How to Soothe a Fussy Baby

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.

The Difference Between Colic and Fussiness

Every baby cries at some point, but some seem to cry more often and for longer periods than others. At some point, you may wonder if your baby is merely fussy, or if you are dealing with colic. There are a few distinctions that can help to clarify the issue.

Defining Colic and Fussiness

Doctors define colic as intense periods of crying that last for at least three hours at a time, three or more days a week, for a period of time of at least three weeks in duration. Colic is diagnosed when the baby is otherwise healthy, well-fed, and shows no signs of illness or other problems that might explain the crying.

Fussiness is a little more difficult to define, as there is no medical definition for it, and it really isn’t considered a condition. Fussy babies are generally more sensitive than other babies and may cry more often or take longer to soothe than most babies. Most fussiness isn’t caused by a medical condition either, but illness can cause a fussy baby to be even more difficult to calm or console.

The difference is generally in the duration and regularity of the crying. A baby with colic will usually cry at the same time of day, begin crying out of nowhere, and cry for a long period of time. Fussy babies cry randomly, and may have short burst of crying or longer periods. There may be an obvious reason for fussy behavior, or it may be difficult to tell what the reason is for the crying.

Determining Between Colic and Fussiness

If your baby cries more than three hours a day several days a week for many weeks straight, you are most likely dealing with colic. You should see your baby’s pediatrician to rule out other causes of the crying and confirm the diagnosis. If the crying is less often and less persistent, it is likely your baby is fussy but not colicky.

While colicky babies don’t often respond to traditional methods of soothing, fussy babies are more likely to be soothed with common tricks. It may require more effort and more persistence, however, and you might need to try a lot of different options to see what works for your baby.

Fussy babies tend to cry fairly frequently and are upset easily, but the crying doesn’t usually go on for hours the way it does with colic. Although it may seem like your baby is crying an awful lot, keeping track of how long crying spells actually last will make it easier to determine whether or not colic is actually a possibility. A fussy baby may cry many more time per day than a colicky baby, but the colicky baby’s crying will last much longer at a spell. Fussiness doesn’t usually follow a pattern the way colic does, and a fussy baby will cry at any time of day for difficult but not always impossible to determine reasons.

Keeping track of your baby’s crying habits is a good method of figuring out whether your baby has colic or is fussy. Write down when the crying started, how long it lasted, what caused it to stop (if it was anything obvious) and what soothing methods you tried. If you take your baby to the doctor, this record will also help the doctor to determine what is going on.

Colic: What it is and What to do

The very word colic is enough to raise fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere. Even if you have not had a colicky baby yourself, chances are you have heard the tales from other mothers of endless crying, sleepless nights, and failure after failure to soothe the baby. All babies are a challenge and can cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason, but a baby with colic is a different story altogether.

What is Colic?

The basic definition of colic is a baby who is healthy and well-fed, but screams or cries inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for an extended period of time, generally a minimum of three weeks. If your baby fits this description, colic is likely. Unlike the crying of a normal baby, a colicky baby has no apparent reason, at least none that the parents or doctor can uncover, for the crying. This can cause parents a great deal of frustration; as every mother and father knows, there is nothing worse than being unable to provide comfort to your child.

Colicky babies usually have their spells of crying at the same time of the day, and the crying is usually very intense and high-pitched. Colic-related crying seems to start out of nowhere, and you may notice changes in baby’s posture such as clenched fists and tense muscles. A colicky baby will often cry so hard as to cause a flushed face and heavy breathing.

What to Do If You Suspect Colic

If your baby is having intense crying spells lasting for hours on a regular basis, and you can find no cause for the crying, you probably are facing colic. It’s a good idea to see your baby’s doctor to rule out other possible causes of the crying that might not be readily visible to you, such as ear infection or reflux. Your doctor will perform an examination and if nothing is found, you will likely be given a diagnosis of colic.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis really means that there is not much the doctor can offer by way of assistance. Unlike reflux or infections, there is currently no medical treatment for colic, mainly because no one really knows what causes it. There are some things you can try at home, however, to improve the situation.

Soothing a Colicky Baby

You may feel that you have tried everything to soothe your baby without any success, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Sometimes it will take a great deal of trial and error to find what works for your baby, and different soothing techniques may help at different times, so try things again that may have failed in the past. At the very least, you will feel like you are doing something for baby.

Colicky babies may be soothed by motion, so try a swing or taking your baby for a ride in the car. You can also rock the baby in your arms, although this may become tiring after a while – it is worth it for some peace and quiet. Some colicky babies will also respond to being swaddled, as they feel more secure that way.

If nothing else works, you might have to ride out the storm. The good news is, babies usually outgrow colic by about 3 months old, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take turns handling the worst of the colic episodes so that no one reaches the end of their patience. Colic can be very trying, but it will end eventually.

Probiotics and Your Baby’s Health

The newest word in the area of immune health and digestive support is probiotics. These helpful bacteria are proving to have a number of benefits for good health in both adults and children. From thrush to colic to gastroenteritis, probiotics have been connected with helping to treat a number of conditions in babies.

