The first week at home with your newborn is amazing. Exhausting, yes. But amazing. You get tons of incredible newborn cuddles and it is surprisingly easy to soothe your baby to sleep. Honestly, our biggest challenge was keeping our baby awake long enough to eat throughout the day.
But as your baby gets older, it often becomes more challenging to soothe her when she’s crying. You can tell she’s tired, but how can you help her to relax and fall asleep? I believe that one of the best tools to learn how to calm a fussy baby is to master the “baby bounce.”
Once you’ve perfected the baby bounce, you will have a much easier time knowing how to soothe a fussy baby and help your baby to finally fall asleep.
It’s also helpful to master a few different variations because each baby has slightly different preferences. In fact, what works for my baby one night doesn’t always work as well the next night. I switch it up whenever he needs me to and am glad that I’ve mastered each of these variations so I can soothe my baby when he’s fussy.
Keep reading to learn 5 variations of the baby bounce technique (plus two bonus newborn tips!) that are sure to help you master the baby bounce and become a pro at calming your fussy baby.
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Before we get started, there’s one important tip you need to know to truly master the baby bounce.
The most essential piece of any effective baby bounce is to hold your baby very closely against your body. Babies love to snuggle, especially when they’re sleepy. This is important for them to feel safe and secure. And the best way to help them transition from crabby to sleeping is to really cuddle up as you bounce and soothe your baby.
I like to joke that my baby needs at least 4 points of contact when he’s fussy and I’m trying to soothe him. Legs, chest, cheeks, and back of the head. If he doesn’t have all 4 points touching me, it’s more challenging to soothe him, especially when he’s overtired.
For both newborns and older babies, the best way to do this is to use one arm and hand to brace your baby’s bottom. You will support most of your baby’s weight with this arm.
Place your other hand against your baby’s neck and the lower part of the back of her head. If she’s looking all over the place, start bouncing a little and gently press her neck and head against your body. Your goal is to help her relax and completely tuck her head against your chest and neck. Then you can snuggle your face against the back of her head for that 4th point of contact that babies love so much.
Now you’re in the perfect position for a great baby bounce!
Baby Bounce Variation #1: The Brisk Walk
Many babies absolutely LOVE this variation of the baby bounce. To be honest, there isn’t a lot of “bounce” involved with this one. Instead, you are quickly walking to soothe and comfort your baby.
Hold your baby nice and tight and then very quickly walk in a loop around your house. Ideally, you use several different rooms. When I just stay in my baby’s nursery, I get incredibly dizzy from walking that quickly in such a small circle.
If you use this method to soothe your baby, you should focus on walking as quickly as you can for several minutes. Perform your loop a handful of times until your baby has calmed down and starts to fall asleep. After that, you can continue your brisk walk or switch to a different variation that is a little less physically exhausting.
This quick pace will often help soothe your baby into a deep sleep and help you reach your step goal for the day!
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Baby Bounce Variation #2: Slow Walk and Bounce
In a way, this variation is the exact opposite of the previous one. You’re creating a calming environment and slowly walking and bouncing your baby to sleep.
Step, bounce. Step bounce. Step bounce. That’s your cadence. It’s similar to a “step touch” you might do in a step or dance class.
Feel free to have a really slow pace with this variation. Take big steps and do fairly large bounces. But don’t rush the process.
For quite a while, this was my baby’s favorite variation. He’s never been a fan of the brisk walk, even though it was my siblings’ favorite by far! Instead, he was much more laid back and liked the slow steps with bigger bounces.
Baby Bounce Variation #3: Sway Back and Forth
This variation can be done with or without bouncing. Instead of walking around, you’ll be staying in the same spot and be focusing on swaying back and forth to help calm down your fussy baby and lull her to sleep.
My baby prefers to bounce and sway when he is first calming down and falling asleep. After this, I transition to swaying without a bounce.
If you’re bouncing with this variation, I think it works best to add several mini-bounces each time you sway back and forth. Instead of only bouncing on the left and right sides, try to bounce several times each way.
