The first time Alex asked me if she could leave Savannah with me while she left the house (for at the time what seemed to be some unthinkable unnecessary reason) my gut felt like it had been punched and my eyes must have looked like they were going to leap from my head. Let’s face it, moms seem to be able to soothe a baby a little bit quicker with a little bit less effort than dads. Mom’s can breastfeed which is a huge advantage. Now that Savannah is nearly four months old, Alex has left Savannah in my care multiple times and I have gotten good at making sure I know what to do in case of a tantrum. I think it is important for dads to know how to soothe their baby whether mom is home or not. I must admit my first thought sometimes is, ‘oh well she must be hungry, so I better get Alex.’ But I didn’t want to have to pass her over to Alex every time. I wanted to learn how I could soothe her so that I could build that bond with Savy and help my wife.
So what can dads do soothe their baby? How can dad be prepared for the next time mom wants to make Target run, visit family, or even just take a break and get outside for an hour? How can dad figure out why their baby is crying in the first place?
To help answer these questions, I’ve put together a checklist that I mentally go through that helps me try to figure out why Savannah is crying and what I can try to do to help soothe her. I’ve attempted to put this list in the order of things I go through, but it just depends on the time of day and situation.
Is Baby Hungry?
The first few weeks of Savannah’s life it felt like all she did was eat and sleep and I don’t remember her crying much unless she was tired. I mentioned to Alex that she doesn’t even cry when she needs her diaper changed. Even today it feels like the number one reason she cries is because she is hungry. Dads can ask mom how long it’s been since baby has eaten or try gently touching their finger to baby’s top lip and if they are hungry, they will try go after their finger. This is an easy one to eliminate from the list if baby has recently eaten. It’s a good idea to have formula or pumped milk ready to go with clean bottles and a system in place to quickly get the bottle ready.
Does Baby’s Diaper Need Changing?
Back before we were all social distancing, our friends Taylor and Eric came to visit us with their son Harrison who is just a few months older than Savannah. Taylor told me she could tell when Harrison’s diaper needed to be changed just by the way it felt holding him. Savannah was probably three to four weeks old at the time and I couldn’t imagine I would ever be able to do that. Just this past week Alex taught me how and now I know when her diaper needs to be changed. Even if Alex changed the last diaper and I’m not sure how long ago that was, I can still tell right away if it’s time again. This is another easy one to check off the list.
Does Baby’s Teeth Hurt?
When Savannah cries because her little teeth are hurting her, it breaks my heart. Her cry is so much different than when she wants to eat. She will put her hands into her mouth and try to eat her fingers. She starts drooling all over herself and big tears pour out of her eyes. Her face even gets red. I haven’t noticed tears or red face when she is hungry. And I swear I can see two little white bumps that want to poke through to become her first teeth I think (even though apparently no one else can see them.) A few ways to help soothe baby crying from teething are to get some chew toys. You can try putting them in the fridge to keep them cool. Sometimes using a wet washcloth or even your clean finger can help too. If that doesn’t work, you can try walking and rocking her in your arms. Anything you can do to try and get her calmed down to take her mind off the teeth for a moment. Luckily, at least for us in in the beginning of the teething process, it feels like this comes in short waves instead long drawn out cry sessions.
Is Baby Tired?
To be honest, I still do not understand this one. Usually at this point I’ve verified that Savy isn’t hungry and changed her diaper, but she is still crying. I guess I had just assumed she gets tired at night when it’s time for bed which isn’t really a reason to cry. I learned that babies don’t really have a sense of night and day. They just sleep on and off all day long. Over time she has started to sleep most of the night, only waking up once or twice to eat. I’m talking about getting tired in the middle of the day. Sometimes she just needs a nap. It usually helps if I get her in the swaddle position in my arms and gently pat her on the butt while swaying back and forth. She almost always looks up at me and stops crying. I’ll get a big yawn or two out of her then her eyelids start to get heavy and she is out. Sometimes she is tired from playing or doing tummy time and she just needs a little help getting her nap started.
Does Baby Want Your Attention?
