Every parent will wonder how to calm a fussy baby at least once! You’re not alone if you’re desperate to learn how to calm a fussy baby after eating, soothe a fussy baby after vaccines, or get some sleep if you have a fussy baby only at night! Babies are full of many different emotions. But, as many new parents soon learn, most babies use crying as a way to express the vast majority of these feelings! Frustration often sets in when parents feel like they can’t communicate with their babies. Luckily, learning the basics of how to read a fussy baby can help!
What Does a “Fussy Baby” Mean?
Crying and “fussing” are normal up to a point. However, a fussy baby with a high level of distress may be a high-needs baby. Refusal to nap, hatred of car rides, sensitivity to touch, aversion to stimulation, and inability to self-soothe are all signs of a high-needs baby instead of just a fussy baby. But, again, this is something to discuss with your pediatrician.
Being a fussy baby means that a baby is crying, acting agitated, and having trouble settling. Fussy behaviors typically occur around the same time each day. The telltale sign that a baby has “normal” fussiness is that the same soothing tricks work every time. This means that things like swinging, holding, and breastfeeding help to calm the fussiness.
What Are The Signs Of A Fussy Baby?
The telltale sign of a fussy baby is that those familiar smiles, laughs, and coos are long gone! The most common sign of fussing is simply crying. A baby may also scream, wail, writhe or gently shake. Fussy babies also tend to be very clingy. They will erupt the moment you put them down.
Why Is My Baby Suddenly Fussy?
It’s jarring for new parents when a calm baby suddenly seems inconsolable. Fussiness can come on at any time for a variety of reasons. A quick analysis of the present situation can sometimes help parents to narrow down what’s triggering the baby. Is the baby in a new environment? Could clothing, accessories, or a diaper be causing physical discomfort? Did we change nap plans today? You should also take the baby’s temperature to rule out a fever. The immediate response is simply to comfort the baby after you’ve ruled out any causes of pain or discomfort.
The 10 Common Reasons for a Fussy Baby
It’s not always easy to pin down why your baby is fussy. However, knowing the common reasons for fussiness can help parents better understand the cause-and-effect scenarios that are usually behind fussy fits. So here’s a look at the common reasons for a fussy baby:
When Tiredness Causes a Fussy Baby
A baby’s sleep cycle is constantly in flux. A baby’s sleep cycle isn’t on a 24-hour timer like the rest of the world. Babies have 90-minute sleep cycles through the first three months of life. That means that the timer to a cranky meltdown is on from the moment a baby wakes up from a nap!
When Hunger Causes a Fussy Baby
Babies often cluster feed in the first few months of life. Many parents overlooked hunger as a cause for fussiness if they “just fed” a baby. However, babies will fuss for food within minutes of unlatching once the cluster-feeding stage is activated!
When Milk Oversupply Causes a Fussy Baby
A forceful letdown during breastfeeding that’s caused by oversupply can create a cranky, gassy baby. Signs that oversupply is the issue include gagging, gurgling, coughing, or suddenly pulling off while nursing.
When Diaper Rash Causes a Fussy Baby
Redness and bumps sometimes take a while to appear once diaper rash kicks in.
When Overstimulation Causes a Fussy Baby
If fussiness kicks in during an outing, it’s possible that lights, sounds and people are causing overstimulation.
When Tummy Distress Causes a Fussy Baby
Some babies experience gas and reflux while their digestive symptoms balance. Breastfeeding babies also tend to swallow air when gulping milk that can lead to painful gas bubbles. Burping can help. While digestive issues shouldn’t cause concern as long as your baby is eating, producing wet diapers, and gaining weight, it’s still a good idea to discuss this with your pediatrician.
When Boredom Causes a Fussy Baby
Babies sometimes fuss in reaction to boredom or loneliness. This is where some fun books, stacking toys, or peekaboo games with mom help!
When Discomfort Causes a Fussy Baby
Parents sometimes need to play comfort detective. For example, how’s the temperature in the house? Could there be an itchy tag chaffing baby’s skin? Is a small hair wrapped around a finger or toe?
When Brain Growth Causes a Fussy Baby
Fussiness sometimes comes with big developmental leaps. Baby’s brain can feel like it’s trying to keep up with a million new discoveries and sensations all at once on some days!
When Teething Causes a Fussy Baby
Early teething is often mistaken for something else because many parents don’t know teething can happen during the first three months!
These are the most common reasons for a sudden fussy baby. The good news is that fussiness is usually temporary when it’s caused by one of these issues. Of course, this list can’t cover the hundreds of specific reasons why a fussy baby might be experiencing pain or distress due to an underlying medical issue. Fussiness could be caused by more complex issues like earache, fever, or viral infection.
How to Calm Fussy Baby After Eating
As covered earlier, fussiness may be a sign of milk overproduction. Post-feeding fussiness can also just be a result of a baby’s developing digestive system. However, fussiness after eating can sometimes be a sign of a more significant issue. Some possibilities to explore with your pediatrician include gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux, a milk allergy, or a formula allergy. Being consistent with burping a little one every 3 to 5 minutes during feeding can help a fussy baby after eating if the cause is gas.
How Long Are Babies Fussy After Vaccines?
