Parenting a fussy baby

By Anonymous.

You will face many challenges during the first few months after having given birth but dealing with a fussy, inconsolable baby 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.

There are many things you can handle and accept when 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 barely bat an eyelid when peed, puked and pooped on, and you learn to eat all your meals standing up, with one hand in five minutes flat. Having a kid really pushes the human limits; it’s pretty rough but somehow you manage.

“Dealing with GB had me frustrated most of the time and I was worried about bonding with my baby – enter mommy guilt.”

The crying is another story altogether. You’ve checked the obvious boxes – feeding, winding, diaper change, sleeping schedule, cuddles. It’s none of those, so why won’t your baby stop crying?

baby crying while sleep training

I remember one particular day that is seared into my memory for life. I was a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) at the time and my husband was away on business. I had a two-year-old that was still on the bottle and not yet potty trained – and a newborn that was beginning to make the angle grinder (or sledgehammer and whatever other tools the construction workers next door were wielding) sound like a symphony. I hadn’t showered in two days and looked as if I’d stepped right off the set of The Walking Dead – I 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 it would make a pretty good Durex commercial.

Nothing will prepare you for these moments but remember that they are temporary; it may not seem like it but you will get through it. I did what any mother would do and started a process of elimination, starting with suspected colic (that dreaded word no mother ever wants to hear). Since there is no quick fix for colic, a friend suggested I try a paediatric chiropractor. I quickly scheduled an appointment. It turned out not to be colic, but my baby was prone to gas, so the chiropractor advised changing 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, or GB for short.

We did all that was recommended to avoid GB’s digestive discomfort, 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 – blood-curdling screams until he was purple in the face. He was terrified and 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. And just like that (I know he might have been too young) I swear he smiled.

baby-bath-curls

Dealing with GB had me frustrated most of the time and I was worried about bonding with my baby – enter mommy guilt, where you know you love your kid, but most of the time you don’t like him. I decided to take a baby massage class, which turned out to be a fantastic idea. It not only helped me to bond with GB, 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, such a creating a baby spa environment, as well as ways to relieve gas.

Music, for instance, really can calm the savage beast. I discovered to my surprise and delight how well classical music helps to soothe a fussy baby. I tried different kinds of music and would dance around the house humming in his ear with the music in the background. I invested in some classical music for the car and never drove anywhere without it. This helped to 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 tranquiliser. 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, a drive around the block, etc. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to hold and rock them all the time, but I used a kangaroo pouch when. 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 kinaesthetic child and it was very difficult to satisfy his need for movement. One of my best investments was a wind-up baby swing. You can place it in any room and wind it up, so it rocks gently. Your baby can see you and you can chat to him while washing the dishes, or having a bath, cooking dinner, etc.

Swaddling – I can’t emphasise how much this helped me. I’ve subsequently learned that my son is highly sensitive, emotional and sensory seeking. Wrapping him tightly in a blanket worked wonders. I was swaddling him up to about nine 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 – There are many schools of thought for and against using a dummy, but it worked for me. Sucking is a child’s natural soothing mechanism and using a dummy may help them to self-soothe.

One more thing that really helped me get through these fussy times was the book, Baby Sense (Metz Press). It changed my life. No need to thank me, you are welcome!

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