I can’t help but laugh sometimes when I’m holding Savannah and messing around with my phone or watching TV and she starts to cry. Even when I’m trying to capture the perfect picture, she can tell that I’m focusing on my phone instead of her and it makes her angry. This cry is so much different than when she wants to eat. It almost sounds like she is giving me a little tiny scream of frustration. What I like to do is try and make her laugh. I’ll put her in the bouncer and pick her up and down and she stops crying and starts laughing right away. I’ve found that when I can get her to stop crying, it’s like she totally forgets that she was even upset in the first place. I’ve successfully distracted her and now she is content to play with her toys. Laughter definitely doesn’t work for Savy when she is hungry, but it’s the best way to help her forget she was just upset for almost anything else.
Is Baby too Hot or too Cold
Babies cannot regulate their body temperature. You can click here to read more about how and when babies regulate their temperature. So, it’s up to mom and dad to make sure they are comfy, cozy, and the proper temperature throughout the day. I’m pretty sure I remember learning about this during the prenatal birth classes Alex and I took. Still, Alex changes Savannah’s outfit a ridiculous number of times a day and she is constantly adding and removing layers. I’ve always known Savy couldn’t regulate her temperature, but I didn’t realize how sensitive she really was. Sometimes we do on pants to cool her down, sometimes we do socks, pants, little hats, even jackets. Savy sleeps in a full onesie to keep her warm plus her swaddle blanket. She has since grown out of her swaddle blanket and now she is in a sleeping bag sort of thing with holes for her arms. I’m sure moms know what I’m talking about. So if you have gone down the list of possible reasons your baby is crying and you can’t seem to figure it out, make sure you check their forehead to see if they are too hot or if they feel too cold. I’ve changed her to the proper outfit or walked her back inside to get her out of the sun and she immediately gets into a better mood.
Does Baby Want Some Comfort?
It is truly incredible how quickly babies learn and start to maneuver their actions to try and get what they want. I am really fascinated watching Savannah taking in the world around her all the time. One thing I noticed was sometimes she gets a little comfort out of one thing or another and whatever that thing is can help calm her down. Really the first example of this is when she would latch onto mom to feed, but she wasn’t really eating. Alex would tell me that she wasn’t really drinking any milk, she was just using it as a comfort. Now she enjoys two toys in particular, and one of them makes noise. We also have a sound machine where she sleeps and I noticed while trying to get her ready for bed, if I turned on that sound machine she would calm down and fall asleep a little bit easier. We have a fuzzy blanket on our bed, and she likes laying on that blanket more than a smooth blanket. Pacifiers would be another example. Savannah didn’t ever take one for us, but I know those can help. Sometimes making sure they have their little comforts will go a long way.
Is Baby Uncomfortable?
If your baby is crying and you’ve gotten this far down the checklist then you are really running out of solutions. Your baby is probably not crying for no reason though so don’t give up! Your baby might have a piece of hair that got wrapped around their finger or maybe the tag on their shirt is poking into their back. Sometimes you just need to switch arms. You might be accidently holding them too tight or in an awkward way. Maybe their neck has been in the same position for too long. I swear Savannah can tell if I was sitting down or standing up. I can be holding her the exact same way and rocking her in my arms and then the moment I stand up, she stops crying. The key is to keep trying new things.
Create a Routine
Routine has done wonders for Alex and I with Savannah. We have perfected our bedtime routine. It could be that 3 1/2 month old babies sleep well or maybe it’s just her, but I’m convinced that once we got our bedtime routine down to a science we saw immediate results. We give her a bath then put her into her bedtime onesie, then she eats, then one of us rocks her to sleep in her sleeping bag swaddle thing, and then boom she is out. At this point she is waking up once throughout the night to eat and that is it. We have developed a bit of a morning routine as well that admittedly changes on the weekends when mom and dad can sleep in. Giving your baby a little familiarity helps them understand what is going on and makes them feel safe.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and found something helpful. Please share your experiences as well. I would love to hear from dads out there. Reach out to us and let us know how you soothe your baby.