Calming Down Your Fussy Baby at Night
A fussy baby at night is not unusual. In fact, you may feel that you have no right to complain about what you assume is a normal stage of childhood. while it is perfectly normal for your child to have an occasional rough night, there are also some signs that a fussy baby at night is actually a sign something else may be going on.
If your baby has been sleeping through the night and suddenly begins waking, or has been sleeping for long, uninterrupted stretches and now is reverting to waking up more frequently, you should consider that something may be upsetting his sleep patterns. While babies need less sleep the older they get, the normal development is to sleep less during the day and extend the nighttime sleep pattern. The sudden switch to having a fussy baby at night may signal one of many potential issues.
Growing Babies May Need More Food
If you suddenly find yourself with a fussy baby at night it may be due to hunger. Encouraging cluster feeding is one way of addressing this issue. Cluster feeding allows your baby to fill up and then go for an extended period of time before his next meal. Your baby may nurse seemingly constantly for the last few hours before bed but then sleep through the night. While cluster feeding can be inconvenient at first, making it difficult to complete the evening routine, once you adjust your expectations you may be pleased to find your baby sleeps until the early morning hours. Most people find this compromise worthwhile.
Colic Can Cause Fussiness
New parents are conditioned to dread the diagnosis of colic, but they may be unfamiliar with exactly what it means. A fussy baby at night does not necessarily mean your baby has colic. Traditionally colic refers to a period of crying or general fussiness that lasts for at least three weeks in a row, occurs more than three times a week, and lasts for at least three hours.
Colic is an issue with newborns. If you make it around six weeks without experiencing any of these symptoms you can probably breathe a sigh of relief. Colic most often sets in around two weeks after birth.
Doctors do not know why some babies experience colic. The only thing you can do during this time is to manage the symptoms, which include a fussy baby at night and crying for what appears to be no reason. Sitting on an exercise ball while you hold your baby and bouncing gently can soothe your fussy baby at night. White noise machines also provide relief for some babies. Breastfeeding can help as well, although if you and your baby are still working on mastering these skills, it can also be a stressful situation.
Babies That Are Too Tired Can Have Trouble Sleeping
As an adult you have probably experienced times of lying in bed, exhausted, but unable to sleep. This is often tied to stress for adults, and babies can experience something similar. If your baby becomes overstimulated, you may find yourself with a very fussy baby at night.
Young babies lack the ability to self-soothe. When they receive too much stimulation, whether it is new sights, sounds or feelings, or just a schedule that doesn’t allow enough downtime, they can quickly become overwhelmed. Logic may dictate that your baby would respond by happily falling asleep when put to bed, but the opposite often happens. General fussiness leads to a full-blown meltdown, and before you know it, your baby is wailing away, way past the time you felt he would be happily asleep.
Your Baby May Not Feel Well
There are many reasons why you may have a fussy baby at night, but never overlook the idea that your baby may be in pain. Gas pains can keep your baby up and in enough pain that he cannot get comfortable. If he fusses around without seeming to be able to get comfortable or pulls his legs up toward his chest, he may be experiencing gas pains.
Taking his meals too quickly can lead to gas pain, as can drinking too slowly. If he drinks too quickly, he is likely to gulp air as he swallows. Eating slowly, taking his mouth from the bottle or nipple to look around, also allows him to swallow air. If you suspect your baby is experiencing gas pain you can swaddle him snuggly and gently bounce or walk with him, which can help ease the pain.
Dealing With a Fussy Baby
A fussy baby is stressful and can cause real anxiety. You want your baby to be happy, but you also need sleep. It may feel impossible, but removing some of the emotion from the situation can make it more tolerable for both you and your child.
When your baby starts to fuss, it can be helpful to have a mental checklist to run through to help resolve the fussiness. Is your baby hungry? When is the last time he ate? Have you missed signals that he may want to eat, such as working his fists into his mouth or smacking his lips? Does he need a clean, dry diaper? Is he dressed appropriately for the room temperature or does he need a layer added or removed? Does he seem uncomfortable, is he warm, has he been spitting up, or otherwise seem ill? Has he become overstimulated and allowed to get overtired?
Give Yourself a Break
As hard as it is, sometimes you need to step away from your fussy baby. It is better to let him cry a few more minutes while you regain control and calm yourself than to continue trying to calm your baby while you are frustrated.
If you find yourself becoming irritable or overly stressed, just set your baby in a safe place, such as his crib, and walk away. Calmly count to ten, breathe in and out slowly as you do so, and relax. Take a few minutes to listen to some music, text or call a friend, or do a calming, meditative household chore, such as vacuuming.
Once you are feeling calmer, go back to check on your baby. He may have put himself to sleep, or he may be waiting for you. Either way, you are in a much better position to deal with him than when you are overly stressed and tense.
Calming Down Your Fussy Baby
There are a variety of reasons you may have a fussy baby at night, but some soothing methods work regardless of the issue. By trying different methods of soothing you are likely to find something that provides your baby with relief.
- Burping. If your baby seems uncomfortable, your first try should be to burp him. You have hopefully made it a habit to burp your baby after each meal. If not, this is the time to do so. You may find once at the end of the meal is not enough, and you need to stop halfway through the meal, burp your baby, then let him continue to eat.
- Skin to skin contact. Remove your baby’s clothing and place him against your bare skin. Holding him chest to chest this way is often all that is needed to calm down your fussy baby at night. It is a proven method of reducing stress and improving sleep in babies.
- Add white noise and a dark room. Stimulating the womb experience as much as possible to help calm your baby. Swaddling your baby in a dark room, while white noise plays create the ideal calming environment.
As you can see, there are many reasons you may have a fussy baby at night. The main thing to remember is that you and your baby are both doing the best you can. He is not crying to torment you, and he is not spoiled. You can and should respond and soothe him, but there is also no shame in taking time for yourself to de-stress and regroup.