When you have a fussy baby, you are willing to try anything – ANYTHING – to make them happy.
I know, because I’ve had TWO fussy babies.
Over the past 10+ years of running The Fussy Baby Site, I’ve spoken with many experts and thousands of parents, and have figured out a few things that actually work to soothe, entertain and distract fussy and high need babies.
If you have a baby or toddler who never seems happy or content, has troubles sleeping, or who needs constant entertainment and stimulation, work your way through this list and try something new...you never know what will work for YOUR baby!
1. Probiotics. Lots of research has been done on fussy babies and probiotics, and it’s probably the closest thing we currently have to a treatment for colic. Check out Catherine Pearson’s excellent post that shares the latest finding on colic and probiotics.
2. The 5 S’s. Dr. Harvey Karp’s book and DVD, The Happiest Baby on the Block, offers proven techniques for calming even the fussiest newborns. This was the magic bullet for us when my son was little!
3. Cutting out dairy. Some parents have success cutting dairy out of their diet (for breastfeeding babies) or switching to a hypoallergenic formula (for formula-fed babies). While most babies won’t actually be allergic to dairy, cutting out dairy may help very sensitive babies who are reacting to minor discomforts from digesting it.
4. White noise. White noise has been shown to reduce fussiness in newborns as well as older babies. It can also help fussy babies fall asleep and stay asleep longer. Tried it and it’s not working? Use loud, “hissy” white noise to help calm down a fussy baby, and deep, “rumbly” white noise to help your fussy baby fall asleep and sleep longer.
5. Exercise ball. Bouncing your fussy baby on an exercise ball can be a lifesaver, especially as a newborn. For best results, swaddle him up, crank up the white noise, hoist him up on your shoulder, and THEN start bouncing!
6. Pediatric chiropractor adjustment. While this certainly isn’t a miracle cure for most fussy babies, some parents have said it has reduced fussiness. If you’re really struggling with fussiness - and especially if you had a really rough labor and delivery - it doesn’t hurt to give it a try.
7. Gripe water. While research doesn’t seem to support gripe water as an effective cure for colic or fussiness, many of the parents I’ve worked with swear by it. In surveys I’ve done, Mommy’s Bliss gripe water has outperformed all other brands.
8. Sleep training. I’m not a “ra ra” sleep training type. But if your older baby is waking up a ton and is getting far less sleep than she should, her fussiness could actually be a direct result of sleep deprivation. In these situations, it’s likely worth considering a method of sleep training that suits your baby’s temperament.
9. Lip or tongue tie revision. Lip and tongue tie has been a huge craze in the “fussy baby world” these days. In surveys I’ve done, the vast majority of parents have said that revising their baby’s ties hasn’t been a miracle cure for fussiness. However, they have said it has helped reduce the fussiness.
10. A FAST baby swing. For many parents of fussy or colicky newborns, a swing can be a lifesaver. That said, most swings on the market aren’t fast enough for really fussy babies. The two that our parents swear by are the Fisher Price Cradle ‘n Swing and the Graco DreamGlider.
11. Figure out if your baby is “high need”. Around 10% of babies are born with a more intense and more sensitive personality. There is nothing wrong with these babies...their fussiness is just an early sign of their temperament. Our high need baby quiz can help you figure out if you have a high need baby!
12. Comfort feeding. Many moms are hesitant to feed on demand because they’re scared of creating bad habits. However, if your fussy baby is soothed by nursing, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it! If you need to make changes later, you can always do that. But in the meantime, do what works.
13. Swaddling. Fussy babies tend to resist the swaddle, so many parents assume their baby hates being swaddled. But the key is to an effective swaddle is to combine it with other techniques. Try this: Swaddle your little one up snugly, then crank up the white noise. Put him up on your shoulder, and bounce up and down so her head is slightly jiggly (the exercise ball is great for this!). As she calms down the swaddle will help her STAY calm, and once she falls asleep, it will prevent her from waking due to flailing arms or legs.
14. The Fisher Price Rock ‘n Play. This rocker has been a God-send for many of our parents. While it’s not recommended you let your baby sleep in it (the Graco DreamGlider is better for this), it’s excellent for fussy babies and moms who just need a break from the crying and fussing!
15. The Babocush. This is a newer product that can dramatically help fussy or colicky newborns. It’s a special pillow you can safely place your baby on - tummy down - and then place on a swing or bouncer. It can be a miracle product for newborns with colic or reflux!
16. Wear your baby. Fussy babies often love to be as close to mom as possible. Wearing your baby in a sling or wrap can free you up to actually get stuff done around the house, go for walks, or get your fussy baby a much-needed nap.
17. Increase the stimulation. Many parents assume their fussy newborn will do better in a very quiet environment...however, the opposite is often true. Your baby got used to constant noise and movement while in the womb, and a being placed on a hard crib mattress in a quiet room can be anything BUT soothing! Don’t be afraid to use motion and white noise to help your fussy baby calm down and fall (and stay) asleep.
18. Baby Bum TV show. Say what you want about letting babies watch TV...but when you have a really fussy baby, you just need to do what works! For some reason, parents I work with swear by Baby Bum - they say it’s a miracle worker for keeping their fussy or high need baby entertained!
19. Co-sleeping. Many parents say co-sleeping is the only way they can get their fussy baby to sleep. While having your baby directly in your bed isn’t recommended, setting up a side-car arrangement is a safe and effective way to make sure everyone in your family gets some more sleep!
20. Adjust your expectations. While this may sound kind of hokey, it represents a real turning point for many of the parents I work with. Instead of constantly thinking things like, “I wish I had an easier baby”, or “This isn’t the baby I should have had”, try to accept your little one for who he or she is. Assume he’ll need lots of holding, feeding and cuddling. This doesn’t make him a “bad baby”, and it also doesn’t make you a bad mom!
Holly Klaassen is the founder and editor of The Fussy Baby Site, a support site for parents of fussy, colicky and high need babies and toddlers. Want to know if you have a “high need baby”? Take our High Need Baby Quiz today!