Hold Your Baby
Why it works: After being with you 24/7 over the course of 40 weeks, your baby misses your smell, your warmth, and the sound of your voice. Plus, babies love to be cuddled for the same reason their parents do: emotionally, it's comforting and connecting. It's soothing on a physical level. "Massaging or touching your baby tends to help him stop crying because you're stimulating receptors in his skin that have a physiologically calming effect," says Barry Lester, PhD, director of the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk at Women and Infants Hospital, in Providence, Rhode Island, and author of Why Is My Baby Crying? (HarperCollins). One recent study found that 10-day-old babies who were held by their parents for 16 hours a day cried 40 percent less than babies whose parents held them for half that time.
Soothing strategies: Obviously you can't hold your child all day, but there are ways to keep your baby close while you get things done. Many parents wear their baby in a carrier or sling, keeping their hands free. You can also put baby in an infant seat near you so she can see and hear you.
Often, however, there's no substitute for direct contact and your complete attention. "When Mikayla, who's 4 months old, is having a meltdown, I pick her up and hold her in a cradle position, almost like when we nurse," says Andrea Bell, of Maricopa, Arizona. "When I hold her tightly, she seems to calm down faster, usually within three or four minutes." While you rock your child, pat her back rhythmically; once she's mellow and drowsy, put her in her crib so she can learn to fall asleep on her own.
Or try a new hold. Lay your baby on her belly across your forearm, for instance. Or hold her facing forward with her back against your chest and her legs bent, so she's sitting on your hands. If your baby has gas, lay her over your knee and gently rub circles on her back; the pressure can soothe a rumbly stomach.
"I lay my baby on me where she can hear my heart," says Jessica Doyaga, of Long Island, New York, a mother of two including Holly, 8 weeks. Dad or Grandma can try this, too, so baby gets used to being soothed by others.