Little Miss Hope has been the fussiest of my newborns, or “fuzzy” as my 5-year-old says. While I wouldn’t call it full-fledged colic, it has been pretty stressful for us. For the first month+ of her life, she was often unhappy. During those fussy periods, she would usually protest if I tried to nurse her. She wouldn’t take a pacifier. Being in someone’s arms wasn’t usually enough to soothe her, and neither was rocking. When all else failed, bouncing on our birth ball would at least soothe her to some extent.
Now that Hope is over two months old, I am happy to report that she is so much happier. Over the past several weeks, I have rejoiced as she has gradually spent more and more of her wakeful hours content and smiling. We tried a lot of things in an effort to help her. Maybe she would have grown out of her fussiness regardless of what we tried, but maybe some of our efforts did bring her relief? In the event that the latter is true, I’d like to share what I think worked best to help Baby Hope leave her fussy days behind.
A friend of mine told me that after giving her fussy 4th baby probiotics, she became her easiest newborn. Her story led me to start giving Hope probiotic powder mixed with a bit of breastmilk when she was about a month old. Then at about 5 weeks, after further research, I started giving her L. reuteri probiotic drops. This particular strain of beneficial bacteria occurs naturally in breast milk, but not for all women.
Gabriela Sinkiewicz, a Swedish researcher, has said that “the prevalence of L. reuteri in breast milk is important, as it helps the infant’s intestinal system to mature and its immune defense to develop. She also maintains that it affects the risk of developing allergies” (from Science Daily). Studies in several different countries have shown promising results treating infant colic with L. reuteri. One recent study out of Canada found that this probiotic strain “significantly improved colic symptoms by reducing crying and fussing times in breastfed Canadian infants with colic” (Source).
After a week or so giving Hope L. reuteri there was a definite reduction in her fussiness. Coincidentally (nor not?) her baby acne also diminished significantly after starting the probiotic drops. Studies have actually suggested that “L. reuteri may be a useful probiotic agent to control the growth of bacteria involved in acne inflammation and prevent acne” (Source). Whether or not the drops are actually reducing her discomfort, at least I know that they are likely still benefiting her in other ways.
2) Dead Sea Magnesium
It’s no secret that I love magnesium. Whether my baby had been fussy or not, I would likely have included Dead Sea magnesium in her baths. Magnesium can help relieve muscle aches, improve sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, promote healthy digestion, and just generally improve overall health. You can read more about magnesium here. When I myself am feeling “fussy,” a bath with magnesium flakes is one of my go-to remedies.
Since Baby Hope hated her first bath in the baby tub by herself, I decided to try taking her into the big bath with me along with our Dead Sea magnesium. The first night we tried it, she was really fussy up until the moment she got into the water skin-to-skin with me. It instantly calmed her, and I reveled in the joy of seeing her more calm and content than perhaps ever before. Truly, it seemed a miraculous moment, and she has loved every other bath since then. Added bonus… the Dead Sea minerals totally helped get rid of the cradle cap that was taking over her scalp.
When I sense that Hope’s fussiness seems to be re-emerging, I take it as an indication that perhaps she needs a boost of magnesium and skin-to-skin. So we take a mom and baby bath. And it calms her every time. Whether it’s the magnesium, the oxytocin from skin-contact, or the warm familiarity of the water, I don’t know. I’m just glad the combo makes her happy.
If you’d like to try out any of Mg12‘s Dead Sea magnesium products yourself, you can get 10% off your purchase when you use coupon code “birthfaith.” In full disclosure, I will also receive a small commission when you make a purchase. It’s a win-win for both of us! If you don’t already love magnesium, I hope you soon come to love it as much as I do!
I wear Baby Hope a lot. The same was true of my third and fourth babies. I have made and given away more baby carriers than I could count. Mostly stretchy wraps because they are so easy. Babywearing brings me a lot of joy, and I think it brings a lot of peace to my babies as well. Linda F. Palmer, D.C. has written:
Persistent regular body contact and other nurturing acts by parents produce a constant, elevated level of oxytocin in the infant, which in turn provides a valuable reduction in the infant’s stress-hormone responses (Source).
Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg has been studying oxytocin longer than most. In her research, she discovered that injecting male rats with oxytocin would create a domino effect of sorts. The other rats in the cage could smell the increased oxytocin levels among their cage-mates and their own bodies responded by releasing more oxytocin. They also became more calm as a result. I’d say it is reasonable to assume that we, too, respond to the oxytocin levels of the people around us. (Via Hug the Monkey)
I think it’s probably safe to say that babywearing is one of the absolute best things you can do for your own and your baby’s oxytocin levels. As we remain close to our babies, nurturing and feeding them in our arms, our oxytocin levels remain high, bathing ourselves and everyone around us with that hormone of love and calmness.
Sometimes holding and bouncing Hope just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes she wants to closeness and security of being strapped to my chest.
Off and on over the past month+ we have diffused frankincense and lavender in our bedroom before going to bed. It’s hard to know whether the oils were a factor in reducing Hope’s fussiness, but it’s possible. Studies indicate that frankincense has anti-anxiety and anti-depressive properties when inhaled. And the same is true of lavender: “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders” (Source). I figured it was worth a shot.
5) Acceptance and Empathy
Another friend-of-fussy-babies recommended the book Tears and Tantrums, by Aletha J. Solter, PhD. She said it gave her a whole new perspective on crying and the importance of acknowledging and allowing our children to express their emotions. Even in infancy, we can say things like, “I am here… It is okay to cry.” I ordered the book and spent a lot of time reading it during those fussy weeks. Parts of the book felt contradictory, and at times I wasn’t sure how the ideas could be implemented with a newborn, but overall I do think it was helpful.
The biggest thing I took away from the book was that I didn’t need to make all of the crying stop. The crying itself was not bad. Crying can, in fact, be a very healing release. Sometimes a baby just needs to cry. When all of their needs are being met, when they aren’t hungry or tired or in obvious pain, sometimes there are just things they need to release and the only way they can is through a good cry (never alone…always in a loving caregiver’s arms). These words from the book are helpful:
Crying is also a possible indication of severe stress, and I strong advise parents and teachers always to look for sources of stress in children’s lives. However, crying is often considered to be an unnecessary by-product of stress, and many people have the incorrect impression that children would feel better if they would only stop crying. This is incorrect. No matter what the source of stress, children will not feel better until they have been allowed to cry and rage as much as needed (p. 12).
After reading Dr. Solter’s book, I found that my daughter’s fussiness didn’t provoke as much anxiety in my heart. I could offer my love and empathy to Hope, but I could also remain calm myself and allow her to experience whatever she was processing without feeling a need to make it stop. Now, when my older daughters say, “Oh, Hopey, don’t cry,” in their attempts to soothe their baby sister, I gently remind them, “It’s OK to cry.” And I’ve found myself much more tolerant and empathetic toward my 5-year-old who has been crying a lot more since losing her place as the baby of the family. Rather than being irritated, I make an effort to acknowledge her need to cope with her big feelings through crying.
One afternoon, after Baby Hope had cried intensely from her carseat during a brief drive (as she so often does), I carried her into the house, still wailing. After sitting down to attempt nursing her, she looked up at me with deep pain in her eyes and let out a sound that said so clearly, “That made me really sad!” And I knew that she needed to express those big feelings. I told her, in an empathetic tone, “I know. I’m so sorry. I know you really didn’t like being in your carseat, and it made you so sad. And it made me sad to hear you being so sad. I’m so sorry.” She looked at me as though she understood every word that I said… as though she knew that I recognized her pain. I really think she felt heard. After letting out another few wimpers, she turned and started nursing peacefully and then slept deeply for several hours.
In the midst of those weeks of struggle, I worried a lot that something was wrong with her. Now, as those fussy days recede into memory, I remember that things are always changing with kids. No phase lasts forever. Tough times give way to peaceful times. And then peaceful times give way to tough times again. For now, I’m soaking up as much of the peace and contentment as I can. Gosh I adore this face.