When Toddler Girl was two weeks old, my midwife visited our house for a check-up. I proudly told her that TG was such a good baby; she only cried when she needed something. The midwife smiled sympathetically at us and said “That will change.” She was right. Two weeks later I was googling phrases like “does my baby have colic?” and “one month baby won’t nap.” Her first six months were very challenging.
Wonder Baby never got into the whole screaming for hours thing, but she was big into only napping in my arms, screaming when left with anyone else (including her father, unfortunately) and just being what I like to call “twitchy.” She was an easy baby compared to TG, but when I talk to other moms? She’s still a fussy baby.
Here’s how I survived my adorably high need babies:
Research is how I deal with stress. I know a lot of people say “I’m just too busy dealing with the cranky baby to sit down and read a book about it!” But I feel so much more prepared to handle things when I know what’s going on. Everyone had told me about the screaming at two months, but no one told me about the four month sleep regression! Thank goodness for the internet.
Here are my three favourite resources for fussy babies.
1) The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr Harvey Karp – I have to admit that I only read one chapter of this book. I was not even remotely interested in learning about why he thinks babies are cranky because we’ve evolved to have large heads, and so on. I wanted to know how to make the little darling stop screaming, and his method worked for us every time. It was such a relief! And it was great for Mr Superhero who had been feeling so helpless to deal with the crying when I left -- it boosted his fatherly confidence a ton!
2) The Wonder Weeks – This book tracks the times in which most babies go through fussy stages. It has been dead on with both our babies. It tells you when babies go through developmental jumps that can make them very unsettled when they’re a sensitive baby. It doesn’t “fix” the fussiness, but it lets you know why it’s happening and when it will hit. That knowledge made it much easier for me to have patience with my little cranks.
3) Ask Moxie – This is the site I kept finding at 3 in the morning when googling things like “4 month baby won’t sleep!” She has some great info and tips on sleep regressions (and other things, but it was the sleep that I kept going back there for) but the real gold is the amount of commenters she gets on her blog. They help you realize that a) You are not the only one with a fussy baby, and b) There is always someone out there dealing with much much worse!
It’s so hard when they are little that it’s easy to forget how short a time it is. For Toddler Girl, the fussies lasted about 6 months. Wonder Baby is just over 5 months and has really turned a corner in this past week, so I’m hopeful that we’re through the worst of it. Do what you need to keep them happy and you sane, and don’t worry so much about things like sleep training and good soother habits.
High needs babies need to be held most of the time to feel secure. Baby wearing helped a lot for us, as did the nursing pillow, which turned out a great way to settle down with them for naps. Swaddling was helpful, but not a magic solution, and the soother was necessary due to their strong need to suck (it was that or bloody nipples, I wish I was kidding).
You’ll think you have it all under control (usually around 3 months) and then it will all fall apart again. This sucks. It is also completely normal and does not mean you did anything wrong! They’ve got a lot going on in these early months and it changes constantly. As a newborn, Wonder Baby only napped in our arms, then I started teaching her to nap on her own. Around three months she hit a wonder week and went back to napping in my arms. Then we had a very fun month of her only napping in the ergo, and now this week she suddenly started napping in her crib. I’ve put her down awake for every nap in the past three days and she’s fallen to sleep on her own. She was ready (or maybe is just lulling me into a false sense of security?), no real training needed.
And so, to all you frazzled parents in the midst of the fussy times, you might not have a little one that’s as easy as all your friends' babies, but you are not alone! The days are long but the years are short. Take lots of photos of your adorable little balls of crankiness; they’ll be happy toddlers before you can blink!
Did you have a fussy baby? What helped you deal with it?