Just like grown ups, some babies are more sensitive than others and may become upset more easily or be more difficult to calm or soothe. A fussy baby is a challenge to a new parent who is already trying to figure out what baby wants and how to soothe and calm him. Random crying, crying that seems out of proportion with the issue, or crying that seems to last longer than it should are all signs of a fussy baby.
There is no real medical diagnosis for fussiness, unlike colic which is a different and more severe problem. You baby may outgrow his fussy ways, or it may be a sign of a personality trait that will later develop – a sensitivity that is not necessarily a bad thing. When your baby is crying, however, and you just want to figure out how to make it stop, it doesn’t much matter what the fussiness represents. Soothing your baby is a top priority.
Try the Top Three
When you hear your baby start to cry, the first things to eliminate from the list of possible solutions are the top three reasons that babies cry. The first is the most obvious – hunger. Try offering baby the breast or bottle to see if he is hungry. If he refuses, you can move on to other possibilities. The second culprit behind a crying baby is a dirty diaper. While some babies don’t seem to notice or care when they are in need of a change, fussy or sensitive babies may become very upset when their diaper is dirty. If the diaper is clean, or you have changed it and the crying hasn’t stopped, the third on the top three list is tiredness. It could be that your baby really just needs a nap, and has reached the point of over-tiredness where he really doesn’t know what to do about this feeling of fatigue, and cries. Take your baby into a quiet dark place and gently rock him, watching for signs of sleepiness. If he falls asleep, you have solved the problem.
When It’s None of the Above
If your baby is crying and you have eliminated the top three possibilities, it’s time to move on. Try some of the classic techniques for soothing a baby. Start by holding your baby and making a “shhhhh” sound close to her ear. Babies are soothed by white noise, and this sound is basically white noise you make yourself. Accompany this with rocking in a chair or in your arms as an additional soothing method.
Many fussy babies are easily over-stimulated, so when your baby becomes upset, try calming her environment. Turn down the lights, turn off anything that might be making noise such as a television or radio, and ask anyone who can to leave the room – or leave the room yourself for a quieter spot. Something simply removing sources of overstimulation can do the trick.
Motion is a wonderful trick for soothing fussy babies. Aside from rocking, try an infant swing or put baby in her car seat and go for a drive. A walk in the stroller may work equally well.
It may seem obvious, but offering a pacifier can sometimes do the trick. Babies find sucking soothing, but may not always be hungry. A pacifier can help to calm her down and may even help her fall asleep.
If you can’t soothe your baby by any method, it’s a good idea to rule out medical causes for the crying. Put in a call to your pediatrician if the crying lasts for more than three hours and nothing can soothe your baby, to make sure there isn’t another reason for the crying.