By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
So you are home from the hospital with your newborn baby and suddenly realize that the babies you see on TV never cry, but your newborn is not reading the same script. All babies have some fussy times, and this is especially true of a newborn in the first few months of life. While a “typical” baby cries for a total of three to four hours a day, there are other babies that seem to be more difficult.
In many of the cases of an “irritable” infant parents point to the fact that their baby acts uncomfortable and will frequently pass gas or draw up their legs or arch their backs as if something “hurts.”
Your newborn’s tummy and intestines are just as “new” as they are, and early on it may be more difficult for some babies to digest breast milk or formula. In this case, pediatricians often try to make changes in a breastfeeding mother’s diet (taking out dairy) or change a formula to a lactose free-formula to see if that helps a baby to be more comfortable and less fussy. There are also “elemental formulas” that may be tried for extremely fussy babies. Discuss this with your own pediatrician.
Little tummies do make a lot of gas (you hear those toots all the time) and I often recommend a trial of Little Remedies Gas Relief Drops, which contain simethicone (to help break up gas bubbles). These drops are especially made for infants and do not contain any alcohol, preservatives or dyes. Try using the gas drops after your baby has been fed, as well as at bed time.
Colic is defined as crying that occurs in an infant for at least three hours a day, for three days a week, for at least three weeks. Colic typically “rears its angry head” after a baby is 3 to 4 weeks of age. For those irritable, colicky babies (I had one, and you will know) I also like to try Little Remedies Gripe Water. It is made with ginger and fennel, herbs that have been shown to help relax the smooth muscle of the intestine. Again, these drops do not contain any alcohol, which is very important.
I also recommend swaddling, and a pacifier for “non-nutritive” sucking, to help calm a crying baby. Many babies also like being on their tummies (tummy time is important developmentally as well) when they are fussy, and you can even massage their backs as well. Remember, even if tempted, NEVER let your baby sleep on his or her tummy, even if you are in the room! Back only.
Babies also seem to like motion to calm them so holding your baby and rocking or swaying may help decrease crying. A walk in the stroller is sometimes another great way to get a fussy baby to settle down. Fresh air is good for both parent and child.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. “The Kid’s Doctor” TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid’s Doctor e-book, “Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today’s Teen,” is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.