Fussy Babies and Common Sense

I’ve met two young mothers recently, at least “young” in that they were experiencing being mothers for the first time.  Both were college graduates, one a teacher and one in health care.  What they had in common was a sense of being overwhelmed with the amount of information available to them and the specific needs of their infants.

The Internet informational overload seemed to bring about more rather than less anxiety.  Too many answers from folks who claimed to have “the answer.”

What seemed to help each new mother was the ability to call another young mother, who had actually survived infancy and seemed to be doing well with her toddler.

The use of instinctual, mothering “common sense” seems to be at great odds with “informational overload.”  Here are two of the concerns regarding “fussy babies” voiced by these new mothers (NM) with some of my thoughts (MT):

  • NM: Do I need to put the baby in bed with me/us so increase the baby’s attachment with us?
  •  MT:  (Sleeping with your newborn/infant is a wonderful way to continue the cocooning process AS LONG AS everyone gets to actually SLEEP.  Notice that I didn’t say “attachment or bonding.”  All that you do in caring for your infant increases attachment.  Especially making lots of eye contact with a happy, pleased expression on your face.  But if you are trying to achieve your primary SLEEP with your infant, and you are unable to do this, it is crucial that you SLEEP.  You may need to place your infant in a bassinet by your bed, or crib with baby monitor, something to allow your body to recoup and be ready for the next day.
  • NM:  How much should I let my new baby “fuss?”
  • MT:  Infants and babies tell us their needs through “fussing” and crying.  So yes, please respond to your baby when she fusses or cries.  Check for all the usual suspects: wet or dirty diaper, too hot, too cold, needs feeding, needs burping, needs soothing with being held.  If your infant seems to be clean, fed and without any signs of physical distress, then provide comfort for your baby through physical closeness and listening to the sound of your voice.  When it becomes a draining physical task on your part to provide soothing comfort for a “fussing” baby, try some alternatives:  such as a baby swing, a pacifier, “baby music” (from Brahms to Baby Einstein), a ride in a stroller or car.  Okay, so now baby is fussing and you’ve tried everything.  I believe it is okay, after checking baby for physical comfort and being fed, that you allow your baby to spend some time “fussing” without your presence.  You may want to record your voice and leave this recording on so that baby can hear your voice (remember, it can be a newspaper article that you are reading out loud–it is the soft, inflections of your voice, not the words or message.  Hint:  Tom Selleck reading to Mary in the “Three Men and A Baby.”).  Leave your baby and go make a cup of tea and allow yourself to “tune out” for fifteen to thirty minutes.  See if your baby can be soothed without your physical presence.  Some researchers have argued that babies get “bored” and then become fussy.  I’m not sure about the boredom part, but I’m sure that it is okay for babies to fuss and cry for a while to be able to relax back into sleeping or just being awake and exploring their world.  Mom’s need BREAKS!  Mom’s need SLEEP!  One of the axioms I recommend to new moms:  SLEEP when your Baby SLEEPS.  I know there are a ton of household chores awaiting you, but you can do most of them with baby “in tow.”  (Front carriers/slings are great for hands free chores, and small baby “chairs/carriers” are great for baby being near you while you fold clothes, clean the tub (without strong chemicals), dig some weeds.  Remember, it is the sound of your voice, your smiling eye contact and your “smell” that is very comforting to your baby–all good attachment (“Baby Glue”) stuff.

Babies don’t have the ability to be “sneaky” or “scheming” in any manner.  They are fussy or crying for a reason.  When that reason is a “need for more/closer mommy time” there are different ways to approach meeting these needs.  It is a “good enough parent” who meets all their baby’s needs and then allows the baby some time to “fuss or cry” while Mom gets her own batteries re-charged.  (Dads are a GREAT RESOURCE!!!!!–please use them!!!!)

I’ll write more on Babies, Needs, Dads, Mom’s and Being somewhere in the middle with common sense with understanding and responding to behaviors.  In the meantime, write me if you wish and/or take a deep breath and know that in just a short few weeks your baby will make incredible changes.  Take pictures, journal, get a massage, call your sister/friend/aunt/ and talk, cry, talk and allow your own body to renew and re-energize.

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