As people with Ph.D.s, my husband and I are researchers at heart. So, when we found out we were pregnant with our first child, we began researching and planning how our life would function once she arrived. We took classes on breastfeeding and infant care, inquired of friends about the best baby products to buy, and read books on how to get infants to sleep well. I even typed up a feeding/sleep schedule – yes, I really did that!
And then, our baby girl arrived and our world turned completely upside down.
Our daughter cried all of the time. She wouldn’t nap unless she was being held, slept in one hour stretches at night, struggled to nurse, and wasn’t gaining weight. She had colic and silent reflux (heartburn)and we were all miserable! This was one situation in my life where my plans and research were not helpful. Even the sleep help books said their techniques weren’t likely to help a baby with colic or reflux. Yep, they were right — they didn’t.
There are a few things, however, that I’ve learned in the trenches about caring for a fussy baby. I’d love to share them with you in the hope that you, too, can find encouragement and strength to endure this season well.
1. Bounce. If you don’t already have one, buy a large exercise ball. There’s something about bouncing a tightly swaddled fussy baby that calms them down and helps them to fall asleep. The ball has worked when all else failed.
2. Ask for help. After listening to so much crying and getting so little sleep, you are sure to benefit from some extra hands. We often turned to my parents for help. As seasoned pros, they’d walk the floors with our little one while we stepped outside for fresh air or tried to nap.
3. Use your intuition. Pay attention to your intuition. Though sometimes hard to hear above the crying, it’s that small voice in your head that tells you what your baby needs. For example, he or she may need to be nursed more frequently than the recommended every three hours to soothe their pains and calm them.
4. Talk to a good pediatrician. A good pediatrician is invaluable during the first few months. Don’t be afraid to thoroughly explain your baby’s symptoms. They may direct you to a pediatric gastroenterologist who can prescribe medicines to help with reflux. If you’re nursing, he/she may suggest a diet change (it’s possible something you’re eating is irritating your baby).
5. Seek out another mother who had a fussy baby. It’s really helpful to listen to and lean on someone who has been through something similar with their baby. For me, it was my own mom. I had been a baby with colic and reflux so she was very helpful in knowing how to best soothe our little one. She was also a great cheerleader!
It’s best to just take each day at a time, understanding that it might be months before they outgrow their issues.
6. Take one day at a time. As you care for your infant it is easy to get your hopes up after having a day where your baby seems to be comfortable, only to become discouraged when followed by a day of non-stop crying. It’s best to just take each day at a time, understanding that it might be months before they outgrow their issues.
7. Have a good cry. Let out all of the pent up anxiety and stress and have a good cry. Sometimes a mommy needs to give themselves permission to “cry like a baby” too. It’s heart wrenching to see your little one in pain.
8. Use white noise. If you have a white noise machine, give it a try. There’s something about the sound that helps to distract your baby from his or her discomfort. If you don’t have one, try turning on the bathroom fan, or humming/shushing in their ear as you rock or bounce them.
9. Pray. If you are a person of faith, pray and ask others to pray for you and your baby. I often prayed for strength, peace and wisdom as I walked through those challenging days, and for God’s healing touch on my baby’s immature digestive system. Prayer helped me focus on the bigger picture for my baby’s life.
10. Take heart, they will grow out of it. Though it’s hard to see when you’re so tired and weary, you need to remember that this season will end. Babies usually grow out of colic between 4-6 months and reflux by one year.
As I write this article I’m now caring for fussy baby girl #2. This adorable sleep stealer also has colic and reflux, but armed with this knowledge I find that I have much more peace the second time around. I’m still an exhausted mother of a fussy baby, but I now know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel. Fellow mamas of fussy babies, we can do this! Hang in there and give yourselves a big pat on the back for successfully making it through another day! In the very near future, that precious little one is going to be calling you mama, eating solid foods and toddling around your home.
Have you cared for a fussy baby? What advice would you add to this list?
Image via Sarah Maizland