There is no doubt about it, caring for a fussy baby can be exhausting. In addition to what sometimes feels like endless feeding and nappy changing, new parents also have to adjust to broken sleep and learn how best to soothe their babies when they cry. This can feel particularly challenging when you’ve had limited sleep and are still learning about your new baby. With practice and patience, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t for your baby.
Try to remember that when your baby cries, they are trying to communicate something to you. Your perception of your baby’s temperament is a key driver of parental stress. So if you feel you have a fussy baby, we recommend working your way through the following checklist of the most common reasons why your baby might be feeling unsettled. Make sure your perception is reality, otherwise you can cause more stress for yourself.
Are they hungry?
If you watch your baby closely, they may be showing signs that they are hungry. For example, opening and closing their mouth, sucking on their hands or fists, and turning their head to look for the breast are all signals that your child is ready for a feed.
Some parents find it useful to keep track of feeding times so they can anticipate the signs of hunger before their child becomes fussy. Click the link to find out how the Goldilocks Suit can help with tracking your baby’s hunger.
Are they too hot or too cold?
There are a few things to remember when taking an accurate reading of your baby’s temperature. Firstly, it is important to take it from the correct location on your child’s body, as some locations are likely to give you a reading of your baby’s skin temperature, rather than their core body temperature.
Thermometer – Whilst a thermometer can be used orally or rectally to take your baby’s temperature, we recommend placing it under your baby’s armpit (axillary). This does involve holding the thermometer tightly under their arm, and you must ensure that it is touching their skin, not their clothing.
Tympanic Thermometer – Another way of taking your baby’s temperature is with a tympanic thermometer which is placed inside the ear, with the probe pointing at the ear drum or tympanic membrane.
Infrared Thermometer – Infrared thermometers can be used by scanning the forehead. Whilst these may seem like a less intrusive means of taking your child’s temperature, particularly if they are asleep, if your baby really is hyperthermic or hypothermic they are typically inaccurate. They can however be a good gauge of your baby’s normal temperature.
Goldilocks Suit – Currently, the only product on the market that takes and continuously monitors core and skin temperature is the Goldilocks Suit.
Do they need their nappy changed?
Your baby may be crying to let you know that they feel uncomfortable in a wet or soiled nappy. As you can well imagine this can be uncomfortable, not too mention unhygienic. It is important to regularly change your baby’s nappy to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections or similar issues.
Are they feeling unwell?
Body temperature is a one of our vital signs – and can be used to assess the general physical health of a person, and also indicate when they are unwell. In order to know whether your baby has a low or a high core temperature, it’s helpful to know what their normal temperature is. All babies are different and core temperatures between them can vary, but the average is around 36.4 °C. Your baby’s core temperature should be within 1 degree of their normal temperature.
Goldilocks is a simple singlet which has temperature sensors seamlessly screen printed onto it. Babies can wear the singlet comfortably while it takes their temperature every 30 seconds. This allows the Goldilocks suit to collate the data and give an extremely accurate picture of your baby’s normal core temperature. Not only does the Goldilocks Suit give parents valuable insight into the wellbeing of their child, it can also provide parents with much-needed sense of calm and peace of mind.
Are they overstimulated/overtired?
As unintuitive as it sounds, sometimes when your baby is over tired they find it harder to fall asleep. Babies that are overstimulated and haven’t had enough sleep can find it hard to wind down and go to sleep without help from their parent or caregiver. It is important to find the ‘goldilocks zone’ of when your baby is tired but not too tired, to put them down.
Ways to Settle a Fussy Baby
Sometimes the reason for your baby’s crying is obvious, other times it isn’t quite so simple. Try these techniques for settling a fussy baby:
Swaddling can help babies to feel secure as it mimics the constricted space they inhabited in the womb.
Skin-to-skin contact (or kangaroo care as it is sometimes called) can be very comforting for babies, and is particularly recommended for babies that are born prematurely.
White noise or calming sounds can also be helpful. Babies are used to the sounds inside the womb of their mother’s heartbeat, rushing blood and the sound of their parent’s voice – so silence or a quiet atmosphere can be difficult for them to adjust to. Making gentle shushing sounds to your baby may also be beneficial in calming them.
Holding your baby in a baby carrier or rocking them mimics the movement that they felt in the womb and can be a great way to settle a new baby. Similarly, the rhythmic motion of a baby swing may help your baby to relax and fall asleep.
Pacifiers can be useful for babies who have a powerful need to suck to soothe themselves.
For breastfed babies, a change in the mother’s diet may be helpful. Many mothers report their baby displaying more settled behaviour after they cut down on things such as milk products, caffeine, spicy food and food that can cause intestinal gas such as onions or cabbage.
Going for a walk in the pram or a drive in the car can give both you and your baby the change of scenery you both need. The movement of the car or pram can also soothe a crying baby and help get them to sleep.
Need more help?
From our struggles of settling three babies, we developed Goldilocks. Goldilocks provides insights into why your baby is acting the way they are and what you can do about it. It was developed by parents who know how you feel and what worked for them.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information provided on this website is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters we recommend consulting with your local healthcare professional.