Lorraine, a new mom, says:
“My baby was driving me crazy. I don’t know what I would have done without the network.”
“After Jalyn was born, I was having a really hard time. He would cry all the time. It was all about him. I was going through postpartum depression and my nerves were shot. I couldn’t shower, couldn’t eat; I lost 15 pounds. I couldn’t do anything. My baby was driving me crazy.
“I heard about the Fussy Baby Network and I called. They pretty much saved my life. I don’t know what I would have done.
“Nancy (Mork-Bakker) would come out and talk, or I’d call her and she’d just listen. She would help me try to figure out what he wanted. She’d tell me, ‘Take 10 minutes, go take a breather, have a sandwich, take your time, I’m here.’ She calmed me down. She really helped me.
“I didn’t think (being a mom) would be like that. It really hurt because nobody believed me when I told them what I was going through. My husband did the best he could and tried to understand, but most of my family said, ‘The baby can’t be like that; you’re just looking for attention.’ With that negativity, it’s hard. It helps to have someone who listens and understands.”
“No one told me it would be this hard.”
“It brings out the best in you, and the worst in you.”
“A fussy baby doesn’t make you sad; she makes you mad.”
Caring for a fussy baby presents many challenges to parents and families. These first few months with your fussy baby may be nothing like you expected. It may leave you feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, isolated from friends and family, frustrated by all the unsolicited advice, and desperate for a break!
Here are some of the things that parents have told us about their early experiences with their fussy babies.
On feeling overwhelmed
“I should be enjoying this, but I just want to open the door, keep running, and not come back.”
“Take her back. I don’t even know if I like her.”
“I have a whole new understanding of how someone could shake a baby.“
A fussy baby can impact many aspects of her family’s life. The demands of everyday routines and relationships may feel overwhelming to parents, especially if they are sleep deprived. Parents may begin to feel resentful or angry, wanting this phase of their baby’s life to quickly pass, so everyone can move on. Parents may feel overburdened, exhausted, and socially isolated. These feelings may spill over into how parents see their child, and, at times, they may have mixed emotions.
There may be times when the crying becomes too hard to handle. During these times, your first priority should be to find a safe place for your baby, such as her crib or the arms of a friend. It is okay to step away and take a break. As one parent noted, “To bring calm, first you have to possess it.”
On getting back to routines
“Just doing the simplest things, it is just not possible. I could not get my baby and my dog out the door at the same time. I simply could not do it.”
“Now that we have the baby, we can’t even leave the house.”
“How can I put someone through this? If I can barely manage the crying, how can anyone else help?”
Parents of fussy babies may find it impossible to keep up with their usual routines. With sleep deprivation limiting a parent’s energy level, extra help may be needed for chores, or to help care for older children. Ask someone to care for your baby so you can take a break. Your expectations of yourself, or for your home, may need to change for a time.
On feeling questioned
“Someone said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about. This baby is fine.’”
“I am not hurting her, I swear.”
“Okay, fine, whatever. I am just going to stop talking about it.”
Parents of fussy babies may feel housebound, fearful of taking their baby in public, or worried that they will have to explain or apologize for their baby’s crying. One parent shared, “A trip to the neighborhood restaurant or even the park is no fun when you’re holding your breath hoping that your baby won’t cry the whole time.” On the other hand, comments such as “Your baby seems just fine” may leave parents feeling confused and isolated.
A parent’s confidence in his skills may be shaken when he is bombarded with unsolicited advice, comments, or criticism. Even when it comes from well-meaning friends and family, it can cause a parent to question whether he does indeed know what is best for his own child.
On all the advice
“Let her cry, don’t let her cry. You can’t spoil a baby, you’re spoiling that baby!”
There is a great deal of information available to parents from a wide variety of sources. In addition to friends and family, there are hundreds of resources in books, magazines, and on the Internet. Coupled with the information provided by professionals, it is hard to know what or whom to believe. Parents should remember that they know their own baby best, and over time, will grow in confidence to trust their own instincts and knowledge.
On searching for answers
“Colic schmolick! I knew it was something more than colic.”
“I thought, ‘I must not be holding her right. Or, I didn’t feed her before we left.’”
“We tried everything. We still are.”
Most parents of fussy babies seek to find a diagnosis or an explanation for their baby’s distress. Their underlying worries are “Is my baby okay?” or “Am I doing something wrong?” Some parents are relieved to find a medical reason for the fussiness, such as reflux or a milk allergy.
For many babies, the crying can not be explained, although the babies are healthy and feed and grow well. Over time, parents will find a variety of techniques and strategies to soothe their own baby’s distress as well as restore their confidence as parents.
“You read things that say, ‘There is stress in the marriage, and the baby is sensing it.’ This is the stress in the marriage, and we are all feeling it!”
It is important to recognize that these early months may be stressful for parents of a fussy baby. Partners, or other support persons, need to be empathic to one another, offering encouragement and validating the challenges of caring for a fussy baby. During this hectic time, partners should remember to nurture their own relationship, finding time for themselves.
On looking to the future
“Where is the finish line?”
Life will soon be calmer and you will have more energy to focus on other tasks and relationships. Parents shared the following advice:
- Keep your sense of humor. “I used to look at the dog and say,’Don’t you miss our life from before?’”
- Ask for help with chores such as cooking or caring for pets. You may also need to change your expectations for a time.
- Take time for yourself. Said a friend to a mother of a fussy baby, “I know he’s going to cry. Just go!”
- Acknowledge that your child is unique.
- Seek support from friends, family, professionals or parent support groups.
On the experience of parenting a fussy baby
“I am really thankful for it, in the sense of the bond that came out of it.”
“It changed my whole attitude.”
“I learned a lot about being patient (and of) giving of myself unconditionally.’
“I learned how to be humble and to know that I did the best I could. I’m at peace with that now.”
At Fussy Baby Network, we know there are no magic answers, but there is help. Contact us at 888-431-2229 or by email at [email protected].