I don't have kids but I have taken care of a number of nieces and nephews when they were babies and toddlers. I taught young children, too.
The picture above shows a happy and relaxed baby, which could mean a calm and peaceful time for you. But this picture may not last long: a happy smile could turn in to a sudden shrill cry. So what to do about a crying baby?
To answer the above question you, as a babysitter, have to understand first why babies cry. If adults cry for any reason, whether it's because of pain, happiness or just to draw attention, certainly babies have their reasons as well. But there is one thing that you must remember in dealing with a crying baby: stay calm. Being calm keeps you from feeling stressed out and keeps you focused on what to do.
Why Do Babies Cry?
Okay! You are up for the job--babysitting for three, four or more hours, no big deal! It's just a baby anyway, and babies usually sleep and play most of the time (you might think and feel quite sure about it). But what happens when the situation becomes a little more difficult to handle? What to do about a crying baby?
There is no way you can get away with it. Babies cry! This is the only way they communicate their various needs and feelings like discomfort, frustration, distress, pain, or hunger. Once a baby cries it can only mean one thing - something is not right and you have to do something about it. Crying should never be taken for granted like many claim that it's healthy.
There could be many reasons why babies cry and in order to rectify the problem, as a babysitter you have to identify what causes the outburst so that you will be able to, at least, know what you can do about it.
Reasons Why Babies Cry and How to Pacify Them
Babysitting is not a difficult job. It only becomes unmanageable or less manageable when you don't know what to do when a certain situation arises - the baby is crying. Here are the possible causes why babies cry and some possible effective ways to pacify them:
The baby is hungry or thirsty.
- Generally when the mother is out chances are that the baby was already fed before the baby is left to you but checking whether the baby is hungry is still necessary. Bottle feeding is your next step. It could have been prepared already or you have to prepare it yourself. To be safe, ask the mother regarding this matter before she leaves the house.
A wet or dirty nappy or diaper
- Check the baby's nappy. Change it if necessary. Sometimes babies feel much more comfortable using a cloth nappy than the usual commercial diaper because it avoids certain rashes from the elastic bond.
The baby is tired.
- Babies play with their toys or they just simply move and crawl around. Doing this for a long time can make them feel so tired that when they need to rest they simply cry. Look for the signs like rubbing eyes, losing interest in toys or in you, and yawning. If this is the case, well, time for bed.
The baby is hurt or in pain.
- With little pain or discomfort, babies turn to crying. Check for any cut, bruises or swelling. You will know what might have caused any of these depending on what kind of toys you have given them to play with or which place have you put them in. To avoid the baby from getting hurt, keep away pointed or sharp objects, anything that could possibly hurt them. Supervise and monitor yet let them play and enjoy their time.
The baby wants to grab something but couldn't.
- Try to be more observant with what the baby does. Most of the times babies want to grab anything that their hand could hold. If you think that particular object is safe for the baby, get it for her/him and you'll see that the baby stops crying, given that it's what caused the cry. You also should be very careful because whatever things they can pick and hold go generally to their mouths.
The baby just wants to be lifted and held.
- Most of the times babies calm down after being lifted from where they were and held in your arms. This way they feel safe. You have to try this way and if the baby still doesn't stop crying then you've got to try some other ways to pacify her or him.
The baby is overstimulated.
- Sometimes too much noise or too many people trying to get the baby's attention could lead to crying. Maybe the baby doesn't want such noise and attention. It's time to find a place where it's quiet, relaxing and airier. This may not be the situation if you stay at home babysitting and not anywhere else like parks.
The baby cries because of gas.
- Although it is a myth that babies cry because of gas they certainly feel uncomfortable having it. It's just like the normal us feeling the same - we usually get rid of it by tapping our belly, performing a percussion on it. So when you notice that after feeding the baby she or he cries then this could be the reason. Try to pat or rub her/his back or let her/him lie down on her/his side or perform a slow percussion on her or his belly.
The 5 "S" Way to Calm A Crying Baby
According to Harvey Karp, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School, an infant's crying, which can last from minutes to hours, may actually be the result of missing the constant noise and stimulation of the womb. He also added that any of the following activates the baby's calming reflex during the first three to four months of life by mimicking experiences in the uterus. So depending on how old the baby is you might as well try one or two or all of the following.
1. Shushing. Shshushing, I believe, helps the baby realized that everything is going to be alright and that somebody is near him/her to take care of his/her needs. Your presence itself makes him or her feel secure and safe. According to studies, the louder the cry the louder the shshshing should be.
2. Swinging. Slow and gentle swing from here to there with your arms holding the baby securely usually soothes an upset baby but never shake a baby in anger. This would just agitate them even more.
3. Side/stomach positioning. As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, being on the side or stomach is best for calming the baby; it turns on the calming reflex and shuts off the Moro reflex. (The Moro reflex makes a baby's arms shoot out when he is startled by his own crying.)
4. Sucking. When a baby cries the first thing in our mind is that it is hungry so feeding the baby is the immediate response by mothers or any other attendant. Without the presence of the mother, bottle feeding is important. Sometimes a pacifier helps a lot to keep the baby calm or stay asleep. I have tried these many times to my nieces and nephews and so far it worked.
5. Swaddling. Although a swaddled baby looks like a mummified-baby, it helps in calming a crying infant, according to "experts". But tightly swaddling a crying infant with its arms down by its side initially may make the crying worse. Trying is your only option whether this helps or not. This link shows a step-by-step procedure on how to swaddle a baby. However, a baby who can turn over can no longer be safely swaddled.
Whatever the cause of crying, certainly it is something not to be taken for granted. The reason may be one of those listed above and there could be much better ways to pacify a crying child. But every moment with a child is an experience of discovery, like in everything else, and you won't know the reason unless you try to find out.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
G on July 12, 2019:
The baby I am babysitting won’t stop crying because her mom left, what do I do?
Janice Snow on April 11, 2018:
Wonderful article. Thanks for sharing. Keep posting.
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MyBaby247 on July 09, 2017:
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