How Probiotics Work

The human body is filled with microorganisms, some of which are beneficial to the body’s function, and some of which are not. Good bacteria exist naturally in the digestive system, but many factors can lead to reducing their levels so that they are no longer able to perform their tasks. This can cause reduced immunity to illness, poor digestion, and influence a number of other problems in the body.

Probiotics are supplements that can be taken as pills or added to foods to populate your body with good bacteria and help to bring the balance back to normal. These supplements add to your body’s natural supply of beneficial bacteria to help regulate your digestion and support your immune system.

What Can Probiotics Do for Your Baby?

Research is still being done on probiotics and their effects on the body. So far, there is encouraging evidence that these supplements may provide relief for a number of problems suffered by babies. Reducing colic, improving digestion to reduce gas, constipation and diarrhea, and lessening the impact of viral infections on your baby’s stomach are just a few of the benefits research is turning up for the use of probiotics.

Probiotics have also been connected with improvements in eczema, and with treating thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth that is common in young babies. If your baby has to take antibiotics, which are known for encouraging yeast infections and also causing diarrhea, a probiotic supplement will reduce these reactions.

Probiotics can also shorten the amount of time your baby will have to suffer with a stomach bug, as the good bacteria will more quickly bring health back to the digestive system.

Breast milk does a better job of supporting production of good bacteria in your baby than formula, but even breast fed babies can benefit from the addition of supplementary probiotics.

How Should I give My Baby Probiotics?

Some new formulas contain probiotic cultures, but if your baby is not using formula, or you do not wish to use that type of formula, there are other ways to add probiotics to your baby’s diet. Probiotics capsules can be opened and added to baby’s bottle or even put directly into baby’s mouth. If your baby is eating solid baby foods, you can add probiotics to purees or also choose foods that naturally provide probiotics.

The most commonly known food that provides probiotic benefits is yogurt. Many commercial yogurts, however, have been heated to extend shelf life. To truly reap the probiotic benefits of yogurt, you should look for one that has not been heated, usually available in health and natural food stores. Many other foods are now showing up on the shelves that have had probiotics added, as their popularity rises due to the new research.

Although probiotics are believed to be safe for use in very young babies, you should always discuss any supplement or medication with your baby’s doctor prior to using it. Your doctor can recommend the best way to add probiotics to baby’s diet as well as the appropriate amount of the supplement for the most benefit.

The Role of Iron in Formula

Iron is an essential mineral to your baby’s growth and development. It is vital to the blood supply, helping to create the hemoglobins that carry oxygen through the blood. Most formulas today are fortified with iron, in accordance with AAP recommendations for preventing an iron deficiency, or anemia, in babies. There are some concerns regarding iron in formula, usually in relation to constipation or other stomach problems; however, the recommendation is still to choose iron-fortified formula over low-iron versions.

Iron in Formula vs. Breast Milk

Some advocates of lower iron formulas argue that breast milk contains far less iron than the average fortified formula. This is true; however, the iron in breast milk is much more easily absorbed by and used by a baby’s body than that found in formula. Therefore a lower amount can have a greater effect. Some doctors do recommend an iron supplement for breast fed babies, but the research is not yet clear on how helpful this is in preventing anemia.

Does Iron in Formula Cause Gastrointestinal Distress?

The main reason why parents choose to switch to a low-iron formula is the belief that the iron in the formula is responsible for such problems as colic, constipation, gas and diarrhea. Because iron supplements in adults can cause constipation, it seems like a logical conclusion that iron would have the same effect on a baby. The research on the topic, however, discredits this belief. There is no evidence of any difference in any of the above issues between babies fed iron-fortified formula and those fed low-iron versions of the same formula.

There is, however, a difference between breastfed babies and formula fed babies in levels of constipation and gas, as well as other stomach issues. This is not because of levels of iron, however, but because breast milk is much easier for the baby’s body to digest than formula. It is also used so effectively by the body that it often leaves less waste to clog up the baby’s system.

The Benefits of Iron in Formula

Since manufacturers started adding iron to formula in the 1970’s, the rate of anemia in infants has dropped dramatically, from 20% to 3% of formula fed babies. Iron is vital to your growing baby’s health, allowing the creation of new red blood cells.

At this time, the AAP recommends that you use a formula fortified with iron, if you are not breastfeeding your baby. Formulas with higher amounts of iron are a better choice because a very small amount of the total iron is actually absorbed and used by the body. Cow’s milk formulas have an absorption rate of only about 12% of iron, while soy formulas are even lower. Compared to the 50% rate of absorption from human milk, it becomes obvious why adding iron to formula is necessary to provide baby with an adequate supply of iron.

At this time, there is no evidence to support the use of low-iron formulas, but despite efforts to educate new parents, low-iron formulas are still available and are still being chosen by parents based on inaccurate information. If you have concerns about iron in your baby’s diet, talk to your pediatrician. It is difficult to see a baby suffering from gastrointestinal distress, but blaming it on iron and removing this important nutrient from baby’s diet can have a damaging effect on health and is unlikely to improve the problem.