Night howling - how do I keep my baby from crying so much in the middle of the night?
Hearing a baby crying is the most excruciating thing even for me, after 16+ years in the field! Here is what could be happening and how you can fix - and prevent - it!
I am not here to tell yo that babies crying is normal! Well, it is, sort of. A baby cry is his way of communicating and make sure we are listening. Though, I don't need to say that howling is definitely something you want to care for it, right?! Stat, preferably!
“Why does he howl in the middle of the night? Nothing I do calms him down!” - desperate dad
I've been mostly working overnight in the last few years and I think, more than half of the time, I am hired by tired and sleep-deprived families who most often ask me the question posed above! I wish I could give you one simple answer, but the truth is, there are several reasons and though, I will address a few, I will only expand on the one I found to be common, yet the one parents have lest idea about it!
First things first - DEEP BREATH!
As I mentioned, it is not easy to hear your precious baby cry inconsolably, so I know what I am asking is quite a lot. But it is important! You need to truly believe that you've got this, That you will calm your baby and you are there to help and protect him from anything he may need. Seriously. Your baby needs to feel that you know what you are doing - even if you are a little uncertain at that moment!
And you do. Really. You love him more than anything in this world and everything you are doing is coming from your heart. Rest in this fact, reassuring yourself - and your baby - that everything is OK, and you are there for him!
"Babies can sense if you are stressed or overwelmed."
I'm sure you've heard folks saying this, right? Well, I don't need to bring the research out because I have witnessed several dozens of episodes like this over the years and I know it to be true. I have even had parents who hired me for MONTHS after their baby was already sleep trained only because of my "calming presence!" True story!
Less is more
In a desperate attempt to calm their babies down, parents are quick to move from one soothing method to the next, like, five seconds in! Once *you* are calm and in control, pick one method and stick to it for at least a few minutes.
You can pick up your baby, offer the pacifier and make the shhhhhh noise (needs to be louder than the cry!). You can already be rocking/swaying but what I have observed is that when babies aren't quick (and rally read this as "immediate") to sooth, parents tend to move them more rapidly, and impatiently. I am sure they aren't aware of it when it's happening, but that can just add more stress to the baby who, once again is questioning if you really got this.
"Babies, man... sorry, they love testing you. It IS survival after all! But again, hear me out, YOU GOT THIS!!!"
Keep rocking slow and steady. You may want to add a rhythmic pat to his back, imitating a heartbeat for example. Hang in there for a few minutes. I swear this is ALL I do, and when parents watch me they think I have some magical powers or something - I promise you, once you take the guilt/stress out, you will be this calming presence too and this will work like a charm!
The basics: hunger, diaper, tiredness
When you have a crying baby in your arms, it is important you go down the basic checklist in your head of when was the last time he ate, when he went down to sleep, how much he has slept or did *not* during the day and when was the last diaper change.
Your mind may not be so reliable when your baby is crying, so I urge you to keep a daily log, either pen and paper or an app, to keep track of your baby's activities so you can pull it out and make sure all the basics are covered! This will also give you the peace of mind of knowing that he has/has not eaten or slept well during the day, which would explain a bit of his behavior.
Are you the one waking up your baby?
This is the one I really need to stress out! Babies are loud sleepers! Yup. They grunt, sometimes whimper, and may let out a fuss here and there WHILE SLEEPING!
I've lost count of how many times I heard a parent telling me their baby wakes up so many times during the night just to realize after a few nights with the baby that they are actually not awake at all. They are merely loud sleepers!
When I told this to one of my clients, she confessed right away that it could be this very the reason why her baby would start howling when she picked her baby up from the crib. The reality was, the mom heard the baby on the monitor and rushed to the nursery, taking the baby out right away. The baby actually woke up, quite unhappy nonetheless, with mom scooping her out of the crib.
This is very common and I have not only heard confessions from my clients, but I too made a few of these mistakes back when I started 😬 I wasn't born knowing it all, ya know!
When you must wake up the baby
If you must wake up the baby - either for a feeding or giving medicine for example - do so slowly, arousing him by rubbing his belly, gently touching his cheeks and unsaddling. Usually, this will be enough to get them to stretch, and start waking up more naturally, in their own pace.