Even as parents start to feel more confident, a baby may become more dependent or fussy causing parents to feel drained or unsure of what to do.
The “Cry it Out” Method. Many parents turn to the “cry it out” method, also known as Ferberizing, as a last resort. Most parents don’t necessarily feel they will use this type of method, until they are extremely sleep deprived or have “given up.”
A baby’s cry is a baby’s language. It provokes a response from the parents, letting them know something isn’t right. A parent’s (especially a mother’s) response is to nurture the baby. Nature intended that instinctive response to ensure survival.
The profile of a fussy baby can look very for each child. Your baby may have one or more of these character traits:

  • Intense. These babies put more energy into everything they do, from urgent demanding feedings, to persistent crying.
  • Hyperactive. Does not like to be swaddled, can’t seem to sit still.
  • Draining. Constant holding, nursing, and comforting.
  • Feeds frequently. These babies learn quickly that the breast is a great place for food AND comforting.
  • Demanding. Similar to an intense baby, these babies demand attention, very loudly in fact.
  • Awakens frequently. Small cat naps throughout the day, and/or waking often at night.
  • Unsatisfied. You’ve tried everything; nursed, rocked, walked, wore, drove, but still not happy.
  • Unpredictable. These babies portray extreme mood swings.
  • Super sensitive. Easily bothered, like “walking on eggshells.”
  • Unable to be put down. These babies crave physical contact.
  • Uncuddly. Resist close physical contact or being swaddled.
  • Not a self-soother. Babies with this trait need help being comforted.
  • Separation-sensitive. These babies only trust a couple of people, usually just the parents.

There are multiple causes of fussiness in babies. The type of cry, the behavior of your child, the body language and facial features all help uncover the answer. Do not forget to also use your intuition as a parent. If you feel something isn’t right, trust your gut!

Hidden causes may be: 

Food Sensitivities

May demonstrate: 

  • Fussing within minutes to an hour after a feeding
  • Seems gassy or bloated after feeding
  • Spits up frequently soon after a feeding
  • Pulls off the breast, crying in pain
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Frequent ear infections
  • Rash on bottom near anus

Tips and tricks: 

  • Try an elimination diet (if breastfeeding). Dairy is often a culprit, but many other can be too such as; nuts and peanut butter, corn, garlic, onions, eggs, chocolate, wheat, and caffeine among many others. 
    • Elimination diet for two weeks, then slowly add in new foods every four days. Eat only: 
      • Turkey
      • Lamb
      • Baked or broiled potatoes or sweet potatoes (salt and pepper only)
      • Rice (and rice products such as rice flour and pasta)
      • Millet
      • Cooked green and yellow squash
      • Pears
      • Pear juice
      • Poi
      • Rice-based milk (not soy)
      • Calcium supplement
      • Probiotic 
  • Change formulas (if bottle feeding). 

Gastroesophageal Reflux

May demonstrate: 

  • Baby draws knees up after eating, writhes or grimaces in pain
  • Painful bursts of night waking, quickly soothed by feeding
  • Spitting up during or shortly after feedings
  • Frequent, unexplained stop-breathing episodes, lung infections, or wheezing

Tips and tricks: 

  • Elevate the mattress  at least 30 degrees to keep the baby upright as much as possible when sleeping
  • Try medications that neutralize the stomach acids and empty the stomach more quickly
  • GER occurs less frequently and severely in breastfed babies

Ear Infections

May demonstrate: 

  • Frequent colds, often resulting to nasal discharge
  • Yellow drainage from corners of eyes or the nose
  • Facial appearances such as; pale face, puffy eyelids, dark circles under the eyes
  • Frequent night wakings 
  • Tiredness

Tips and tricks:

  • Seek care from medical provider for antibiotics
  • Get a referral to an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT) if recurring
  • Chiropractic adjustments

Anemia

May demonstrate: 

  • Pale skin, most noticeable in the earlobes
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • History of milk or formula allergy
  • Premature babies are at a greater risk

Tips and tricks: 

  • Ensure mother is getting adequate amounts of iron in her diet (if breastfeeding)
  • Iron-fortified formula (if bottle feeding) 
  • Iron-fortified foods after six months of age

Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

May demonstrate:

  • Unexplained fevers
  • Poor growth
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • “Colic” that does not go away could be an underlying UTI
  • Blood in urine
  • Odd smelling urine

Tips and tricks: 

  • Antibiotic prescribed by care provider if a UTI is detected
  • Mother and baby can take a daily probiotic 
  • Ensure baby has plenty of fluids
  • Breastfeed until at least seven months of age (UTI risk decreases by that age)
  • If baby has started solids, make sure the baby’s diet consists of foods that will prevent constipation
  • If your baby is a girl, make sure to wipe from front to baby and avoid harsh soaps and bubble baths

Teething

May demonstrate: 

  • Excessive drooling
  • Crankiness
  • Need to gnaw
  • Puffy gums
  • Fussiness, especially at night
  • Ear pulling
  • Change in feeding habits

Tips and tricks: 

