Is your little one’s crying and fussing driving you mad? How do you handle a cranky baby?
The first time we hear our baby’s cries, it was music to our ears. It’s a sign that she has arrived after months of waiting, with a good set of lungs too! But as the days and the weeks go by, their cries and shrieks become a cause for concern, and for some parents, can actually trigger feelings of anger and anxiety.
As a parent, you’ve surely had your fair share of sleepless nights. You’re also no stranger to the frustration that comes with not being able to soothe your crying and cranky baby.
But as you’ll soon find out, your baby isn’t crying to get on your nerves. She may be crying to get your attention, but let’s face it – there’s really no other way for them to do so. Crying is their way of communicating with you at this stage and the best way to shorten these episodes or to calm a fussy baby is to respond to them right away.
Common Reasons for Your Baby’s Crying
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Why is my baby so fussy all of a sudden?
What puzzles or concerns us the most when it comes to our infant’s crying and fussiness is that it’s just so hard to tell what is causing it. But however challenging it may be, there are some ways to pinpoint what is causing the tears and the fussiness. Here are some of the most common ones:
Newborns eat or feed a lot of times during the day. And because their stomachs are very tiny and can only hold so much milk, they are able to digest it easily (especially if it’s breast milk). So before you know it, your infant might be hungry and ready to feed again.
Experts believe that crying is one of the last signs that a baby is hungry, so it’s better to look for early hunger cues like lip-smacking, bringing hands to her mouth, and rooting.
Gulping lots of liquid can trap air bubbles in your baby’s tummy, making her very uncomfortable and fussy. This may be due to a poor latch, uncomfortable breastfeeding position, or just that baby is so hungry that she’s taking in way too much milk than her body is used to.
Anyone who sits on wet or dirty pants would be uncomfortable too! Infants create as many as six or more wet diapers a day, so checking it frequently can help prevent a crying fit. Some babies even have a habit of pooping on a clean diaper, so they might need you to clean them up first before they can “go.”
Even grown-ups get cranky when they don’t get enough sleep. For the first three months, newborns sleep for about 14 to 17 hours in a full day in spurts of two to four hours. If you’ve been out or you’ve had visitors and didn’t have the chance to put her to sleep, expect that she will be fussy soon.
Just like hunger, crying is already a late sign that the baby is tired, so watch out for tiredness cues like pulling at their ears, jerking their arms and legs, and sucking their fingers.
Long, unexplainable and excessive crying could be colic, which is very common in babies. Consult your baby’s pediatrician if you think her crying might be excessive.
Overwhelmed or overstimulated
This usually happens if there are so many things going on around your child. Her senses are getting too much stimulation that she may find it hard to focus on one thing and might start to become frustrated because of it. Retreating to a quiet, dimly-lit room might do the trick.
Babies can be so sensitive to temperature. Some parents make the mistake of bundling up their babies even though we’re in a tropical climate. Overheating is an unpopular but valid cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It can also cause discomfort to your baby, which leads to crying and fussing.
To check if your baby is overheating, feel the back of her neck if it is warm or sweaty.
Meanwhile, if you live in places with cooler temperatures, or if you’re always in an air-conditioned room, you may also check if your baby’s hands and feet are too cold, which also makes them fussy.
Last but definitely not least, crying is sometimes an indication that your baby isn’t feeling well. If you suspect she might have a fever (one of the first signs of infection), check her temperature right away. Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician if she looks sick and is super fussy.
Irritable Baby Syndrome
If your baby is always fussy but does not check the box for the different reasons we mentioned above, it can be that they are just a naturally fussy or high-needs baby. An irritable baby can be described as one who is difficult to calm, is only contented when she is held or carried and sleeps for a short period of time.
There is no other cure for irritable baby syndrome other than what is usually prescribed for colic, and parents are usually advised to wait it out as babies grow out of it eventually. However, if you are still concerned about your baby’s fussiness, don’t hesitate to talk to their paediatrician about it.
The sooner we pinpoint the cause of baby’s fussiness, the sooner it will be to find a solution for it. And while it’s normal to feel disappointed by your baby’s cries, it’s never okay to vigorously shake your baby out of frustration.
Doing so, however brief, can result in abusive head trauma (AHT), commonly known as shaken baby syndrome (SBS) and might lead to severe brain damage or death, especially in infants.
So instead of giving in to exasperation, it sometimes helps to take a step back and go back to the basics.
