Babies cry or fuss for many reasons. It's very possible that your baby is just telling you he or she is hungry. How often a new baby needs to eat can be a real eye opener for new parents. It is also possible that she is trying to communicate something else to you. It could be that she is overtired, overstimulated, lonely or uncomfortable. The fussiness may be due to a medical reason such as an ear infection or yeast infection. Some other causes for fussiness include an overabundant milk supply, low milk supply, and thrush.
If the fussiness occurs suddenly, seems out of character for him or her, and the baby is otherwise healthy, it could be something baby has been given other than her normal diet of breast milk, or something that mom has taken or eaten. Perfume or other scents may also cause fussiness. It is normal for many babies to have a fussy period during the day even when all their physical and emotional needs are being met and they are healthy.
If your concern is that the baby is hungry, see "How To Tell if Your Baby Is Getting Enough To Eat." Remember, in the first three months of life, babies need small, frequent meals. Only so much fits in their stomachs at one feeding, A baby who never really settles down between feedings, is constantly looking for something to suck on, or has a questionable diaper count should have his or her weight checked. A weight check can be performed at Lactation Services Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., no appointment needed. A baby who loses more than 7 percent or more of his or her original birth weight in the first five days or who is not gaining at least one-half to one ounce per day should see a lactation consultant or your pediatrician.
If there is a concern that in the first five days there may be a medical reason for baby's fussiness, take the baby's temperature, (normal infant temperature should be between 97.6 and 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and call your pediatrician if temperature is abnormal.
Once it is determined that hunger is not the issue and baby is healthy, it is time to look at other environmental and dietary possibilities. Do not eliminate more than one or two things at a time, or you will not be able to tell which thing made the difference, should baby's fussiness reduce. When eliminating dietary foods, baby should be back to normal within 24 hours.
A "colicky baby" is very tense and is obviously in physical pain. He pulls his legs into his abdomen, clenches his fists and has a look of great pain on his face as he may scream in a high pitched tone.
Normal fussy periods occur around the same time each day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. Some babies' fussy periods come so regularly that their parents can set their watches by it.
Comfort measures that may help with fussiness are:
- Changing the diaper. Undress her completely to see if any of her clothing may be bothering him or her or a thread may be wrapped around one of her toes or fingers;
- Undressing with him and get into a warm bath together, supporting his head and bottom and moving him back and forth in the water or lying back in the tub with the baby tummy down on your chest;
- Giving her a massage;
- Putting him in a sling or baby carrier, and walk around the house or take a walk outside.
- Swaddling him in a light blanket;
- If he is over stimulated, take him to a quieter room;
- As she may miss the swaying motion of when she was inside you, rock her in a rocking chair;
- Carry her in the colic hold, lying baby across your forearm, tummy down, with your hand supporting the chest;
- Laying him across your lap and gently rubbing her back while you slowly lift and lower her heels;
- Laying him tummy-down on the bed or on your lap and patting his back playing shushing sounds which imitate the womb;
- White noise such as the vacuum cleaner hair dryer, fan or a white noise maker;
- Sucking can be helpful and is accomplished with breast finger, pacifier or bottle;
- For the baby who is impossible to calm, hold baby when he cries. He will feel cared for until he outgrows this sensitive stage.
The book The Fussy Baby by William Sears, MD, is available through La Leche League International and is in the Health Library and Resource Centerl. It is an excellent book for parents of highly sensitive and fussy babies.
If you continue to need help and especially if the baby's fussiness is affecting feedings, please call back for a phone or office consultation with a lactation consultant.
The kellymom.com website has more helpful information on this subject.