When you don’t know how to make your baby feel better

Avery has been having some rough evenings this week. She cries and squirms for a few hours and the only position she’s calm in is being suspended over outstretched arms. Not exactly a physically sustainable position…

We thought it was gas (still haven’t ruled it out), so we tried gassy baby holds, I cut out chocolate and dairy, we bike pedalled her legs and tried belly massage… She is still pooping normally, although she has had Grunting Baby Syndrome since 2 weeks old. These anti-gas tactics don’t seem to make a difference when she gets upset.

I also considered that it might be overtiredness, because when she has a day full of good long naps, evenings are calm. But most days she is awake way more than asleep, and I wonder if by evening, when she has been awake for 5 hours, she is so tired that she can’t relax enough to get to sleep. When we finally do get her to sleep at night, she sleeps well.

We’ve also considered that she might be congested. I suction out any boogers right away, she doesn’t have a runny nose (or a fever), and the humidifier didn’t seem to help.

Then there’s the possibility that she is just fussy… I read somewhere that babies are often fussiest in the evenings (leaving a work-outside-the-home parent feeling like the baby doesn’t like them). But is it a normal thing for a baby to cry and cry for that long?

It is painful to not be able to soothe your baby and I really want to find a solution that works. Anyone have any other ideas or things we could try?

18 thoughts on “When you don’t know how to make your baby feel better”

  1. Sorry to hear that you’ve been having a rough week. J was also really fussy in the evenings; what worked for us at that age was a) pacing around holding her in the football hold, b) wearing her in a carrier and bouncing gently on a birthing ball (great if you can’t walk anymore, but probably much easier for the non-birthing parent), and c) singing to her while doing one of those other things. Not sure if you’ve already tried it, but we also found the ‘I love U’ belly massage to help: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrLPD20P80c
    Hope things are looking up soon! This’ll get better, I swear.

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    1. Thanks! I have tried the I love u massage and I think it worked when the problem was definitely gas. The carrier hasn’t worked for me when she is fussy because she doesn’t want to be held against me in one position. I was really hoping she would take to the carrier more… It is so much easier than carrying her around all day in my arms. It’s just helpful to know that other babies are sometimes extra fussy in the evenings…

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      1. You’ll have super duper arm muscles, soon! We use carriers/wraps a lot, but wow, does having a baby ever make your arms strong.

        Not sure what carrier you have, but we liked the Moby wrap a lot when J was little. We have that and two others that are newborn-suitable (JJ cole Agility and a ring sling) and won’t be used until at least March, if you want to try out different carriers – no pressure, I remember being so overwhelmed at the idea of anything that required tying until my brain felt less fuggy!

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      2. I have a moby, a ring sling and the Bjorn. The Moby was too hot, but now that things are cooling down it will probably work better for us soon. I have yet to try the ring sling. So far the Bjorn has been easiest on my back, but they outgrow the Bjorn quickly! I love the idea of baby wearing, but it really does take practice and getting used to.

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      3. Definitely takes practice! I found the Moby so intimidating at first, but after a few times it is automatic. I never really liked the ring sling until she could sit up, and then it was quickly uncomfortable on my shoulder – Di preferred it at first, though. Lots of trial and error to figure out what worked for us, and for the babe!

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  2. Awe, this is the worst!! And yes, some babies do just cry and sometimes there is nothing you can do to help. I think the the worst part of parenting for me so far has been anytime Baby MPB is upset and I am unable to help him – it breaks my heart.
    Sending my love and hoping she grows out of this phase asap!

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  3. This all sounds totally normal. Their intestines fully develop around 3ish months, and the digestive pains will subside for the most part. You’re thinking of all the right things. Try putting her into a carrier and holding her close against your body as you pace/sway. This will pass and she knows that you’re trying, even if it seems like you’re not meeting her needs.

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    1. Thanks 🙂 you’re right that she might still know I am there for her, even if what I’m offering doesn’t work to make her feel better. The fact that I can be there and she’s not just crying on alone makes me feel a bit better about it. Also hearing that it sounds normal!

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  4. Yup, we’ve gone though similar things with both kids. The sleep thing is definitely a factor for Linnea – 5 hours is a really long time for a young infant to be awake, so if you’re able it might help to “force” a nap (aka do whatever you have to do to get her to sleep). And yes, digestion, even if it’s not clear, can be a factor. If it’s a food issue, like dairy, it can take weeks to get fully out of the system apparently.
    It does get better, but boy it’s not easy while it’s happening.

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    1. Thanks, I was hoping we would know if it was dairy or chocolate after a few days and I would be able to ease back onto them… Better brace myself for going longer without my two favourite food groups! 😉
      I will try forcing a nap. I try not to let her fall asleep and stay asleep on the boob because I want her to be used to falling asleep without a vice, but especially while she is so upset I will try getting her to sleep by nursing and not waking her up to burp. It definitely could be a sleep need not being met.

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      1. Totally, having to cut out foods for gassy baby was hard, but not knowing if it was working and all I wanted was a big milkshake…dang. I started focusing on what foods were “in” rather than “out” because I cut so much out. Fingers crossed you’re able to get back to your regularly scheduled diet soon.

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  5. Charlotte went through a period for a while where we genuinely feared 6 pm. We called it the witching hour. She would just start screaming and nothing we could do would calm her. It was awful. She outgrew it though! I want to say it lasted about a month or so. Fingers crossed this phase passes quickly for you guys!

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  6. Roo was similar from about 3 weeks old. I remember she cried for 4 hours one night. My wife would put in ear plugs and just cuddle her. For us it was dairy, by day 4 dairy free we noticed a difference and by after day 7 she never cried like that again. However, we realised then that her poos had all been runny up to that point (we didn’t have anything to compare it to and thought it was normal). I hope that you find something that works soon.

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  7. Archie had the same issue! He is just now starting to phase out of it (I think). The fussy/crabby period use to be like clockwork from 5-9p, the only thing that seemed to work was a bottle (he refused the boob during the time so I’d pump and give him a bottle), a warm bath, & very strategic cuddling so he’d sleep thru some of it. Lately, that time frame has shrunk and shrunk and while there are still rough evenings, it’s usually only an hour or two of being inconsolable. So it really could just be her age & the witching hour. I hope the phase passes quickly – it is so frustrating/hard not to be able to comfort them!

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  8. Oh no. This sounds totally normal though. Mabel’s withing hour was around 7pm each evening. Definitely try to get her to nap. I read that young babies have a 90 minute wake cycle. Once they wake up from a nap, they can last about 90 minutes before they need another nap. If you sort of help create this window at that moment where it’s easy for them to fall asleep (rocking or bouncing on a birthing ball, making sure they’re not hungry at that time) they’ll pass out. I figured this out around week 9 with Mabel and it made a huge difference in her evenings. She went from hardly napping to taking 4 hour long naps a day. Also, sometimes they’re just fussy, but it is hard to not be able to comfort them. You’ve got this!

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