Why Is My Baby So Fussy? Tips for How to Calm a Fussy Newborn
Imagine the day you brought your baby home. As natural as it felt - you were probably pretty overwhelmed with so many new things to learn, new sights, sounds and smells to get used to as this little one totally changed your reality.
Infants experience the same feelings as they get used to the new world around them. They long to explore, but can’t verbally express exactly what they want or need yet. You’d probably get pretty fussy too if you couldn’t ask for food when you’re hungry.
The important part to remember is that you’re not alone in this. Soon, you’ll get through this fussy newborn phase and see how fast your little one is growing and learning each day. The best part? You’ll finally get some sleep!
So, if you’ve been trying to calm your fussy newborn all day or get your bundle of joy to sleep at night - we’re here to help. Navigate to the section below that’s relevant to you or simply scroll down to get a full overview of ways to calm your little one.
- Baby Essentials Checklist
- Touch Techniques
- Soothing Sounds and Serene Atmosphere
- Steady, Repetitive Motion
- Switch Up the Scenery
- Be Patient
Why Are Babies Fussy?
Having a new baby can often feel like an ongoing guessing game - especially if he or she is baby number one. But the ultimate riddle for most new parents is, “Why is my baby so fussy?” You’ve burped them, dimmed the lights, checked for a stinky diaper - but they just keep crying. The maternal hormone, oxytocin, can make you extra anxious, hyper-concerned, and determined to comfort baby and get them to stop crying. This is a familiar battle for most parents.
The three keys to calming a fussy baby are: stay calm, figure out what they’re crying about, and give them the extra-loving they need during this bout of overwhelming emotion.
Is a Fussy Baby Normal?
Babies go through a period lovingly referred to as the “witching hour.” This usually lasts their first 3-4 months and if you’re lucky, episodes are few and far between.
The witching hour usually happens in the evening causing some restless nights for parents. Though you may not always know why your little one is fussing, it’s totally normal.
Why is my baby crying?
There are many reasons your baby could be feeling fussy - but they’re most often related to food sensitivities, tiredness, colic, or are associated with cluster feeding. Relax, you haven’t done something wrong - it just means they’re getting used to new environments and feelings. Sometimes newborns aren’t crying about anything specific at all, so don’t panic if you don’t see a possible reason on this list. Every baby is different and that’s why we love them.
- Food Sensitivities
Babies are introduced to new flavors, textures, and feelings every day as they grow - and some new foods go better than others. Figuring out what works for your baby and what doesn’t can be a bit of a puzzle. A food sensitivity can cause extreme discomfort for them and result in tummy issues or general discomfort - feelings they don’t know how to verbalize yet.
- Emotional Overload and Growth Spurts
Your baby is exercising so much energy every minute as they’re growing: learning, meeting new people, and taking in the world around them. Being a baby is exhausting and sometimes scary. If your baby is going through a growth spurt, they may show you just how tired and overwhelmed they are by crying.
- Cluster Feeding
Cluster feeding is when baby feeds on a “cluster” schedule, meaning they’re feeding less often throughout the day, and instead bunching feedings all together. This usually happens at night so they can really fill up on milk before bed. It is totally normal for your baby to go from nursing to fussing to nursing again. Cluster feeding and this fussy pattern has nothing to do with your milk supply - you’re doing just fine. We don’t know exactly why babies cluster feed, but some experts say it could trigger breastmilk production as your baby is growing hungrier.
Colic is common for infants to experience in their first few months of life. It can be described as a crying attack where a baby is inconsolable for long periods, sometimes hours. Colic is defined as repeated episodes of intense crying for more than three hours a day, for three or more days a week. We don’t know exactly what causes these extreme bouts of fussiness, but possibilities include the aforementioned as well as: pain from gas, acid reflux, exposure to tobacco, and feeling overstimulation from their environment.
Is my baby crying too much? When to see your physician.
A colicky baby will usually calm down with one of the techniques we’ll mention later - but if you’ve tried our tips, and are still asking, “why is my baby so fussy?” or feel like their crying is abnormal, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. Listen to your intuition.
Talk to your doctor if:
- Your baby is over 3 months old and still has colic
- Baby’s crying becomes extremely high-pitched
- Baby’s lips have a blue hue when crying
- Baby is experiencing abnormal physical reactions such as vomiting or diarrhea
How To Calm a Fussy Baby
Calming a fussy baby at night can be really frustrating (and exhausting) but we’re here to say, you’ve got this! It’s important to keep yourself as cool and collected as possible, get some support from your partner, and give these calming methods a try. Below, we will delve into some tips on how to calm a fussy baby at night or during the day.
Baby Essentials Checklist
Before moving onto lullabies and car rides, let’s make sure that all of the basics are covered.
If your baby takes to nursing, let your little one nurse for as long as they need to. Always offer one breast before moving onto the second. The hindmilk, which is the milk left at the end of your supply, is richer and can sometimes be the answer to calming your baby.
Painful gas and excess air can cause infants to express their discomfort with tears. Always burp your baby after a feeding, and especially before he or she drifts off to sleep.
- Changing Baby’s Diaper
Now, this is an obvious one, but double-check that there’s nothing irritating your baby in their diaper.
Sometimes baby just needs to feel your presence to know they’re safe. These calming sensory techniques are a great place to start once you’ve gotten the basic needs checklist.
Give your baby the sensation of being held by swaddling them. Create a warm, womb-like environment by tucking them into a soft swaddling blanket.
Use your hands to gently massage baby in a rhythmic motion. You can even combine this with soft singing or humming for extra comfort.
- Carry baby in a colic hold
Lie your baby tummy-down across your forearm with your hand supporting their chest. Gently pat or rub baby’s back with your other hand, or sit down and lightly bounce baby on your knee.
Soothing Sounds and Serene Atmosphere
Sing your favorite soft song or classic lullaby to soothe your baby and let them know you’re there. If you’re not much of a singer, try a white noise app for soothing sounds like ocean waves and forest sounds.
This works best in a darker room that’s not too hot or cold for baby. If the singing or sounds aren’t working, try eliminating distractions and comfort baby in a quiet space.
Steady, Repetitive Motion
Babies are naturally calmed by steady, slow motion. A steady-rocking bassinet is a must-have whether you’re trying to get your baby to calm down, or if you just need a smaller portable place for baby to sleep near you on those especially fussy nights.
Another great option is to strap the baby into their car seat and take a slow lap (or a few) around the block. As an added positive, getting out of the house may be just what you needed, too.
Switch Up the Scenery
Getting some fresh air, gazing at the clouds, or just cruising around the house can sometimes be the answer to calming your fussy baby. Both fresh air and warm water have soothing qualities - so go out for a little stroll or draw a bath with some chamomile or lavender oil for some aromatherapy for you and baby.
Your energy has a major effect on your baby’s emotions. Being patient is the best thing you can do to help baby relax. Take turns with your partner when you can, and remember to take care of yourself too.
Calm Your Fussy Baby - You’ve Got This
You’re not alone in this fussy baby struggle. Your parents probably went through this with you, and any honest mom or dad will tell you they’ve had some major meltdowns to work through. Be realistic too - there are plenty of magical moments ahead, but this probably won’t be the last time you’ll be up into the wee hours of the evening to get the baby to sleep.
Trust your instincts - you know your baby better than anyone. Every baby is unique, so don’t feel like you have to do what everyone else suggests to you - keep your options open and adjust your calming strategy to work for you and your baby. This phase isn’t going to last forever, and with practice and confidence, you’ll be a total pro at calming your crying baby.