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11 Boob-Free Ways to Soothe Your Baby

Photograph by Twenty20

Breastfeeding moms know the magic of the boob and its ability to soothe even the fussiest of infants. But there’s a certain satisfaction of quieting a squalling baby with more creative methods. (On most evenings, you can find me with my baby lounging in a Bjorn, bounce-walking around the house while blasting a white noise app over her head.)

There are times when nursing for comfort and sleep isn’t the go-to option. Perhaps mom can’t or chooses not to breastfeed, dad or another caregiver is in charge, or it’s simply time to establish new habits (sore nipples, anyone?). Here are some hard-earned tips from parents who understand that the struggle is real.

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1. "My husband was a whiz with 'The Happiest Baby on the Block' methods: shushing, swaddling, bouncing, etc. I believe that keeping me out of the mix was the key to eventually moving past night-time feedings (and ultimately, awesome sleep!)." — Maggie H., mom of a14-month-old daughter

2. "My son was in the NICU for 73 days. Once he was feeding from a bottle, versus a tube, the NICU used washcloths instead of burp cloths. He started snuggling with them after and I used them at home also. Eventually my mom made him 10 'loveys' made out of washcloths and tags, and he took right to them. He's almost 3 and still sleeps with them every night and every nap. Instant soothing when he's upset or hurt or sick." — Sarah N., mom of a 3-year-old son

I developed a novel 'squat and sway' technique to calm my incredibly fussy babies. You have to commit, though. Demi-pliés just won't cut it!

3. "My son was instantly soothed by the music video for Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used to Know.' He had some health issues that prevented him from ever learning to self-soothe and that damn video was the only thing (other than boob) that instantly calmed him." — Lisa H., mom of a 5-year-old son

4. "Mine never really breastfed, so I sang to my trio—that or talked really softly, tucking nonexistent hair behind their ears. I usually said something like, 'Your lovey needs you to comfort him. Can you cuddle your lovey?' And off they'd reach, even when they were really little, like 4 to 6 months." — Jody T., mom of 3-year-old triplet daughters

5. "My husband did a lot of bouncing our daughter on the yoga ball. He even had a sad/funny song that he would sing while he did it: 'We're bouncing on the ball, we're bouncing on the ball, hi-ho the derry-o we're bouncing on the ball ... AGAIN.'" — Marissa K, mom of a 2-year-old daughter

6. "When our oldest daughter was an infant, she was captivated by the ceiling fan in our room. If she was a little fussy and didn't need to fed or snuggled, we'd lay her down in the middle of our bed and flip on the fan. It was basically a giant mobile, and she'd just stare and stare!" — Kirsten C., mom of 4-year-old and 4-month-old daughters

7. "Jimmy Fallon's 'The Tonight Show' intro song! While I was pregnant, I had the worst case of insomnia, so every night I would go downstairs and start watching the show. To this day, even as a toddler, she can be in the deepest, end-of-the-world tantrum and I turn his show on, to which she stops mid-meltdown and goes over to 'dance' and forgets about meltdown." — Aray T., mom of a 2-year-old daughter

8. "My husband would put my daughter on his chest and play with her hair, which helped her even when she was dealing with colic. When our son was 2 months old he would hold him and converse with him about his day at work. Our son would just stare at him and smile." — Aracely C., mom of a 4-year-old son and 2-year-old twins

9. "We used the Sound Sleeper app on our phones and it worked like a charm! Also, my husband does a vigorous swing motion while cradling our daughter and we've termed it the 'super swing!'" — Sno E. A., mom of a 9-month-old daughter

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10. "I developed a novel 'squat and sway' technique to calm my incredibly fussy babies. Hold baby securely and dance/sway in a manner that includes deep knee bends. For some reason, side-to-side alone didn't cut it, but those vertical changes calmed them right down. You have to commit, though. Demi-pliés just won't cut it!" — Jen P., mom of a 16-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl

11. "My daughter was colicky and the reliable soother was doing lunges in the dark bathroom with the hair dryer running. Babies are so weird!" — Lizzie D., mom of a 2-year-old daughter

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