How To Calm a Crying Baby in 5 Seconds
Taking care of a cranky baby can drive any parent, new or old, insane as it can take a long time for them to calm down.
However, one paediatrician says it’s possible to pacify a fussy baby within just 5 seconds. All it takes is a specific way of holding them, called the “magic baby hold.”
In a popular YouTube video, Dr Robert Hamilton demonstrates a 4-step manoeuvre that according to him, will calm almost any crying baby instantly. He showed a very careful way of holding the baby’s arms and bottom and gently rocking him up and down. And like magic, the cranky baby in the video immediately started calming down.
However, Dr Hamilton himself pointed out that “the hold” doesn’t work on every baby. Sometimes, it can also be that your baby is sick or hungry and needs more than just holding him to pacify him.
If your child proves resistant to this holding trick, the paediatrician suggests putting your baby down gently on his back, somewhere safe like a crib and walking away. This may not help in calming your cranky bub, but it helps calm the parents down, which is a safety measure, as you’re not supposed to shake your baby out of frustration.
Dr Hamilton also recommends this calming trick for babies less than 3 months old, as it will be more difficult and dangerous to hold a heavy baby in that position.
Want to give it a try? Watch the video for a detailed instruction:
Different Ways to Calm a Fussy Baby
While there’s no one-size-fits-all trick to soothe a crying baby, you’ll soon develop (and get better at) a repertoire of techniques that’s perfect for your child. In the meantime, here are some time-tested ideas to help calm your fussy baby.
1. Recreate the womb
By replicating your baby’s swaying movements while you carried them in your womb, you’re providing them with a comforting and safe sensation that soothes them when they’re feeling uncomfortable or agitated. You can sway them from side to side or go for a stroll as they are wrapped in a carrier. Sometimes simply rocking them in a hammock or crib will do the trick.
Swaddling also helps, as it provides them with a cocoon-like, secure environment, much like the womb. This trick can work especially if your baby is fussy at night.
2. Make use of loving touch
Kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact isn’t just beneficial to premature babies. It can also be a calming way to soothe infant tantrums.
Once they feel warm skin, their body temperature, heart rate, and stress hormones stabilise. Best of all, holding them helps produce oxytocin, which is also known as the “love and bonding hormone.”
Have you ever considered baby foot massages? Reflexology experts believe certain areas of your baby’s feet are linked to the rest of their body, much like adults.
For instance, applying gentle pressure on their big toes has been known to improve a baby’s mood. Rubbing the tips of their toes is believed to help ease the teething process. And massaging the middle part of your baby’s feet will ease stomach pain and regularise their breathing. Make sure not to do foot massages for more than 10 minutes.
3. Expose them to familiar, comforting sounds
While in the womb, babies become attuned to rhythmic, subtle sounds. So playing ambient, gentle music, or songs you listened to while pregnant can remind them of the safe space of the womb. You can also make use of a white noise machine or the recording of a continuous heartbeat.
4. Try a change of scenery
Some parents say that bringing their babies outdoors or for a quick car trip can do the trick. The smooth, consistent motion of a car or stroller ride helps soothe babies to sleep.
5. Deal with hunger and avoid overfeeding
Hunger can be overwhelming for infants because it’s a new sensation. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding them, giving them milk when they suddenly wake up in the middle of the night can help ease them back to sleep.
However, it’s important not to overfeed your baby, as this might cause gas or colic. Check if there are any hunger cues before assuming that the baby just needs to be fed.
Sometimes, a pacifier will do the trick because the sucking sensation helps calm babies. But make sure not to allow babies to get used to pacifiers when you’ve only started breastfeeding and offer your breast instead. This offers a sense of comfort and also facilitates a good latch and priceless bonding.
Decoding the Different Types of Baby Cries
How to Tell if Baby Is Still Hungry After Breastfeeding
Can You Spoil a Baby by Holding Them Too Much?
Once you’ve gotten used to what your baby’s cry sounds like, you’ll know that the fussing you hear is likely normal. However, more intense wailing or screaming may indicate an unusual level of crying that could be colic or another medical condition. So in this case, don’t hesitate to consult your child’s paediatrician to have your baby evaluated as soon as possible.
Also, if your baby’s cries start to trigger a negative emotion like anger or anxiety, it’s time to take a break. Calming a fussy baby is hard, especially if you’re operating on little to no sleep. Make sure your baby is safe and ask your partner or a relative to take over for a while. When you’re all rested and in the right disposition to soothe your little one, you can try again.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
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