Saturday, June 2, 2012

How to Calm a Fussy Baby

My first two babies were very fussy.  Like, put-you-at-your-absolute-wits-end, nothing-works, fussy.  They were pretty challenging babies and didn't sleep much.  Esther was a calm little one and loved to be snuggled.  Isaac seems to be a bit high needs, but has settled down with some dietary changes I've made.

I was talking to a friend recently about her fussy baby and offering suggestions.  I realized that we've tried quite a few different things over the years and decided to list them here as a resource.  Nothing works for every baby all the time, but its nice to have some ideas up your sleeve.  Aside from the obvious (diaper change?  hungry?  tired?), here are some things to try:

nurse - Many times, rocking and nursing is the easiest and best way to calm down a baby.  I've spent many evenings with a baby in arms snuggling and nursing off and on until I am ready to head to bed (where we snuggle and nurse some more).  

exercise ball - I remember holding Julia tight to my body and bouncing up and down pretty hard on the exercise ball.  She didn't like to rock, but the firm hold and bouncing would settle her down after a while.

gripe water - Gripe water is an herbal concoction that made Esther puke when we gave it to her.  It seemed to help Isaac a bit though.  Its mainly fennel and ginger water.  (This brand seemed to have better ingredients than others I looked at.)

gas drops - The taste of these seemed to distract my girls long enough to quiet them for a minute or two.  

Windi - I haven't tried it, but everyone on Amazon seems to swear by this weird thing.  Several fussy nights with Isaac I would tell myself I would order it in the morning.  Then in the morning I would decide it was just too weird.

swaddling - aden + anais blankets are the best for swaddling.  Some of my babies liked being swaddled, some only tolerated it if they were in the right mood.  We used the miracle blanket with Julia, but then found that we liked the aden + anais blankets.  

a warm bath - at 2:00am?  Yep, we've tried it!  After long bouts of crying, sometimes a warm bath was just enough to relax baby to sleep.  Sometimes just the sound of running water calmed the fussy little one.

sleep noise - The girls have this sleep machine in their room that we've used for several years.  Isaac has a little sleep sheep (that he doesn't use because he is always snuggled up next to me anyway).

We'll call this one atmosphere - is it too bright in the house?  too loud?  Are his clothes bothering him?  Is he too cold or too hot?  Lucy and Julia were extra sensitive to these things.  Sometimes I will strip the baby down and check for a hair wrapped around his toes pinching them or something.  A position change can also help - Isaac likes to lay on his tummy (right beside me of course).

homeopathics - We've used Hyland's colic tablets, teething tablets, chamomile tablets, etc.  They do seem to help our little ones settle down sometimes.

sleep balm - Badger Balm makes a relaxing scented Night Night Balm that we like.  For a while we would rub it on cheeks and noses every night before bed.

baby carrier - This didn't work for my girls, but it does with Isaac.  If he's fussy and can't calm down, I put him in the mei tai.  He settles pretty quickly if I walk around for a few minutes.  

pacifier - I usually try to hold off giving a pacifier for a few weeks until breastfeeding is well established.  With Isaac,  I sent Ross on an emergency pacifier run to the store at 10pm once.  I use Soothie brand pacifiers because they mimic breastfeeding a bit with the way they are shaped.

chiropractic adjustment - Esther is the first baby that we took to a chiropractor/ kinesiologist.  I am now a huge believer!  Before she went to the chiropractor, she puked a TON several times a day.  After being adjusted, she completely stopped.  Completely.  We continue to see chiropractic care as important for the whole family.  I highly suggest it if you have a difficult little one on your hands.

reflux medication - Both Lucy and Julia were on medication for reflux as babies.  It seemed to help them a bit, but was a continual battle to get the dosage right.  I also did not love giving them medication daily.  Which leads me to...

dietary changes - I knew that I should have tried giving up dairy while nursing Lucy and Julia.  I did it for about a day with Julia, but just couldn't wrap my head around it.  Isaac was starting down the same fussy path and I finally gave it a try.  I have been off of dairy, gluten, and eggs for about two months now.  It took ten days to see the full effect, but since then we have had absolutely NO big crying spells.

Isaac will still be fussy for various reasons, and I would still call him a bit of a high needs baby.  He is happiest in my arms.  However, we have not had ANY evening crying spells where I have to pull out all the tricks to calm him and am at my wits end.  I wish that I had gone dairy-free with my other babies!  

Sometimes sensitive babies just need extra sensitive mommies.  Is the diaper wet and bugging him?  Did a noise startle him?  Are his clothes tight?  Sometimes even the most caring mommies can't figure it out.  If you're struggling with a fussy little one, you definitely have my sympathies!  Dr Sears has some great information and more ideas on his website here.

Do you have any tried and true ways to calm a fussy baby?


  1. Glad to know I am not the only Mommy that gives middle of the night baths. :)

  2. Abram had pretty bad reflux at first. I was already eating grain free at the time. But then I went dairy free too. That seemed to help. I also gave him baby probiotics. And he slept in his bouncy seat for the first couple months. Not lying flat really helped. He outgrew the reflux after a few months.