Monday, April 30, 2012

Got a Fussy Baby?

Monika Pis, PhD, CPNP
During the first couple of months of life, infants transition from living in utero to functioning independently outside of the mother’s womb.
For some babies that transition is smooth, while others are fussy and require time and small interventions to help them feel comfortable and secure while learning to adjust to the new life.

The most common causes of fussiness in young infants are colic, formula intolerance, and constipation. 

Infant colic is characterized by persistent crying in infants younger than 3 months. The average time of crying is 2-3 hours per day, but many babies cry for longer than four hours every day. Colic has been estimated to occur in 13% of infants. Parents of colicky babies report that their infants cry for 3 or more hours a day, on 3 or more days of the week. In addition, they may demand frequent feedings, be gassy, and stiffen legs and pull them up to their chest.

Although the cause of colic is unknown, there are two possibilities to consider. First, gas and abdominal pain resulting from the immaturity of the digestive system might be at play. Second, the immaturity of the nervous system may allow a susceptible infant to get overstimulated during the day, leading to fussiness at the end of the day. Have you noticed that most colicky babies fuss at night? Whatever the cause, colic bothers babies and their parents. Consider the suggestions below to soothe your colicky infant.

Remedies For Colic
- Keep stimuli to minimum: dim lights, keep noise down, etc.
- Swaddle the baby like a burrito to simulate the comfy environment of the womb
- Play classical music
- Swing your baby in a swing

Formula Intolerance
Although milk and soy allergies are rare in infants, some babies may initially have a difficult time digesting either milk- or soy-based formulas. After coming home form the hospital, you may notice your baby is fussy most of the time, passes a lot of gas, throws up a considerable amount of formula after feedings, or cries while bringing knees to the chest. During feedings, your infant may arch his/her back or move as if in discomfort. These behaviors may signal an upset stomach, abdominal pain, or heartburn, resulting from a temporary formula intolerance. Talk with your infant’s health care provider. He or she may suggest a formula change to make your child comfortable. On occasion, when fussiness is contributed to heartburn, infants are given short-term antacids to soothe their digestive system.

Constipation is defined as passing hard, pellet-like stools, or having 3 or less stools a week. Although grunting and pushing while having a bowel movement is normal in the first couple of months of life, your infant’s stool should not be hard. If your infant produces hard stools, and it takes him/her a long time to push them out, your infant is constipate, and will be fussy sooner or later as constipation results is abdominal pain, uncomfortable gas, and painful bowel movements. (Note: chronic constipation may lead to urinary tract infections.)

To relieve your baby’s discomfort due to constipation, you may add sugar to her formula (1 teaspoon per 2 ounces). Sugar will draw water to the intestines and assist in loosening the stool. After each sugary bottle, wipe inside your infants mouth with a wet washcloth to prevent thrush. If this simple intervention does not relieve your child’s constipation, talk to his or her health care provider as soon as possible.

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