A fussy baby is a term used to describe an infant who cries excessively and is difficult to soothe. This behavior can be frustrating for parents and caregivers, as it can disrupt sleep and daily routines. One of the most important things you can do to soothe a fussy newborn is to figure out why the baby is crying. When a baby first cries, it can be very thrilling to hear! But as the days and weeks pass, and your baby seems to be crying all the time, it can certainly take a toll on you! In this post, you'll find a variety of techniques that can help soothe your little one. Hopefully, you can find one that will be perfect for your child.
Causes of Fussiness
If you know why your baby is upset, you can take steps to address the issue and hopefully make things better. While it may be difficult to determine the cause of a newborn's distress, there are several things you can do to calm a fussy baby, such as rocking them, changing their position, or playing soft music. Here are some questions that can help determine what’s causing the fussiness:
- Is your baby hungry? Babies typically begin crying after being hungry for quite a while. They normally stop crying when feeding begins. Check for early nonverbal cues such as sucking or pushing their tongue out, as babies are normally extremely hungry when they're already crying.
- Is your little one sleepy? Babies' need for rest is another reason they’re extra fussy. They might need to be swaddled, rocked gently, or you might need to turn the lights down for the night.
- Is your baby overfed? Overfeeding babies typically causes discomfort because the baby cannot digest all of the breast milk or formula. When a baby is overfed, they swallow air as well and cause gas and discomfort in the stomach that lead to a very fussy baby.
- Are you drinking too much coffee? The baby’s inability to sleep have been linked to a mom’s caffeine intake. Caffeine intake should be limited to 300 milligrams per day when nursing, according to experts.
- Is your baby's clothing comfortable? A baby's cries can be caused by extreme temperatures. Also, too-tight clothing might be uncomfortable.
- Is your little one’s diaper dirty? The skin reacts severely to feces. It can cause severe pain and burning if not removed.
- Could it be colic? In the first few months, colic is the leading cause of excessive crying. Babies of all ages have daily bouts of fussy crying. But if crying lasts longer than three hours a day for no reason, it may be colic. Check if they have the typical symptoms of colic.
- Is your baby extremely uncomfortable or in pain? Earaches, mouth ulcers, and diaper rashes are all discomforts you need to look out for.
Techniques for Soothing Your Fussy Baby
Gentle rocking and bouncing - There is a natural soothing reflex present in all babies that acts as an "off switch" for crying and fussing and an "on switch" for sleep. Swinging your baby, rocking them, or any type of similar motion can trigger that calming reflex. Unfortunately, it's more difficult to activate the calming reflex when a baby is extremely distressed. This is similar to getting an angry person's attention during an argument. We usually tap them on the shoulder, but most of the time, they completely ignore the gentle prodding. They seem to be focusing on other things, and not on calming down! The same is true for a baby who is always crying. Motion usually does the trick! It’s evident when you take them on car rides and they’re surprisingly calm when you pass bumpy roads. Dr. Harvey Karp suggested “spirited, jitterbug-like bouncing”. Make sure to swaddle baby first, then hold them like you would in a classic breastfeeding position. Rock your baby in your arms, with tiny motions, moving them no further than an inch away from your body and back again.
Babywearing - There's an excellent explanation why babywearing has been practiced for hundreds of years: it actually works! Not only will it help calm your baby, but it will also free up your hands, which is very helpful when you're alone with your little one. Babywearing also benefits the baby's intellectual and emotional growth and development, and reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression for mom. If you want to learn more about babywearing, check out our post A Comprehensive Guide to Babywearing: Tips and Benefits for New Parents.
White noise and soothing sounds - Don’t believe it when people tell you that a baby’s room needs to be completely quiet. When you were pregnant with your child, they heard your voice, the pumping of your heart, even your stomach gurgling. White noise produces a setting similar to that of the womb, complete with the familiar sounds of the mother's heartbeat and digestive processes, making the baby feel safe and secure. The constant noises also serve to mask other, potentially disturbing sounds, such as those that may come from outside the home. Research has shown that fetal life in the uterus is as noisy as a lawnmower (about 90 dB). White noise, low tones, and louder rumbling sounds may help soothe fussy babies because of this. If you have a white noise machine or are considering getting one, make sure to place the device at least 200 centimeters away from the baby's cot or sleeping area and set the volume to lower than the max level, equivalent to a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer’s volume.
Skin-to-skin contact - Also called kangaroo care. Evidence suggests that skin-to-skin contact after birth is beneficial for both the mother and the newborn. Both mom and baby benefit from the practice, since it reduces stress and anxiety, and helps with the baby's heart rate and breathing to help them adjust to life outside the womb. Less stress means more restful nights. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that compared to premature infants who slept in incubators, those who were cradled skin to skin slept more soundly and woke up less frequently.
Massage - Everyone occasionally needs to relax with a nice, long body rub. Baby massage may be able to reduce colic and teething pain, reduce fussiness, and put fussy babies to sleep. The more you touch and stroke the baby, the easier you'll form a bond with them as well. Try to give your infant a massage at the same time every day so they can learn to anticipate and enjoy it. Actually, there is no such thing as the "best" time. In general, you should pick a time when you're not in a hurry to do chores or when your baby isn't hungry. And remember to be gentle!
Start a Routine - Establishing a regular pattern with your infant can reduce stress and make your life easier. You can use your baby's preferred eating, sleeping, and playing times as the basis for a general schedule. Babies often eat and sleep at all hours of the day and night when they are first born, but after about two to four months, a pattern may begin to emerge. Get into the habit of going to bed at the same time every night, and schedule your daily activities such that they occur around the same time each day.
Anticipate and meet baby's needs before they become fussy - Babies often cry the most during the night. The best ways to soothe babies include establishing a consistent and comforting bedtime routine and anticipating your baby's needs by feeding and changing them before bed. Keeping a journal of your baby's daily habits is also recommended.
Limit overstimulation - Babies, like grownups and older kids, can experience sensory overload. A baby can become overstimulated by things like exposure to new people, places, or sounds. While all babies are susceptible to sensory overload, some are more likely to experience it than others. Symptoms of an overstimulated baby may include increased crying, fussiness, and clinginess.
And finally, the most important tip is to make sure that you get rest. Dealing with a fussy baby is no easy feat! And lack of sleep or rest can sometimes make you cranky. When your baby finally does fall asleep, resist the impulse to start housework. Get some rest instead. You and your partner could also take turns taking care of the baby at night so that you can each get some rest.
Medical disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to be a substitute for expert medical advice, diagnosis, or care. Always ask your doctor or another qualified health provider for advice if you have any concerns about a medical issue. Never dismiss or put off getting expert medical advice because of something you read on Bub’s Blog. babybub does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on this site.