Coping with a baby who can’t be comforted is definitely the downside of parenting. When you’ve tried everything and your baby still cries, he can come to be seen as a baby who won’t be comforted, a baby who’s rejecting you on purpose.
If you feel yourself getting angry, try to hand him to somebody else while you take a break. If you’re on your own, it’s better to leave him screaming in his crib while you pull yourself together than to risk losing your temper with him.
If your baby isn’t hungry, ill, or uncomfortable, and can’t calm himself (even when he’s wrapped up) there are some tricks it’s worth trying:
• Various kinds of rhythms soothe otherwise unsoothable babies. Try walking, rocking, or dancing your baby at a fast pace of sixty per minute, add back-patting to the rhythm, then add song. The idea is to pile more and more types of rhythms on top of each other. A car ride with sound and movement often works best of all (until you have to stop).
• If you’re desperate, and your baby’s not interested in sucking milk, this may be the time to try using a pacifier. If it’s the one thing that comforts your baby when nothing else can, don’t worry about setting up bad habits. All that matters is that you should all get through these weeks as happily as possible.
Penelope Leach, Ph.D., is one of the world’s most respected (and best-loved) developmental child psychologists. She is most widely known for her best-selling books on child development and parenting. They include Babyhood, Children First: What Society Must Do — and Is Not Doing — for Our Children Today, the classic Your Baby & Child: From Birth to Age Five (now in a new edition for a new generation), and Your Growing Child: From Babyhood Through Adolescence.