For me, that cadence looks like: Bounce, bounce, bounce, pause on left. Bounce, bounce, bounce, pause on right.
This variation of the baby bounce mimics the environment your baby had throughout pregnancy. She was constantly moving and wiggling around and feeling all of those vibrations as you moved during the day. Adding in all of these little bounces helps your baby settle against your chest into a really snug cuddle and drift right to sleep.
Baby Bounce Variation #4: Forward and Backward
Again this variation can be done with or without adding in bounces. This has been my baby’s favorite
Here, you are taking a few steps forward and then walking a few steps backward. You can pivot and do a mini-loop, but I find this makes me a little dizzier.
Also, this method seems to work really well when my baby is focusing on something. Instead of turning your baby away from what she’s focusing on, you can just walk backward. This lets your baby continue to focus on one thing, which will help her to fall to sleep more easily.
I typically take three or four steps forward and then repeat those three or four steps as I walk backward. Like before, I often add in a bunch of mini-bounces for the first several minutes and then fade them out as my baby falls asleep.
Baby Bounce Variation #5: Big Bounces
When my baby is super fussy, this is one of the easiest and most effective ways for me to help him calm down. I stand in one spot and do BIG bounces. So big that I’m almost hopping and feel a little like a kangaroo holding her joey.
After doing a few of these super big bounces, my baby usually calms down at least a little. Then I can transition to another variation to help him fully calm down and start to fall asleep.
Although it’s important with every variation, it is the most important with this one that you fully support your baby’s neck. You need to make sure that your hand is covering her neck and the lower portion of her head so that it doesn’t move at all while you do these big bounces.
Also, you shouldn’t do too many of these bounces in a row. Although I didn’t look for any specific studies on this, I wouldn’t imagine that it’s great for your baby to jump up and down tons of times in a row without a break. Usually, four or five will do the trick and then I switch to something else.
Bonus Newborn Tip #1: Swaddle Your Baby
Personally, I think swaddling is amazing. It is such a useful tool for new parents to help soothe their baby to sleep. If your baby seems to fight the swaddle, I would highly recommend trying to adjust your technique a little to help your baby stay swaddled and get the amazing benefits that come with it. (A while ago I wrote a couple of Instagram posts to share tips on helping your baby stay swaddled. Check out these tips here and here.)
When your baby is still small, swaddle her before you try to soothe her to sleep. This helps her to get more snug and will help your baby bounce technique to be even more effective.
Even better, it helps to transition from the baby bounce position to sleeping in the crib or bassinet without waking up your baby. (Honestly, I wish swaddling were still an option for my older baby!)
Bonus Newborn Tip #2: Use a Baby Wrap
I also think babywearing is an invaluable tool for new parents. Newborns need to sleep a lot more than older babies. And they often want to snuggle as much as they can with mom or dad instead of sleeping alone. They also tend to have more fussy evenings and cry more than older babies.
I found that the best way to soothe your fussy newborn is to wrap your baby up tightly in your baby wrap (I adore the Boda wrap!). Then pick your favorite variation of the baby bounce.
Because they are snuggled so closely with you, this is super helpful to soothe your baby. It seems to work wonders, even on the really crabby nights. Plus, once your baby falls asleep, you have your hands free to read a book, do housework, or even eat a hot meal!
Mastering the Baby Bounce is a Wonderful Tool for All New Moms and Dads.
No matter how great of a parent you are, babies get crabby and there are going to be nights when you wonder how to soothe your fussy baby. Using these different variations of the baby bounce (and even creating some of your own) is a great way to calm down your baby and help soothe her to sleep.
Best of all, by mastering the baby bounce, you’ll feel much more confident at calming your baby and be even more prepared for other challenges of raising a baby, like surviving cluster feeding and dealing with growth spurts and illnesses.
The baby bounce is my favorite tool for soothing my baby when he’s fussy. I hope you can use each of these variations to soothe your baby as well!
Did you ever use the baby bounce with your kids? What variations were their favorites?