Fussy nighttime baby

A "hack" for better nighttime with baby

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Sometimes I don’t think people realize how insane a baby’s sense of smell is. (Here’s a bigger article on newborn senses.)

There are a couple of major concepts to know here:

  1. Even before birth, a fetus can smell.
  2. At birth, a newborn is drawn to the scent of breast milk. (Should be noted, especially for fans of Girls on HBO, that doesn’t necessarily mean latching instantly.)
  3. For the first two months, a baby prefers the mother’s scent to anyone. Even if you (or your partner/wife) smells like trash, the baby perceives it as roses.

This creates some challenges though.

Most of the time, when a baby smells the mom, the newborn begins making hunger cues. If you’re unfamiliar with hunger cues, generally it refers to:

  • Smacking/licking lips
  • Opening/closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, or fingers
  • Rooting around on the chest of the person carrying him/her
  • Lying back or pulling on clothes to position for nursing
  • Hitting you on arm/chest repeatedly
  • Fussing
  • Breathing fast
  • Crying (not always)
  • Moving head frantically from side to side
  • Lots of fidgeting

Now we come to the main problem.

Even if the baby just ate, normally most new moms will respond to these hunger cues and feed them. This commonly happens — well, it commonly happens often, but nighttime is certainly one spot.

But when the mom is the one settling the baby at night, we’ve got issues.

The baby smells the mom and the idea of sleep is out the window.

Ready for the hack? We’ve got three.

First hack: Not really a hack, but just have the dad consistently go in during the night. (Or the male partner, if there is one.) You can put the crying/laughing emoji here.

Second hack: Make sure the mom goes in a shirt worn by someone else that day to block her smell from the newborn. This actually works, especially if the dad hit the gym at some point.

Third hack: hire someone else to take care of nighttime duties and get some sleep in the process.

What other hacks do you have for fussy nighttime babies with mom sensory overload?

Kristin Smith

Kristin is a wife, mom, doula and a kick ass swaddler. She spends her time helping families get top notch support throughout their parenting journey. When she isn't swaddling babies, she can be found sipping latte's and watching her daughter play softball. Read more...

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