Stress and fatigue are just some of the feelings you experience when you have a fussy baby.
If your baby is not the calm and quiet bundle shown in the formula advertisements, there are some techniques that have been used over time to help calm a fussy baby.
If your baby is fussy but you know they’re not hungry, in pain, or dealing with a wet or dirty diaper, you can try one or more of these techniques to help calm them.
Use a large, thin blanket to wrap up your baby like a burrito. If you’re unfamiliar with the swaddling technique, check out our how-to article.
Sounds that might remind your baby of being in your womb can be calming. There are devices that make calming noise such as white noise, but sometimes the low humming sound of a fan is adequate. Your gentle humming may do the trick as well.
Sometimes walking your baby, in your arms or a body carrier, will remind them of their time in your womb and calm them down. The motion of riding in a car, in a proper baby car seat, may also have a calming effect.
If it’s not time for a feeding, helping your baby find a thumb or finger to suck on may calm them. You might also consider an age-appropriate pacifier.
Your baby may just be lonely. Consider holding your them on your chest; breathe calmly while gently patting their back.
Consider making a chart of feeding times and then keep your eyes out for pre-fussy signs of hunger, such as moving hands to mouth or smacking lips.
Talk with your pediatrician about how long to wait between feedings. Often that period is 2 to 2 1/2 hours from the beginning of one feeding to the next.
If you feel indigestion may be making your baby uncomfortable and fussy, hold your baby in your arms with their body resting on their left side and gently rub their back.
Your baby may be fussy due to discomfort from a food sensitivity, though this is uncommon.
If you’re breastfeeding, try cutting out certain foods one at a time to see if this results in a reduction of fussiness. Consider reducing or avoiding your consumption of:
- dairy products
- foods that can likely cause gas (cabbage, onions, beans)
It’s important that if you’re breastfeeding, you should talk to your doctor first before trying any elimination diets, as these may pose health risks for you and they haven’t been reliably shown to help with fussiness.
The same holds true if you’re bottle-feeding and may be concerned that the formula may be causing your baby’s fussiness. Talk with your pediatrician first before changing formula brand or type.
Pee or poop in their diaper can make your baby fussy. You might be surprised by how often your baby will soil or wet their diaper and how sensitive a newborn is to a full diaper.
Yes, it could be that easy. Your baby could be too warm or too cold. As a rule of thumb, your baby should be wearing about the same layers of clothing that you are.
Is your baby getting enough sleep? It’s not unusual for newborns to sleep 16 or more hours a day.
Your baby may be sick. Take your baby’s temperature using a rectal thermometer. Call your pediatrician immediately if your baby is younger than 2 months old and has a fever.
If your baby is spitting up a lot or vomiting often, they could be experiencing GER (gastroesophageal reflux).
If the excessive vomiting and spitting up is accompanied by fussiness after feeding and not gaining weight, discuss it with your doctor.
Talk with your doctor about other signs of illness to look for, such as:
- ear drainage
- diarrhea or vomiting more than usual
- blood in vomit or poop
- yellow skin or eyes
If you feel you’ve tried everything to calm your baby and haven’t had satisfactory success, consider gathering information in a diary.
Write down all your baby’s activities and behaviors and bring this diary to your pediatrician for their review. Daily information to collect includes:
- times baby woke up
- times baby went to sleep
- times baby started feeding
- times baby finished feeding
- behavior after waking up
- behavior after eating
Remember one of our mantras: Take care of you so you can take care of them. A fussy baby can put a lot of stress on you. Some tips to help handle it include:
- Maintain your healthy habits. Eat a healthy diet with lots of water and sleep when your baby sleeps. We know this is often easier said than done, but caffeine doesn’t replace a nap or count as a meal.
- Accept help. When a friend or family member offers a helping hand, let them run a load of laundry, pick up groceries, or sit with your baby while you take a nap.
- Be prepared for emotional highs and lows. One minute you may be tickling tiny toes, almost overwhelmed with love — and the next minute you may be wondering if you’ll ever get a decent night’s sleep or any space to yourself. Completely normal.
- Keep your perspective. Fussy babies eventually calm down, and they grow up fast. Remember to look past the chaos and appreciate the moment.
- Change your scenery. Get out of the house and take your fussy baby for a walk or drive. Not only may the motion calm them, but it will also give you a chance to think.
- Don’t worry about previous priorities. You don’t need to prepare 3-course gourmet meals every day or regularly vacuum under the couch. New parents have a “get out of housework free” pass in our book.
- Ask for help. This is different from merely accepting help that’s offered. Having a baby, especially a fussy baby, is a challenge, and sometimes you need help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed, talk with your doctor or a mental health professional.
Having a newborn can be exhausting. Having a fussy baby can ratchet up the stress level. There are some quick and easy techniques that might calm your baby, including:
- soothing sounds and calming motions
- giving your baby something to suck on
You can also look for and then address causes such as:
- food sensitivity
- dirty diaper
But if none of these seem to be the issue, remember that many babies go through a fussy period in the first 3 months of life.
And while trying to calm a fussy baby, remember to take care of your overall health for your own well-being, so you can care for them.