Your baby's having a bawl. You're not. How can you calm him down? Try these ingenious ideas from moms and dads.
By Michelle Crouch
It's the end of a long day, and your baby is crying. Actually, wailing is more like it, and his shrieks are draining your very last ounce of patience. You've fed him, swayed him, and sung his favorite lullaby, all to no avail. Why is he so miserable?
First, a little perspective: Crying is a baby's primary form of communication. "However, infants sometimes cry for no apparent reason, and that can be perfectly normal, especially between 1 and 3 months of age," says Parents advisor Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital. So if your little one has been fed, burped, and changed, is warm and comfortably dressed, and still won't stop, don't waste a lot of energy trying to figure out what's wrong. Simply focus on getting him to calm down. We've asked parents to reveal the sob stoppers they turn to when all else fails.
"After Jonathan was born, I realized that the whirring of the vacuum cleaner really calmed him. Since we didn't want to drag it up and down the steps all the time, my husband recorded the sound, and we played it when Jonathan was upset."
Fran Howe; Charlotte, NC
"I downloaded a white-noise app for my smartphone and then clipped it to the bottom of Abigail's bassinet. The static sound worked for us every time during the first few months. Though the app was free, I would have paid $5,000 for the peace it brought us!"
Debra Allison; Palo Alto, CA
"When I went back to work after having my first child, I told our new sitter how I stopped Maire Claire's crying: by turning on the hair dryer. Although she looked at me as if I were a little crazy, when I got home that evening she raved about how well the method worked."
Deirdre Giblin; Boston, MA
"If you play a really low tone on a harmonica, most babies will stop crying and forget what they were upset about. As a photographer, I've used it for years on infants who visit my studio, and it worked on my own kids too. My clients often say, 'Wow -- we're going to buy a harmonica on the way home.'"
John Engler; Apple Valley, MN
"One night, my husband and I played some music by Johann Strauss. Our son Benjamin, who had terrible colic, stopped crying. From then on, we spent many evenings with Strauss. We even took turns waltzing around the house to the music with Benjamin in our arms."
Marie Wheat; Arlington, VA
"I used to put Charlotte in her baby swing next to the dishwasher. When I ran it, the loud noise soothed her."
Collette Parker; Atlanta, GA
"When Ben was very little, what worked best was humming gently in his ear. He would quiet down immediately and stay in a Zenlike state for as long as I kept going."
Julianne Weiner; Boyds, MD
Switch It Up
"I would take my babies into our bathroom, turn on the lights, and let them look at themselves in the mirror. They were so surprised they usually stopped crying."
Lonni Miller Ryan; Wayne, NJ
"Sometimes when Cole was screaming for hours at a time, I'd take him over to the sink and run warm water over his feet. This always seemed to calm him down."
Amanda Eichenberger; Augusta, GA
"We tried everything we could think of to calm down our daughter, Maeve. The only method that seemed to help was taking her outside, even if it was cold or rainy. Something about the fresh air and all the stimuli -- birds, wind, leaves, the sun -- made her a lot happier."
Erin Erdman; Portland, OR
"When my babies were upset, I would turn on some videos we'd taken of them or of their cousins to help soothe them. It worked, and as a bonus, they started learning the names of relatives who don't live nearby."
Rebecca Madsen; Bedford, MA
"Sometimes when Connor was upset, I'd put my face close to his and start crying with him. He was so intrigued that he stopped to watch me."
Liz Murphy; Winchester, MA
"When Alyssa was fussy, we would blow lightly at her face. She'd stop crying, and then we'd distract her by making faces. She forgot all about what was bugging her."
Sabrina Foust; Duvall, WA
"When Natalie started to get cranky, all we had to do was divert her attention to the ceiling fan in the living room, and she was instantly captivated. It didn't even have to be on to get her interested."
LeAnn Hamby; Cleveland, TN
A Creative Twist
"Watching animal shows -- the more colorful the better -- on the National Geographic Channel worked for us."
Chris Scanniello; Midlothian, VA
"If my son was crying, I'd give him a colorful hair scrunchie to hold. For some reason, he'd relax."
Jessica Breneman; The Colony, TX
"I'd put my son, Spencer, on his back, push his knees to his belly, and rotate his legs in a bicycling motion. Most of the time it would force out some gas, and then he'd stop crying."
Charlene Hess; Orem, UT
"Whenever my son Mordecai was inconsolable, my mother-in-law would massage his feet with baby oil. It really helped."
Heidi Froehlich; Doylestown, PA
Having A Ball
"When our son cries, I sit on a big exercise ball with him in my arms and bounce. An instant later he's happy or nodding off. Too bad the ball is so bulky, or you'd see me with it at the doctor's office, the mall, church -- you name it."
Mollie Ottenhoff; Elgin, IL
"I place Nadia against my shoulder, holding her neck and head with one hand and supporting her knees with my other hand and arm. Then I run in circles around the room until she stops crying. It's worked since she was a newborn."
Christine Davis; Jackson, MS
"I put Scarlett in her car seat and sway her back and forth. She settles down within a few minutes."
Theresa Kabel; Fort Myers, FL
"When Simon gets fussy, I hold him and do some deep knee bends, up and down, very quickly. It must feel like being on a roller coaster. This technique seems to make him forget whatever's bothering him."
Anne Howard; Chicago, IL
"I'd put Ethan on my stomach and do sit-ups, kissing him every time I went up. He'd stop crying after a few reps."
Kendra Hall; McKinney, TX
Face it: There are going to be times when your baby won't stop crying no matter what you try -- and moments when you'll become incredibly frustrated. The best way to deal with this is to put your baby in his crib or bassinet and go to another room for a few minutes. "Giving yourself that pause is the best thing you can do for your child," says Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson.