In homes everywhere there is this dreadful period of time every evening in which the shit hits the fan. I’m talking baby screams that can’t be consoled and adult stress levels raised through the roof. Together, it is a deadly combination. Together it creates the witching hours.
The witching hours typically last 1-3 hours and are described as the time when absolutely nothing will console the baby. If you are experiencing this, may the odds be ever in your favor my friend. May your baby fall asleep faster tonight than last night, and may you enjoy a second glass of wine before passing out from emotional exhaustion.
An extremely fussy baby has underlying issues. There could be colic, reflux, silent reflux, food allergies/sensitivities, or something else going on. While breastfeeding, you can follow an elimination diet (or remove the top allergens and go from there). It takes 2-4 weeks to see the final results of eliminating the trigger food(s), but what do you do in the mean time? How can you help when everything seems to be impossible?
This list is not all encompassing. Nothing may work for you until you eliminate the root of the issue, but these are all worth trying. Again, I urge you to solve the problem at its core, not mask the symptoms and wait for your baby to ‘outgrow’ it.
11 Ways to Soothe a Fussy Baby
#1 Always Look for a Physical Solution.
Strip baby down naked and search for a hair wrapped around a toe, finger, the penis, etc. Look for anything that may cause pain.
#2 Shower or Bath.
While a bath alone in the sink may work, the best idea is to stand under the shower or get into a warm bath tub with your baby. Dim lights, soft music (or white noise), and your heartbeat may help calm your baby.
#3 Skin to Skin.
This great big world is overwhelming. Perhaps, at a certain time each day, your baby just has had enough. Maybe she wants nothing more but to back in the womb where it was quiet, warm, safe, and close to you. Strip down from the waist up and hold your baby chest to chest – skin to skin. You may sit in a rocking chair, lay in the bath tub, walk the house (or the backyard), but try to push away all other stimuli and focus on letting your baby hear your heartbeat and voice – and smell you… feel you.
This goes along with the skin to skin. Proper babywearing creates an out-of-the-body womb experience. Follow the ABC’s of babywearing to ensure you are wearing your baby safely. My personal favorite carrier is a ring sling for creating the easiest, fastest, and tightest hold on baby. I keep baby in just a diaper and then I stay topless or in just a bra and wear my baby snuggled up high on my chest and walk/bounce/sit on the workout ball.
#5 Fresh Air.
Walk outside and breathe. This should help calm your emotions as well as your baby’s. You can hold, bounce, baby wear, or push the stroller for a while until everyone calms down. I have found that fresh air and baby wearing is the best combination for us.
#6 Comfort Nurse.
Cluster feeding is common in the evenings, and if this need is not met, an infant may become extremely emotional.
#7 Bounce on a Workout Ball.
There is something about the fluid motion of the exercise ball when you bounce on it. Swaddle or wear your baby as you bounce or sway gently.
#8 Swaddle and Squat
Again, swaddle or wear your baby as you stand with legs wide. Quickly bend your knees into a deep squat and stand back up. The dropping motion can help change a baby’s mood and then you can try other suggestions to keep baby from spiraling back into the endless crying.
A baby who is already crying may not take a pacifier. Some babies won’t take one at all. If your child does take one, offer it after breastfeeding and burping. The first signs of fussiness may be soothed by the pacifier and then you have the opportunity to work on helping prevent the witching hour by immediately jumping into the bath, wearing baby, or trying one of the other ideas.
#10 White Noise.
Blow dryer, sound machine, vacuum cleaner… Set baby in the infant swing on high next to the washer or dryer. Try not to overcomplicate or overstimulate baby further. Evaluate the environment and work on making it as calm as possible. This includes your nerves and emotions.
#11 Put Baby Down.
It is always better to set your baby down in a safe place if your emotions are getting the better of you. Some babies just need to be set down. There is no guilt to be felt at this point. If you safely set baby down (in her bed, swing, bouncer, etc) and she continues to cry for an extended time, then start trying these techniques again.
End the Fussiness
Heal the Gut.
The gut is linked to the skin, the brain – the entire nervous system. If the bacteria of the gut are off balance, there can be inflammation that can cause pain, rashes (and so many other problems). Healing the gut takes time and effort, but the end results are worth it. (A breastfeeding mother will need to heal her gut to help her baby. A formula fed infant could be suffering because of the formula he is in-taking.)
Your baby may be overtired. An overtired baby has a harder time falling asleep than a child who has napped throughout the day.
Babies thrive on routine. I am not talking about timed or scheduled feedings. I am not talking about letting a baby cry-it-out. I am not talking about a date book color coded by hour. I am talking about a sequence of events that occurs in a way that a baby becomes calm and tired. There are many ways you can achieve this: bath, massage, book, and bed… bath, rocking, nursing, bed. You just want to make sure it is a calm, dark, cool, environment, and that the routine is begun well before the nightly crying typically begins.