How to Calm a Crying Baby, Part Two


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?


Little Champ’s first incisor made its debut 3 weeks ago, after he had turned 9 months old.

I would have blogged about it earlier, only it was near impossible to get a photo of my son, with his mouth open, looking at the camera, without his tongue blocking the view.

Even restrained in a high chair and tempted with cookies (rice rusks), it was not an easy task. Here’s a glimpse at the 141 photos that document my son’s shy first tooth.

Can you guess my favorite photo out of these?

Highlight between the brackets for the answer: [ 2nd row, third from the left. The glazed over, kooky look. ]

Oh, and the reason Little Champ had been so cranky? Not teething. It was because he fought naps so badly and was sleep-deprived.

Lesson Learned: Babies need a nap routine. (At least the alert ones, who refuse to sleep if given the chance)

I was doing the baby-led nap thing. I figured, his body should know when it’s tired. Yeah, that didn’t really work. Joey is a very alert baby. He wants to see the action and be a part of it, even if nothing is happening. Because something exciting COULD.

Once I started putting him down at the same time every day, I saw some improvement. He was much happier and cried less, but he still fought the naps.

Lesson Learned: If your baby fights naps, put him or her down earlier.

I’m sure you have heard that when babies are overtired, they won’t go to sleep. That sounds odd, since they are so tired, you’d think they would just sleep already. But, after reading a magazine article (Sorry, I can’t remember which of the zillion magazines I read it in!), I discovered the reason behind the mystery. Here’s a paraphrase…hopefully I’m getting it right:

When babies are tired but aren’t sleeping, they produce cortisol, a stress hormone which keeps them functioning while sleepy, but then also keeps them from going back to sleep. It’s sort of like being tired, drinking an espresso, and then trying to immediately take a nap. The solution is putting them down before they start to produce the cortisol, but that is easier said than done!

The suggested sleep schedule for babies Little Champ’s age is wake up, nap 3 hours after waking up, nap 4 hours after start of first nap, bedtime 5 hours after start of second nap. 3-4-5.

Well, 3 hours after wake up time was far too late for my little nap warrior. He’d be overtired by then. So I started putting him down 1.5 to 2 hours after he woke up, and then his afternoon nap would happen whenever he started showing signs of dwindling energy and bubbliness, or 4-5 hours before bedtime, which I wanted to be 8 but is now between 7 and 7:30.

Before traveling, his schedule was pretty much

  • 7 am—wake up, nurse, breakfast
  • 8:30 or 9—nap #1
  • 11—nurse, then lunch
  • between 12 and 2 pm—go down for nap #2
  • snack after nap
  • 5—dinner
  • 6:30—get ready for bed
  • 7—in bed
Now that we are traveling in MN, visiting people at least 3 times each day, his schedule is a bit out of whack. But we still get him three meals and two naps. He isn’t sleeping well in the 5 am – 7 am window, because his schedule isn’t set and he wants cuddle time with mommy, but I’m hoping once we get home and back into the routine, he will still be happy, but mommy will be happy and well-rested, too.