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Top Two Ways to Calm a Baby
by Jeri CarrParents throughout the years have successfully used many ideas to help calm their babies. The most successful and enduring ways to soothe a baby involve the comforting presence of a parent. Two of the most calming activities for a baby are simply being nursed by his mother or held in the arms of a parent.
Nursing provides one of the best all around things that a mother can do to calm her fussy baby. It meets many needs. First of all, crying is an indicator of hunger, or as the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk explains, "Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger" (emphasis added). Many moms find that nursing on cue (nursing their baby when he shows signs of hunger) helps them have an abundant milk supply, helps them be "in tune" with their baby and sensitive his needs, and is less stressful for them and their baby than feeding on a schedule.
Babies often calm down when offered the breast - even if they only nursed a few minutes ago. Why is this? Of course babies nurse to satisfy their hunger and their thirst, but nursing provides much more than nourishment for the body. Nursing gives mothers a very intimate and nurturing way to show their babies that they love them. Babies enjoy being close to their mommy, hearing her heartbeat and the familiar gurgles of her stomach, their small body nestled in mommy's arms. Breastfeeding provides an opportunity to give a baby some important skin-to-skin contact.
Another reason nursing calms so well is that breastmilk contains a sleep-inducing protein that helps an infant sleep. Many mothers will happily attest to the ease of and pleasure found in nursing their baby to sleep.
Also, nursing satisfies a baby's inborn need to suck. For some babies this need is stronger than for others. Some parents choose to meet their baby's sucking needs by offering him a pacifier. This works well for many parents, but nursing moms should be aware that studies and the experiences of many moms show that pacifier use in breastfed babies can lead to nipple confusion, slower weight gain, insufficient milk supply, and early weaning. Some mothers find that meeting their baby's sucking needs fully at the breast is a rewarding experience. It can help build a great closeness and trust between a mother and her baby.
When a mother is relaxed, it's easier for her baby to relax. Breastfeeding can help a mother relax. Nursing a child stimulates the release of hormones that have a tranquilizing effect on a mom. More specifically, prolactin, the milk-producing hormone also known as the "mothering hormone," has a relaxing effect on the mother and stimulates maternal instincts; oxytocin, which produces milk ejection during lactation, also promotes calming.
It is a well-established fact that babies who are carried a lot cry less, so often just holding a baby will help him calm down or avoid becoming fussy. Some parents choose to wear their baby as much as possible, and a baby who has much "touch" time will often sleep better at night and be an all around more content baby. Holding a baby when he wants, and thus needs, to be held will not spoil him. A baby can never be held too much.
In the beginning, mothers need to get as much rest as possible, so simply snuggling with her baby in her bed, sitting and holding him in a chair, or sleeping with him can be calming for baby. As baby grows older, and he lets his mother know he enjoys being near her, she may become frustrated with her lack of being able to get things done. While a mother should realize that caring for her baby is the most important job in the world and that by meeting his needs she is getting something very important done, wearing her baby in a sling or other front pack carrier can afford her many opportunites to work around the house or in her garden, etc., and at the same time can help calm her baby.
Wearing a baby in a sling helps baby avoid boredom and loneliness. While in his sling he sees a lot of exciting (to him) things while his mother goes about her daily activities. The motion helps a baby relax and can lull him to sleep. Some moms have found that carrying their baby in a sling while they vacuum the floor calms their baby. Another great combination that calms many fussy babies is nursing baby while wearing him in the sling and walking.
Nursing and carrying provide two ways to bring out the best in a baby and help both a baby and his parents get to know each other better. Babies crave being close to their parents, and when mothers nurse their baby and parents carry their baby, this simple, basic need is met and baby is happier.
This article was first published on suite101.com.
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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.