There are many things you can handle and accept after you become a mother. You can deal with the fact that you’ve grown to the size of a small whale. You make peace with the drooping boobs and stretch marks. You learn to live with the mind numbing sleep deprivation, and house arrest which ensues as a result. You get peed, puked, and pooped on, and somehow you barely bat an eyelid – although that could be because they feel like lead, and are too heavy to lift. You learn to eat all meals standing up, 1 handed in 5 minutes flat. Having a kid really pushes the human limits, it’s pretty rough but you manage.
There are many challenges in those first months, but dealing with a fussy baby that won’t stop crying, has got to be one of the worst. Anyone who has ever been in a confined space with a screaming baby for long enough will confirm how agonising it can be – but if you are the parent of the little banshee, it’s a whole other level of torment. You’ve checked the obvious boxes – feeding, diaper change, sleeping schedule, you’ve burped him. You’re not an idiot – it’s none of those. Why won’t this baby stop crying?!
I remember one particular day that is seared into my memory for life. I was a stay at home mom at the time, and my husband was away on business. I had a 2 year old toddler who was still on the bottle and not yet potty trained – and a new born who was beginning to make the angle grinder, sledgehammer and whatever else the construction workers next door where wielding – sound like a symphony orchestra. It was roughly 2 days since my last shower, I looked like I’d stepped right off the set of The Walking Dead and was more emotionally and mentally stretched than Rosie O’Donnell in Paris Hilton’s knickers!
I took a mental snapshot at that point and thought to myself – this would make a pretty good Durex commercial.
NOTHING will prepare you for this. It will drive you halfway to insanity, and leave you feeling as hopeless as a one legged woman at a tap dancing convention. But it IS temporary though, and you will get through it.
I went through a process of elimination, starting with suspected colic. That dreaded word no mother ever wants to endure. A friend suggested – since colic is such a tricky thing to cure, that I try a paediatric chiropractor. So I made an appointment, packed up my baby bag and headed off down the yellow brick road, hoping to high heaven he had the solution. Turns out colic was not the issue – but he was prone to gas, so he advised I change his feeding position from cradling to an elevated position. This helped with fussing around feeding, but we couldn’t do much else at that stage. In jest we then nicknamed him Gas Boy, GB for short
We did all that was recommended to avoid GB’s discomfort caused by his digestive system, but soon realised that this was a touchy little sprog and he was easily perturbed by several things. The crying continued, and I began to think that old Vincent van Gogh was on to something by cutting off his own ear.
Bath time was a big trigger for crying. And I’m talking the blood curdling, call the police this child is purple in the face crying. He was terrified, and everyone in a 100m radius was also freaked out. No matter how quickly we got the job done, it was very traumatic. I’m not sure how many things I tried, but I remember the day I got it right. I took a small hand towel – bigger than a washcloth, and wet it with the warm water, then placed it on his tummy and then gently lowered him into the water – holding my breath. Just like that, I know he might have been too young, but I swear he smiled. I distinctly remember the sound of angels singing in the background – but that may have been the fatigue.
Dealing with GB had me frustrated most of the time, and I was a bit worried about bonding with my baby – enter mommy guilt, where you know you love you kid, but most of the time you don’t like him. I decided to take a baby massage class. This turned out to be a fantastic idea, and not only helped me bond with Mr. Fussy, but I also got to mingle with other moms who were going through the same thing. I learned some cool techniques for calming a fussy baby, as well as relieving gas. I learned to create a baby spa environment and this really did help a lot.
Music, for instance, really can calm the savage beast. I discovered to my surprise and delight how well classic music helps to sooth a fussy baby. When I realised this, I tried different kinds of music, and would literally dance around the house humming in his ear with the music in the background. I invested in some classic music for the car, and never drove anywhere without it. This helped calm GB, and my toddler at the same time.
Pro tip: in the long-term, music also calms bickering siblings in the backseat. I swear, it’s like a tranquilizer. When they’re older you can change to audio books and nursery rhymes.
Movement is another great one – for generations we’ve been using this calming technique. Rocking, a relaxing walk in the pram, drive around the block etc. Problem is, we have not yet evolved to the point of having more than two arms. It’s impossible to hold and rock him all the time, but if you put him down it’s like triggering the smoke alarm. When my sprogs were little – I used a kangaroo pouch, but when they get bigger it’s murder on your back. My housekeeper showed me how to tie him to my back safely when he was too heavy for the pouch, and aside from that one time I got vomit down my collar – it worked very well.
Now GB was and still is a movement seeking child, and it was very difficult to satisfy his need for movement. One of my best investments was a wind up baby swing. I swear, at times that thing saved my life. You put it in whichever room you are in, wind it up and it rocks gently while your baby can see you, you can chat to him while washing the dishes, or having a bath, cooking dinner etc.
Swaddling – I can’t over emphasise how much this helped me. I’ve later learned that my son is highly sensitive emotionally, and also sensory seeking. Wrapping him tightly in a blanket worked wonders. I was swaddling him up to about 9 months old, we had to get a bigger blanket, but he couldn’t sleep without it. On hot days, we would strip him down to just a nappy, and use a light blanket.
Sucking – now there are many schools of thought on this, and old school views are often against using a dummy – but it worked for me. Sucking is a child’s natural built in soothing mechanism, and using a dummy assists them to self-sooth.
One more thing that really helped me at those times when I felt like I was trying to speak Portuguese to a Russian, was probably the best book I ever read. If you are in this unfortunate situation and dealing with a fussy baby – I highly recommend the Baby Sense book. It changed my life. No need to thank me, you are welcome.
Do you have any tricks that worked for you?