Babies often cry, and for good reason. For newborns and infants, they are especially susceptible to changes in their routine and surroundings that may cause them unrest. A trip to the hospital is one such case, and unavoidably warranted in the infant’s early days and would usually result in crying bouts when they are probed and prodded during the checks.

Crying may cause distress to not only the babies, but also to the parents, doctors and nurses, thus hindering effective care giving. However, nurses can play an effective role in soothing the agitated babies during the visits. Here is a look at four of the ways:

1. Set the ambience

Most paediatric hospitals and clinics have walls that are painted with eye-catching colours and murals to welcome patients and make hospital visits that much more appealing. Stuffed animals also usually have their arms open, ready to be picked up for hugs, while stimulating toys await playtimes. These are nice introductions to the facilities and should not be overlooked, so as to associate medical visits with unintimidating fun.

If these are lacking in the hospitals or clinics, introduce these joyful additions, while also throwing children’s books and popular cartoon characters into the mix. If it is fine with the doctor, go the extra mile by filling the air with therapeutic aromatherapy oils and play soft music in the background. This proves to be relaxing for everyone all around and sets the tone for what is to come.

2. Employ distractions

As the visit progresses with the necessary checks, the baby might start to be agitated. If the baby is given vaccinations, it might be the start of a crying spell. During this time, distractions are very much welcomed. The nurse can be the joyful distraction by making silly faces or cooing to get the baby’s attention, or employ distractions in the form of toys around the room or even make toys out of medical items like tongue depressors.

Offer to take the crying baby from the parents to give them a breather as they listen to explanations from the doctor. If possible, swaddle the baby to give the sense of security and womb-like feeling. Ask for pacifiers or comforting items like blankets from the parents and let the babies soothe himself with items he knows.

Rocking the baby back and forth with light shushing sounds or gentle singing is also known to be comforting. If the baby seems to be hungry or would like a feed, also suggest taking up this duty from the parents. Most importantly, check that the baby is dry with a clean diaper, not too warm or too cold and there is nothing making the baby uncomfortable.

3. “The Hold”

In 2015, Dr Robert Hamilton introduced a method for soothing crying babies almost immediately. Dr Hamilton has more than 30 years of paediatric experience and has used The Hold on many of his young patients. The technique, which is carried out in simple four steps involves wrapping the baby’s arms in front of the other and holding them in place with one hand, all the while supporting the baby’s head. The baby is leaned slightly forward, while the other hand grabs the baby’s diapered behind and given a gentle jiggle.

Nurses may adopt the same method used by this baby whisperer while the baby is within care and while the parents are having a conversation with the doctor. While it may not work with all babies and certainly not for all baby age groups, teaching the method and providing more information - such as showing the highly watched video below to the parents - may be beneficial.

4. Build relationship with parents

More than anything, a nurse’s presence is the extra comfort needed. While waiting for a turn to see the doctor, nurses can use the time to talk to the parents and ease any doubts and worries that they may have. Some might be first time parents, who are anxious and do not know what to expect on their baby’s first doctor visit. This is also a good time to get close to the baby so comforting him later will be more natural.

Parents are usually caught in a cycle whereby, when the baby cries, the parents are distressed, thus making the baby distressed. Nurses can break this cycle by making parents feel relaxed through positivity and assurance. When the parents relax, the baby will follow suit and relax as well. The next time they come in for another visit, a foundation has already been set and care can be administered to the baby more effectively. MIMS

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