July 2022 by Lenya Heitzig
How to Comfort a Crying Baby
It wasn’t until my son was born that I wished he came with an instruction booklet—just like the neatly folded papers tucked into a box of new kitchen gadgets or Lego sets. Include some clever illustrations for those of us that have to see it to do it and it’s all the better.
After Nathan was born, the thing I wished I knew how to do the most was comforting him when he seemingly cried for no reason. If he was feed, diapers changed, and no apparent illness I felt like I was holding an alien whose language was indiscernible. “Take me to your leader,” I’d think as I began to cry, too.
One day, as a friend watched me struggle with my wiggling, wailing boy. She swooped in, snatched him from my arms, and seamlessly moved through a series of steps that resulted in my baby slumbering silently in her secure embrace. I had to know the secret. She introduced me to the 4-s’s to calm a crying baby. 1) Swaddle; 2) Sway; 3) Swoosh; and 4) Suck. Now, even as a grandmother these tried-and-true steps work like magic. No baby can resist their charm. Let me explain them to you one at a time.
1) Swaddle: This trick has been used by mother dating back to 4,000 B.C. Taking a thin blanket you basically make a baby burrito. Lay the baby on the center of a diagonally place blanket, Fold the bottom corner up. Tuck the left corner under the bottom of the child. Next pull the right corner snuggly around the back of the child. Voila! This warm cozy position calms the baby against their natural startle reflex which means they’ll sleep better. It also keeps their hands off their face which prevents scratching. Perhaps this is where we got the saying, “snug as a bug in a rug.”
2) Sway: Next pick the baby into your arms, preferably on their left side which aids in digestion because of the position of the stomach’s. Now it’s time to move in a swaying motion from side to side. This calming gesture reminds the baby of the rhythm of the womb. The rocking movement is mimicked throughout childhood whether in a chair or a swing. You may even observe your child self-sooth by swaying back and forth at nap time.
3) Swoosh: Now you add sound effects to your little piggy in a blanket. You can literally say, “swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.” My favorite noice is to sing softly. In a pinch, the white noise from a fan or dyer will do the trick. You may even purchase a stuffed animal with the recording of a heartbeat. All these sounds mimic the soundtrack of their mother’s womb. Familiar sounds put a baby at ease.
4) Suck: Sucking is vital to a baby’s survival. It begins in the womb as an infant discovers its thumb or finger because the womb’s soft walls deflect their hands toward their mouth. Did you know that a baby’s sucking lowers their heart rate and blood pressure which in turn lowers their stress levels? If your baby has been fed, it’s helpful to offer your finger, their thumb, or a pacifier. It will relax them enough to fall asleep.
Believe it or not, I’ve been the lady to swoop in on struggling mothers whether on planes, in supermarkets, and church services. I never give off judgment vibes. Just the calming assurance that when that baby is walked through the 4 S’s—comfort is on its way. Now it’s your turn. Whether you’re an aunty, babysitter, or new mother relax and follow the instructions. Parents will welcome the relief.