It’s not uncommon to have a fussy baby after vaccines. Your pediatrician should provide information on how to handle fussy baby after vaccines. Fussiness after shots typically lasts up to 24 hours. While helping your baby get past the post-shot fussiness usually only takes extra cuddles, be on the lookout for fever, rashes, vomiting, weakness, difficulty breathing, or difficulty swallowing that could be signs of a severe reaction.
Why Some Babies Are Only Fussy at Night?
Does it seem like you have a wild child once the sun goes down? You’re not alone! Nighttime fussiness is typical in babies. If the baby is going through a growth spurt, late-night fussing may simply be due to increased hunger. Overtiredness is another common culprit. While it may go against common sense, being overly tired can actually make it harder for a baby to fall asleep at night.
How to Calm Fussy Baby When Your Newborn Is Fussy All Day?
Do your daytime hours seem like a fussing marathon? This is what’s usually defined as colic. Colicky babies will exhibit distress signals even though they are healthy, properly fed, and properly rested. Colic tends to begin at about six months of age before peaking at 3 to 4 months of age. Colicky babies will often cry, fuss and tense up until they turn red. While most parents with colicky babies simply wait until their little ones “outgrow” this phase, some factors that are thought to cause colic include possibly:
- A digestive system that isn’t fully developed.
- An imbalance of healthy bacteria in the gut and digestive tract.
- Food allergies or intolerances.
- Infrequent burping.
It’s normal for parents of colicky babies to feel frustrated and helpless. In fact, having a colicky baby is a risk factor for postpartum depression in mothers. While your baby may have a classic case of colic that will resolve on its own with time, it’s still essential to have a discussion with your pediatrician to rule out any underlying causes. Your pediatrician may also be able to provide some management techniques.
12 Practical Tips On How To Calm Fussy Baby
First, parents shouldn’t put pressure on themselves to find a “magic” solution for making their babies happy all of the time. Second, having a fussy baby doesn’t mean that you’re doing something wrong! This can be a perfectly normal and natural part of “growing pains” for babies that will eventually resolve on their own. It’s still helpful to have some tricks in your bag for soothing babies when fussiness is at its peak. Here are 12 tips for how to calm a fussy baby:
1. Rock the baby while walking around. Studies show that maternal movement reduces crying in infants.
2. Use a gentle swing.
3. Wear the baby with a pouch/carrier.
4. Take a drive. If you have a fussy baby only at night, consider a pre-sleep drive.
5. Do a stroller walk.
6. Put a soothing playlist of running water, waves, or gentle music on in the background.
7. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule to avoid overtiredness and overstimulation.
8. Try burping!
9. Try to reduce environmental stress. Stress-inducing noise can cause babies to be fussy. If you live in a noisy area, consider adding some soundproofing. If things like other children, noise from televisions, or barking dogs could be upsetting your baby, be tactical about giving your baby genuine quiet time.
10. Use diaper cream or ointment. It’s possible that friction on your baby’s bottom could be causing irritation even if you don’t see diaper rash.
11. Use some new toys. If boredom is to blame for fussiness, swapping in different toys every day can help to keep the baby stimulated.
12. Offer baby water. If your baby is six months old, it’s possible that thirst is to blame for fussiness. Keep in mind that water is not a substitute for milk or formula!
These tips for how to calm a fussy baby can work wonders if the underlying cause of the baby’s distress is simple. However, trying to use “hacks” for how to calm fussy baby should not replace getting proper attention from your pediatrician. There sometimes isn’t a simple trick for how to calm a fussy baby if your baby is in medical distress due to digestive discomfort, an illness, or an allergic reaction.
How to Calm Fussy Baby at Night for Better Sleep
What if you have a fussy baby only at night? Having “free” arms can be a stressful situation for babies! Try swaddling if this is something you haven’t been doing. One study found that swaddled babies sleep longer with reduced instances of sudden arousal.
How to Get a Fussy Baby to Latch
If you suspect that a forceful letdown is behind your baby’s fussiness, consider making nursing more hospitable by pumping for a few minutes before having baby latch. You can also hand express some milk before latching. Trying a new nursing position can also help a fussy baby to latch easier. One great nursing position is the laid-back position that provides stomach-to-stomach contact for mother and baby. In addition to being a comforting position, the laid-back position allows gravity to slow down the force of your flow. You can also manually control flow with your fingers to make nursing more pleasant for the baby.
Addressing Fussiness by Age
Babies can change so much week by week. While they may not necessarily grow out of fussiness just because they’ve hit a new phase during the first year, knowing what babies need based on age can be helpful. The most significant “fussiness factor” parents can control is sleep. So here’s a sleep cheat sheet:
0-3 Months: 14-17 hours of sleep.
4-12 Months: 12-16 hours of sleep.
Sleep times account for full daytime and nighttime sleep in 24 hours. For babies under six months of age, sleep should be nearly evenly divided between day and nighttime hours. However, babies should begin to slide toward shorter daytime naps as the months go on. For instance, a baby at six months should be getting 10 hours of sleep per night with four hours of daytime napping sprinkled in!
How to Calm a Fussy Baby: To Sum It Up
Every baby is different! Fussiness peaks for most babies by six weeks. Many parents find that they reach a “sweet spot” where everyone is finally getting some rest by this point. However, the “fussy newborn” stage can last for three to four months. Fussiness can also spring up during growth sports, milestones, and teething. The important thing is that you’re monitoring “fussy habits” to rule out any overlooked underlying issues that could be causing baby distress.
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