  • Teething toys, multiple style and ones that are easy to grab
  • Wet or frozen washcloth
  • Breastmilk (or formula) popsicle
  • Pumkin Butt teething oil
  • Hyland’s Teething Tablets
  • Massage of the gums
  • Distraction from the pain
  • Amber necklace
  • Hazelwood necklace
  • Chamomilla 6c homeopathic 
  • Alcohol free Bach’s Rescue Remedy Kids (diluted) or used in the bath water
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen 

Oversupply and/or Forceful Let-down

May demonstrate: 

  • Gag, choke, strangle, gulp, gasp, cough while nursing as though the milk is coming too fast
  • Pull off the breast often while nursing
  • Clamp down on the nipple at let-down to slow the flow of milk
  • Spits up often 
  • Tends to be very gassy
  • Periodically refuse to nurse
  • Increased fussiness 

Tips and tricks:

  • Pump a little off until the let-down slows
  • Burp baby often to prevent excess trapped gas
  • Nurse in the laid back breastfeeding position

Trapped Gas

May demonstrate: 

  • Red-faced
  • Crying and fussiness
  • Squirming post-feeding
  • Clenched fists
  • Pulling legs up toward the tummy
  • Passes gas
  • Burps
  • Has a hard tummy
  • Bloated

Tips and tricks:

  • Gripe water
  • Mylicon
  • Colic calm
  • Burp baby often
  • Hold baby’s head higher than the stomach when bottle feeding
  • Switch to a slower flow nipple
  • Massage the baby’s stomach 
  • Warm bath
  • Hold baby in the “Buddha hold” or “Colic curl”

Growth Spurt

May demonstrate: 

  • Frequent fussiness
  • Change in feeding habits
  • Sleeping longer stretches or up more frequently 
  • Change in baby’s routine

Tips and tricks:

  • Parents ensure adequate rest
  • Hire help 
  • Baby may require frequent feedings or mother may need to pump if the baby is sleeping longer stretches
  • Baby-safe magnesium oil lotion or bed spray
  • Growth spurts, although tiring in the moment are short and will pass before you know it. Hang in there! 

Overstimulated/Overtired 

May demonstrate: 

  • Rubs eyes or face
  • Increased fussiness
  • Becomes clingy
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Turns head away from you
  • Moves in a jerky way
  • Clenches fists, waves arms, or kicks

Tips and Tricks:

  • Swaddle baby 
  • Hold or wear baby 
  • Feed your baby until calm and drowsy
  • Rock your baby
  • Play white noise
  • Make your baby’s room dark
  • Sing a lullaby while rocking your baby
  • Diffuse calming essential oils, such as lavender 
  • Rescue Remedy Room Spray


Frustrated   

May demonstrate: 

  • Increased fussiness and/or crying over trying to master new skills (rolling over, standing, reaching for a toy or food, or getting strapped in the car, etc.)
  • Flailing arms and legs
  • Arching back
  • Throwing things 

Tips and tricks: 

  • Distract baby (example: play a fun song while getting baby into the carseat)
  • Prevent problems (example: hide the tv remote if you do not want baby to grab)
  • Aid your baby (example: get a simple baby walker to allow the baby to move around the room and explore)
  • Focus on the positive (example: praise baby with his/her successes 

Colic

May demonstrate: 

  • Intense crying episodes (more than three hours a day, for three days per week)
  • Unconsolable 
  • Crying in the late afternoon or evening that lasts several hours 
  • Baby’s face being red and flushed when crying 
  • Clenching fists, drawing his/her knees up to their tummy, or arching their back while crying

Tips and tricks:

  • Rule out all the above hidden causes
  • Have an IBCLC check for tongue and lip ties
  • Wear baby
  • Warm bath
  • Swaddle baby
  • White noise
  • Let baby suck (either on breast or pacifier)
  • Take a walk (fresh air)
  • Gripe water
  • Colic calm
  • Nat Phos 6x homeopathic remedy 
  • Catnip tea
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Chiropractic adjustments 
  • Amber or hazelwood necklace
  • Movement (swing, vibrating seat, car ride, etc.)
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture

Other causes that may create fussiness in babies are: 

  • Thrush
  • Diaper rash
  • Nipple confusion
  • Low milk supply
  • Hunger
  • Dirty diaper
  • Too hot/too cold
  • Bored
  • Not feeling well

Benefits of Bodywork

When a baby is being born, his/her body goes through a lot during the process. Birth puts a lot of strain on a baby’s body. This includes: 

  • Very short labor
  • Very long labor 
  • Failure of the cervix to dilate 
  • Use of Pitocin to strengthen/induce uterine contractions 
  • Use of forceps or vacuum extraction 
  • Cord around baby’s neck 
  • Cesarean delivery 
  • Pulling or twisting on the head to deliver the baby

Chiropractic adjustments, craniosacral therapy, infant massage, and acupuncture are all extremely beneficial for your baby. Routine bodywork may prevent or eliminate latching issues, colic, gas, reflux, sleeping issues, health issues, and overall fussiness. Bodywork used on infants and babies is very gentle, unlike what you may think. Many babies even fall asleep during some of the treatments. If you are unsure about any of these bodywork treatments, talk with the practitioner and you may find your worries to be eliminated. 

Christine Herrera
Christine Herrera

Christine Herrera helps people become amazing birth professionals.