Normal Newborn Fussing
There is a huge range of normal crying in babies through the first twelve weeks of life. At one end of the range an easy baby will barely fuss, fall asleep readily and feed on a predictable pattern. At the other extreme is the baby who wakes screaming, has a hard time relaxing into a feed, feeds on a random schedule, and sleeps inconsistently.
Regardless of gestational age at birth, fussing usually increases at about two weeks after the due date, peaks at six weeks and gradually decreases till stable at three to four months. At this age babies are better able to calm themselves. Some crying is normal. However, if you feel your baby is crying too much, check with your baby's doctor to make sure that it is not due to some controllable discomfort, such as food sensitivities, or GERD (acid indigestion).
Many healthy babies have at least one fussy period a day. This period may start out to be in the middle of the night but usually moves to the late afternoon or evening. During this time the baby will probably want to feed frequently, and be held constantly when not feeding. Swaddling and cuddling are great ways to help your baby when s/he is feeling unsettled.
You may worry your baby has colic. The difference between colic and normal fussing is one of degree, not kind. Colic is a description used when a baby is clearly thriving but the parents report the baby spends much more time crying than is typical. Check with your baby's doctor if your baby frequently cries hard and is difficult to soothe.
A crying baby may appear gassy as they are likely to pass gas when crying hard. In other words, the crying causes the baby to pass gas, not vice versa. However, sometimes you can tell that gas is the cause.
Occasionally the diet of a breastfeeding may affect her baby. The most common "problem foods" are milk and dairy products, soy, citrus fruit, and tomatoes. The list is endless so it can help to keep a food diary and see if you can spot a relationship. Some babies are fussy regardless of what is in the breast or bottle.
Some very healthy babies seem to need almost constant attention in the early weeks. This is tough on the parents, especially those that have little help. Sometimes you may feel like a caretaker rather than a loving parent, and may even resent the seemingly endless demands. Don't worry. In the second month your baby will begin to settle into a pattern, will fuss less and, so wonderfully, will start smiling at you. What a difference!
Back to top
Some steps you can take to reduce fussing
Babies who are carried more cry less. One study found that babies who spent more time being held or carried, even while content or asleep, cried less. The younger the baby, the more dramatic the results: three extra hours of carrying a day reduced the amount of crying in a four-week-old baby by forty-five percent.
Quick responses reduce fussing. Some parents may be told that babies can be spoiled if mom and dad respond too quickly. In fact research shows that responding promptly to baby's signals in the early months results in a more confident, independent child. Holding, rocking or feeding your baby as often as needed is exactly the right approach, and confirmed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If endless breastfeeding seems to be the only way to calm your baby you might want to see a Lactation Consultant to confirm breastfeeding is going well. (A little hunger can cause a lot of fussing.) If all is fine, take advantage of breastfeeding as a convenient, easy way to calm your baby. This stage will not last forever.
An excellent book on soothing techniques for the newborn is The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Harvey Karp, MD. Most parenting books contain a section with many suggestions for calming a newborn. However, there is no approach that will totally erase all crying from your baby's life.
Take time for yourself. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your baby's needs a little break is all you need to recharge your batteries.
Back to top