeks, I could probably gnaw through a telephone pole.

You might conjure up an image such as this:

but this is to what I am referring:

I’ve been able to scrape the skin off the giant vat of pudding that is my sexual tension by watching clips from romantic comedies and commiserating with the characters.

But then the Captain comes home, wearing plaid and smelling like machines, and he goes and works on the car, or he chops some wood, or he walks across the room, or he leans up against a counter

and I’m all…

i want him bad

I think he’s secretly reveling in torturing me. This is what an average day in our house looks like these days:

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Notice his cheeky grin, her looking away and not knowing what else to do

I catch him walking out of the room, walking back into the room, taking off his shirt and revealing his GLORIOUS ABDOMINALS OF SPLENDOR, and then walking right out again.

But I know it’s affecting him, too. The other day, he cried out in a voice of mock-hysteria, “WE ARE IN A TIME OF HEALING!” and I nearly choked on my lunch from laughing.

At least we still have our sense of humor. In fact, the baby isn’t the sole reason for my sleep deprivation. Captain and I have been staying up super late every night for the past week, cracking up laughing. “Super late” is midnight for us—we get up at 6 or 7 every morning. It’s like having a marathon of slumber parties. We’re totally losing it, but we’re enjoying ourselves as much as we possibly can.

Now he’s finished with school and his part time job for the summer. I’m praying he can find another job soon, because going from seeing him just an hour or two a day to being together 24/7 is going to be a shock to the system. Looks like I’m going to have to up my prescription of romantic comedies, and supplement with multiple viewings of this:

and scrolling through Tumblr gifs like this:

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Misery loves company. What are your favorite moments of romantic tension? Be a dear and share links if you’ve got them!

Newborn Photos by LindseyMarie Photography

A huge huge thanks to LindseyMarie Photography for taking our newborn photos! If you’re in the Twin Cities, I highly recommend her work. Thank you for capturing these moments for us, Lindsey!

A few notes: My friend knitted us a lion cap and a little lion stuffed animal, which you’ll see in some of the photos. We tried to get a photo of all four of us, but we couldn’t get the 2-yr-old to sit still! The photo with Captain, Lion, and me is a sort-of recreation of Champ’s newborn photo. Once I get prints made, that one is going to hang in the living room right next to Champ’s.

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Now I have to figure out something to do with all those wonderful, make-me-melt photos of the Captain and the boys for Father’s Day. Any ideas?

Commencing Mom-dom

♫♪ I’m a mommy now! ♪♫

Well, the past 2 and a half weeks have just flown by (ish).

My little man is growing, growing! At his 2 week check up last Friday, he weighed 7 lbs 13 oz and measured 20 inches. Since he was 6 lbs 4 oz at our discharge (he was born 6 lbs 11 oz, 18.5 inches), he gained a pound and a half and grew one and a half inches!

Since he has been born, Champ has rolled over from his tummy to his back twice, which is ridiculous, since most babies don’t do that until they are 4 months old. He did it the first time at 6 days. Seriously, baby. I already love you like nobody’s business. You don’t need to show off for Mommy.

Little Champ has also accomplished peeing, pooping, and spitting up, simultaneously, when I was changing him. Now, I worked at a preschool for four years, being on potty patrol (I was always the one who ended up doing the dirty work), and I would frequently be places watching the big babies who weren’t potty-trained yet, so I have dealt with and am used to the number ones and number twos. And complete messes involving both of them.

But I just have to laugh at how unprepared I was, and still am, for how gross spitting up is sometimes. I don’t want to go into details, so I will spare you from describing the variety of consistencies this kid can produce. But man, can he launch that liquid sometimes. I had the honor of being spit up on twice—soaked—within a matter of minutes at about 5 a.m. today. Nothing like cold secretions running down your neck and chest to wake you up in the morning.

The smell makes LT nauseated, and he is a man with an iron stomach. Watching me squeeze out a baby was one thing, but seeing stuff shoot out of his son is a different story.

Speaking of stories, LT and I seem to enjoy story time infinitely more than Champ right now. We were giggling immensely when LT was reading “Mouse and the Magic Paints” to all of us. It will be lovely when Champ is old enough to enjoy his parents’ odd, corny senses of humor and laugh with us. (Though after that, I am sure he will be laughing at us instead…)

Nursing is going really well now. There have definitely been some challenges we have had to work out. I will probably blog more about breastfeeding in another post, one that my terrified male readers can skip reading.

Becoming a new mother has definitely been a life change. I haven’t gotten the baby blues or PPD, thank the Lord, but the amount? number? of hormones surging through my body did make my eyes well up a few times. I only have cried when I was extremely, extremely tired, and that was this Saturday morning. Sometimes Champ just cries. Usually he is a very content baby, and will just fuss a little when he is gassy or cold (usually I can tell when he’s hungry before he starts crying for that reason). But other times, he just wants to be held.

Physically, I have made some changes (obviously). I was 163 lbs (with clothes and shoes) at my last appointment, the day before Champ was born. That is 37 pounds more than my pre-pregnancy weight, and seeing the results on the scale made me feel pretty queasy. I lost 10-12 pounds just giving birth, but after delivery, the place where my baby had been was now a jelly roll of squish. While LT and I did have some amusement poking me liked the Pilsbury Doughboy, the sludge around my midsection was not something I wanted to see, especially with all the red stretch marks radiating around my navel.

Just breastfeeding has gotten me down to the 130s. I know the last 10 pounds are going to be hard to lose. It’s cooling off here in North Carolina finally, so I am looking forward to taking Champ out for walks around the neighborhood. I would have liked to have started yoga again already, but even standing sometimes has made me light-headed and dizzy in the last couple of weeks, so I am going to be easy on myself until I am fully recovered from delivery.

I have learned how to do a lot of things with one hand, like typing, and plenty of other things around the house, since most of my days right now are spent holding and/or feeding the baby. We do have a bouncy seat and a swing for him, plus a Moby wrap carrier so I can hold him hands-free, but he doesn’t like being in them for long amounts of time, he is eating constantly, and he just likes the warmth of Mom and Dad.

I’ve made some emotional changes, too, obviously. Call it Oxytocin, call it instinct, or whatever, but I would do anything for this kid. I just love him so much, and seeing and hearing him cry just breaks my heart, but being able to pick up my child and hold him close and say, “It’s okay, Mommy’s here. Mommy’s got you,” might just be the most rewarding experience of my life.

I’ve already learned a few things about motherhood:

  • Pediatricians and “baby experts” change their minds every decade. So giving my baby a pacifier before he is 1-2 months old and letting him sleep on his tummy every once in a while do not make me a bad mother.
  • You cannot spoil a newborn by holding him too much or responding to his crying. Responding to his crying allows him to trust you and know you will take care of him.
  • At the same time, babies sometimes comfort themselves. Letting him cry for 15 seconds or so before responding is just fine.
  • I am not a bad mom if I am not holding my baby 24/7. I am a good mom if I remain sane, so I can actually take care of my baby and myself.
  • My ideas and values regarding parenthood will change, and I will mess up sometimes. Little known fact: Parents are humans.

So, other mothers: what are some things you learned about being a mom? Also, did you ever have crazy mommy fears? I have a recurring fear that I am going to forget to put Champ’s car seat in the car and drive off, leaving my defenseless baby alone in a shopping cart or in a parking lot somewhere. Ah! It mortifies me just thinking about it!