When babies are first born, they are usually quiet and sleepy over the first few days. Gradually, they become more awake and interested in feeding. Mother and baby begin to develop a pattern of nursing or bottle feeding every 2 1/2-4 hours with many sleeping stretches in between. After about 1 or 2 weeks of life, however, most infants start having periods of prolonged crying which often is called infant colic or jut a fussy time. Although it can occur at any time during the day or night, it is usually in the late afternoon or evening when everyone else is tired. The baby may act hungry despite a recent feeding, draw his legs up, and look like he is straining to pass a stool or become very gassy. Spells can last from 1-4 hours and there are times when nothing is particularly helpful. Even more distressing is the fact that these episodes tend to get worse before they get better and have a peak intensity between 6-10 weeks of life. Parents need to survive the first 3 months until the fussy times diminish and the second 3 months of life are much more enjoyable.
What to do?
If your baby is still fussy despite feeding, rocking, changing a diaper, and burping, then it is perfectly all right to gentle place the infant on his back in the crib and leave him for 10-15 minutes. Most of the time, the baby will settle himself and fall asleep. Other tricks you can try are a warm bath, a hot water bottle on the abdomen, an infant swing especially if it has a vibration attachment, a Snuggle Pack or a car ride. For babies who are very colicky, there is a product called The Sleep Tight Device which hooks onto the crib and makes the sound and motion of a car.
Could it be an allergy?
Allergy to cow’s milk protein either through formula or expressed in breast milk is actually uncommon, involving only 1-25 of babies. Food allergy usually presents with vomiting, bloody diarrhea and poor weight gain. Switching formulas is often tried in desperation but rarely is helpful.
How about gastroesophageal reflux?
All babies have a certain amount if spitting and vomiting which is normal, especially if they show a steady weight gain. Nursing mothers often have a very rapid letdown of milk which the baby may have trouble keeping up with. Babies who have GERD, however, have significantly more vomiting which may affect their weight gain and more extensive periods of crying lasting throughout the day.
What not to do:
While an uncommon occurrence, there are instances of a parent shaking the baby in a momentary fit of anger to make him stop crying. Shaking a baby can cause tremendous brain damage to the infant leading to death or severe, lifelong impairment. If a parent is at the end of his patients, it is much better to put the baby down in the crib, leave the room for a while, have a cup of tea, call a relative or friend and try to calm down. Parents need to understand ahead of time that the first 3 months can be a real challenge dealing with a fussy screaming infant, yet the rewards in the coming months more than make up for the sleepless nights in the beginning.