When your baby is crying your mind usually races through a laundry list of suggested soothing tactics. Those suggestions don't always work, though, and it's damn near impossible to not start doubting yourself when your baby seems hellbent on crying and you're powerless to stop it. So if you've asked yourself if you should distract your baby when they're crying recently, know that you're not alone. Oh no, we've all been there, my friend. Thankfully, experts have an answer — and a few suggestions — that should put you at ease and, eventually, calm your baby down, too.
When your baby is upset, Parents says there's a slew of strategies you can employ to get your little one to stop crying. You can try the Happiest Baby on the Block book's tips on how to soothe especially small babies, for example. First, you swaddle a newborn to help them feel more like they're in the womb, all snug and secure like. Second, try holding a baby on its stomach or side in order to help soothe them. Obviously it's worth remembering that putting a baby to sleep on their back is the only safe and recommended position, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (APA), but holding your baby on their side or stomach, or even holding them over your knee, can help settle any gas they might be experiencing that is causing them so much discomfort.
Third, you can use that go-to shushing noise that will eventually become second nature (and might drive you a little mad, depending no how often you have to "shush" your baby). Shushing your baby more loudly than you think you should can help replicate the whooshing noise from inside the womb, according to Parents. You can also try a short swinging movement, or give your baby a pacifier. It's worth noting that you shouldn't let a baby "cry it out" if they're under 3 months of age, according to Parenting.
The aforementioned suggestions don't always work with older babies, though, and soothing them might be a tad more difficult. This is when distraction might be helpful, dear reader. Depending on the reason your baby is crying, Parenting says distracting your baby with a change of scenery or fresh air can be successful. For example, when my daughter got worked up, bringing her outside to see if we could spot a dog walking by would instantly help calm her down.
A few other things you can do to calm your crying baby? Talk to them with a soothing, quiet voice or sing a song. In fact, even something that's totally made up can work to calm your baby quickly. If nothing is working, go with what might calm your own baby based on what you know about their unique personality. USA Today notes that some babies calm down during a car ride, and others will chill out during a warm bath. What works for some babies doesn't work for all, so it might take some time to learn what your unique little one reacts well to.
In the end, distraction is completely safe to use as a soothing technique. Just remember that patience is the name of the parenting game, my friends, and just like you, your baby is trying to learn how to soothe themselves, too.