“Fussy Baby”

“I believe that the fussy period exists in order to change deeply ingrained lifestyle habits… even after the miracle of a new birth, many parents and families would revert back to their previous schedules and activities within a few weeks if the new baby would only remain quiet and peaceful… It’s an intense learning curve that forces parents to establish new routines and develop new dynamics that include this new individual. ” –Dr. Alan Greene, Pediatrician

Doc Greene, you have hit the nail on the head. My new boss is teaching me how to be a better parent and a better person. She is an expert on mindfulness and continually forces me to stay in or come back to the moment. My old life involved set routines, extreme multi-tasking, efficiency, speedy performance and constant anxiety about preparing for the “next thing”. While my preparedness and multi-tasking habits have helped me to be a good mom in some ways (e.g. My diaper bag is ALWAYS packed and we never miss a doctor’s appointment), they have also made me resistant to just “go with the flow” as a parent, a skill that is essential for success. My high achiever personality makes not completing tasks in one sitting, and putting “important” things on hold to meet more pressing demands (often related to bodily fluids) hard to do. I am shifting priorities and making a conscious effort to follow my daughter’s cues and needs instead of forcing her to fit into my established routines. We are creating new routines together that are respectful of and meet the needs of ALL of the members of our family. We are creating our new normal.

I do not judge parents who use a pacifier, and I completely understand why parents feel the need to use this tool to help calm a fussy baby, especially when no other soothing techniques are working with a colicky baby or one who is just not able to settle for hours on end. As of now I don’t feel the need to use a pacifier, as I am lucky to not have a child who is screaming for hours on end without reason and without me having any other ways of soothing her. I feel that using a pacifier at this point would deny me the chance to find out what is making my child “tick” and might prevent me from meeting some otherwise easy-to-meet needs. Although it might be tempting to just “put a plug in the wailing baby” in the middle of the night when I am trying to sleep, I know that I truly am blessed to have a child who generally lets me know when she needs something via fairly typical and predictable cues. It’s taken awhile to get to know her and to observe and analyze her cues, but we are establishing a system and I am learning to watch and listen to her to find out what she needs. She is a good teacher, and I am a willing student.

Willow has some pretty straightforward cues. She shows me that she is hungry when she roots — moving her head back and forth, searching for a nipple, curling the corners of her tongue, bleating quietly and quickly escalating to sucking on her clothing or hands and crying forcefully and screaming if I miss her initial signs. She pulls her feet up to her chest and cries when she is gassy and needs a tummy/back rub. She cries and kicks when she is unimpressed with the state of her diaper or is ready to fill her diaper. She turns her head away from an object or person when she is overstimulated. She yawns, her eyes stop focusing and roll back, and she starts nodding her head when she is tired. She used to scream every time I put her on her back after nursing until we realized she was suffering from acid reflux. Now we keep her upright after nursing for about 30 minutes and elevate the head of her sleeping surfaces so that she is no longer in pain. Once in awhile she cries for absolutely no apparent reason and there is nothing we can do can “fix” it… then she generally throws up and all is well.

At around three weeks she went through a growth spurt that had her nursing for 30 minutes every hour and screaming when she wasn’t eating. At times during that short period, nothing I could do could console her, including diapering, feeding, swaddling, rocking, shushing, sucking, music, white noise, subdued lighting, infant massage, bathing, warming up or cooling down, bicycling legs, rubbing tummy or back, etc… sometimes all of the tricks in the book don’t work and we just need to know that a baby needs to cry and go through a bit of a hard time while her body adjusts to some pretty massive changes. I doubt that a pacifier would have worked, but I hadn’t even thought of it then. Thankfully I had read books that prepared me for this growth spurt time and feeding frequency time, and I did not lose my mind. I repeated to myself “this too shall pass” and “all is well and all shall be well and all things shall be well”… and eventually it did pass, and all was truly well. I know from the same books that we are due for another growth spurt in a few days, and I am mentally preparing for one or two loooong nights ahead. Knowing that it is coming and what is happening at the time makes it way easier to cope with. Knowing that it is not related to something that I am doing or not doing as a parent makes it a lot easier to live through.

Growing is hard work. It can often be painful for the person growing and for those around her. Yes, I am speaking not only of Willow’s growth but of my own. There have been and will be tears for both of us as we both change, learn and grow. And that’s okay.

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