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Testing Your Infant's Self-Calming Skills


This test measures the number of things that you need to do to stop your baby's fussing and let your baby calm him- or herself.

To test your baby's self-calming skills, pick a time during the first month of life when your baby is happy, content, and sleeping. Don't do this if your child is sick or has had a change in routine. Wake up your baby either by clapping your hands loudly above the crib or bassinet or by moving your baby around enough to get him crying. After your baby has been fussing or crying for 15 seconds, go through the following steps.

  1. ALONE. Leave your baby completely alone for a full 2 minutes to see if he is capable of quieting by himself. Although the 2 minutes may seem like an eternity, wait the full time. Your baby is considered to have self-quieting skills if he becomes quiet for at least 5 seconds. If your baby is still crying at the end of 2 minutes, then take the next step.
  2. PARENT'S FACE ALONE. Lean over your baby so that your face is about 10 inches from his face. If your baby is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  3. PARENT'S VOICE AND FACE ALONE. While leaning over your baby, talk to him in a normal voice. If your baby is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  4. HAND ON BELLY. While continuing to look at your baby, talk softly and place your hand on his belly steadily. If your baby is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  5. RESTRAINING ONE OR BOTH ARMS. While continuing to look at your baby, talk softly and hold one or both of his hands firmly against his chest. If he is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  6. PICKING UP AND HOLDING. Pick up your infant and hold him snugly against your chest while continuing to look at and talk to him. If your baby is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  7. HOLDING AND ROCKING. While continuing to talk to your baby softly, begin rocking him back and forth. If he is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  8. WRAPPING, HOLDING IN ARMS, AND ROCKING. Pick your baby up and place him on a receiving blanket. Wrap the blanket snugly around your baby and rock gently while talking to him softly. If your baby is still crying at the end of 30 seconds, take the next step.
  9. PACIFIER OR FINGER TO SUCK IN ADDITION TO WRAPPING, HOLDING, AND ROCKING. With your baby still wrapped in the receiving blanket, offer him your finger or a pacifier while continuing to rock him gently and talk to him softly.

If none of these steps work, you may have a baby who is very hard to console. However, before jumping to conclusions, repeat the test at least 2 more times on different days. If your baby is very hard to calm talk to your pediatrician at the first well-baby visit.


Written by E. Christophersen, PhD, author of "Baby Owner's Manual: What to Expect and How to Survive the First Year." (Adapted from "Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale," by T. Berry Brazelton, Lippincott, 1973.).
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2006-10-10
Last reviewed: 2010-07-01

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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