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  • Writer's pictureBrianne Stark

Soothing Fussy Newborns

Updated: May 29, 2022

One complaint we hear from many new parents is that their newborn is crying a lot, really fussy, or can't be set down. On top of the exhaustion most new parents are experiencing after labor/delivery and early postpartum days, the exhaustion of caring for a newborn (for first time parents, for the first time ever) can be extremely overwhelming. Many times, new mothers and fathers are anxious to be able to lay a newborn in a crib or bassinet to catch a break, but find that the infant is less than willing to lay and sleep away from the new parents.

One fact to keep in mind is that for a newborn, the mother's body is/has been the baby's habitat. The baby just spent the better side of 9 months growing inside the mother's body, warm and safe, hearing the mothers heartbeat and the soothing rush of blood through the umbilical cord. All other noises were muted as heard through the uterus. The infant was held cozy and close inside the mother, unable to startle as her arms were restricted in movement by her tight living quarters.

After birth, things change quickly and drastically for the baby. Outside the uterus, her arms aren't always held close to her body and her startle reflex can be activated, which almost always results in baby being alarmed, many times ending in tears. Noises are much louder, sharper and unrecognized. She no longer hears the familiar heartbeat and rush of blood through the umbilical cord. At times, the baby's tired parents may try to lay the baby on a flat surface that doesn't breath and doesn't have human warmth. These new circumstances can be unsettling, and they can manifest in a fussy baby.

To sooth and settle a fussy baby, skin to skin (also called Kangaroo Care) can be invaluable. Skin to skin can be done by either parent, and in the early days of a baby's life can and should be done as much as possible, up to all day. Skin to skin involves having the baby in a diaper only and the parent with no shirt (mom with no bra). Baby lays on the parents chest with her belly on mom or dad. In this position, baby can again hear a human heartbeat and the sound of breathing mimics the sound of blood through the umbilical cord (white noise also mimics this.) Baby is warm and safe, and this is what baby knows and loves. Skin to skin aids breastfeeding since baby is constantly near the breast and can smell the breast milk, decreases cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the baby, improves oxygen saturation, and stabilizes the baby's blood sugar, temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. In the NICU, skin to skin is recognized as an important part of a infant's healing and care. Full term healthy babies also benefit greatly from skin to skin, but many times parents of full term, healthy babies expect that they should be able to lay the baby down, away from the parents, and the baby should be happy. Many times this isn't reality with a newborn. The best way to sooth a fussy newborn is as much skin to skin as possible in the early days and to breastfeed on demand. Mothers that are not breastfeeding can and should also do skin to skin. Skin to skin also releases a hormone that relieves mom's stress and promotes bonding between mom and baby.

Skin to skin is the key to a happier baby and a more rested mom. Get into bed with your baby and stay there. If you don't have enough help to be able to get into bed and stay there with baby, call us for a home visit from an experienced registered nurse and we will make sure that you can!

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