Why is my baby fussy?
Obviously there isn’t going to be one magic answer to this question. What makes one baby cry may not even phase another baby. And what makes one baby fuss, may make another baby shriek. This is the ultimate mystery of infanthood, and one to which there will never be an easy answer.
The best we can do is look at the facts, combine that with what we know about our babies (after all, we are the ultimate experts when it comes to our own babies), and do our best to soothe our baby while maintaining our own sanity.
Research released in March 2009 looked at 237 infants who had been brought to the ER for unexplained crying, fussiness, screaming, or ‘colic’. The goal of the study was to determine how often medical tests would reveal a serious physical condition.
Surprisingly, the study showed that only around 5% of infants had serious underlying medical conditions, with urinary tract infections being the most common culprit. The study also revealed that those who were found to have serious conditions appeared ‘unwell’ (apart from the crying and fussiness).
Why Is It So Important That We Figure This Stuff Out?
People who have never had, or who have never been around an extremely fussy or colicky baby sometimes make comments to parents like, “You’re making too big a deal of this”, and “Don’t worry so much…all babies cry”.
What they don’t understand are all the possible ramifications of having a baby who cries a lot. According to Harvey Karp, infant crying and the resulting parental exhaustion are the #1 triggers for:
- Shaken Baby Syndrome
- Postpartum depression
- Breastfeeding failure
- Overtreatment of infants with medication
- Marital stress
- Maternal smoking
- Possible maternal obesity
- Possible car accidents
There are a lot of things that having a crying baby push you into. And just to put a baby down on the other side of a paper-thin wall – maybe you’re not going to shake your baby, but maybe you’re going to hit your other kids…this is a system. We need to treat the system. –Harvey Karp
When Should I Be Concerned?
If your baby cries or fusses persistently, it is important that you bring him to be seen by a physician. This is particularly true if you baby has been relatively content, and suddenly or inexplicably becomes fussy or inconsolable.
If the doctor has performed a physical examination and medical history, and has not found a physical cause to explain your baby’s crying, he or she may simply diagnose your baby with colic. If your baby does not exhibit physical symptoms apart from the crying or fussiness, you can rest easy in the fact that your baby will most likely simply outgrow his or her fussiness.
If your baby does exhibit physical symptoms apart from the fussiness or crying, or if you simply have a ‘gut feeling’ that something is wrong with your baby, it may be time to push for some answers. Capturing your baby’s crying episodes on video is always a good idea, as are keeping a crying journal, and feeding/symptom log.