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Soothing Secrets

Tone it down

If you've tried everything and your child is still worked up, maybe you're trying too hard. Some young babies don't like to be handled as much and need to be left alone before being able to fall asleep. "Sometimes they just need to cry a bit before they conk out," says Ann Froese-Fretz, R.N., director of the Fussy Baby Clinic of the Children's Hospital, in Denver. "We don't recommend letting an infant under three months cry it out, but it's okay to let her fuss for five minutes. You need to give her the opportunity to figure out how to soothe herself."

At times, visual overstimulation may be the problem. Froese-Fretz once treated a child whose parents had set up a beautiful nursery, decorated with tartan plaids. "But their baby went nuts  -- it was too much," she says. Once the parents removed the mobiles, covered the crib bumpers, and replaced the sheets with plain ones, "the change was miraculous  -- like they had a different baby."

Most important, when you stumble upon a strategy that works, stay with it. Trying something different every five minutes can backfire if it overstimulates her. Limit yourself to two or three methods that seem to work best at soothing your little one  -- if one fails in one instance, try the other, instead of introducing several new techniques. "You almost always get results after a day or two if you stick to a consistent pattern," says Froese-Fretz.

Of course, no method is absolutely foolproof. Keep in mind that temperament is a big factor, and some babies simply weren't born to be soothed  -- you can rock them all day long and they'll still only calm down a bit. If that is the case in your house, don't forget to tend to your own psyche. And remember that this too shall pass.