- It's Not Your Fault: Keep in mind that babies, even young children and toddlers, sometimes just get fussy. There may not be anything wrong in particular, they may just be in a bad mood. So when trying to address the issue never blame or beat yourself up about not being able to figure it out. Its ok. Eventually you will understand what is bothering your kid, and even if you don't, they cant cry forever.
- Its Ok To Let Them Cry: Seriously! Its really ok to let your kid cry sometimes. If you have done all you know how, and your kid has gotten so worked up that they are turning red or purple and you're worried they might pass out... let them! It might sound barbaric, but take comfort in the knowledge that if they do pass out and lose consciousness 2 things will happen: 1) They'll stop crying and 2) They'll start breathing on their own. No one ever died from crying. Also, if you're getting burnt out and need a break from your fussy child (and don't have someone you can pass them off to), don't be afraid to put them in their crib, shut the door and just let them cry. They are in their crib, they can't get hurt in there, they're safe. Depending on the age of the child this is perfectly acceptable and safe to do for 15-20 minutes...maybe even longer if you're confident there is nothing seriously wrong with the child. If you cant tolerate listening to them cry then turn on some music or turn up the TV volume so you can just barely hear them, then take that time to do a calm activity of your choice before diving back into the fray. If you're worried about someone calling it neglect or abuse just remember that the majority of parents who are charged with shaking their baby never meant to hurt their child, and often do not have a history of violence or even anger management issues. These were normal loving parents who were simply pushed beyond their limits and in their frustration unintentionally injured or killed their child. So if you feel yourself getting to that point where youre worried you might harm your child you owe it to yourself, and to your baby, to take a break and calm down. Even if that means letting your little one cry for a bit. Don't believe me? Just look up The Period of Purple Crying. Their page called Tips to Deal with Frustration and Anger is quite educational and encouraging.
- Check The Stress: Have you ever heard of the Serenity Prayer? You probably have but just didn't know it actually had a name... but whether you're religious or not the message still holds true: God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference. How does this apply to dealing with a fussy baby? To help cut down on the stress of child rearing you should have a game plan for handling the situation. Create a check list of what is most commonly the reason for your child crying and list them in order of which happens the most frequently. This will help you determine what may be causing your child to be fussy that you actually have some control over. Having a plan to fall back on helps you deal with the situation from a less emotional place, and allows you to know when its out of your hands. As I discussed in #1, sometimes kids just get fussy, and if you've tried everything sometimes you just have to let them cry it out as discussed in #2. If you notice that you are stressed in general and your fussy child is possibly being made worse or antagonized by your bad mood you may need to change somethings in yourself to help ease tensions. This might mean doing yoga first thing in the morning (preferably before your child wakes up), making a trip to the gym a tri-, bi-, or weekly event, or even just include a walk through the neighborhood as part of your daily routine. Exercise is a fantastic remedy for stress. For some people, decreasing your stress level may mean making some dietary changes too, such as cutting down or cutting out caffeine and refined sugar and/or taking some mood boosting vitamins or supplements (see article called Nutritional Therapies for Mental Disorders: Introduction and Depression in Home Remedies under Mental Health for information on what vitamins or supplements you should try). Caffeine and refined sugar, while they do give off quick energy, makes people rather irritable when they are coming down off that 'high'. Cutting those things out, and eating a better diet and/or adding supplements will provide you with the energy your body is really craving, without the crash.
- Pass: Whenever you can, pass the baby off to someone you trust to take good care of them. If possible, have your spouse take turns with you getting up with the baby at night, and alternating baby duty days so no one parent ever feels unduly burdened. Make arrangements for someone to watch your child for an hour or three once a month, or more if you can manage it. Parents need time to themselves too. Take this time to run errands, go out to lunch even if its by yourself, get your hair or nails done, see a movie, take a long bath, or take that nap you have been fantasizing about. You don't need to have a 'legitimate' reason to get a sitter, you may be surprised at how willing people (even those who do not have kids, or whose children are grown) are to help give a parent that much needed break from the kids. If you have a good friend, or friends, who has their own child(ren) you can arrange regular play dates where you each switch off watching the kids so the other(s) can have some personal time. This has the added benefit of not costing you anything since its an equal exchange, everyone gets a turn.
So now that you know some things you can do to help keep yourself calm while handling a crying fit, you may be wondering what sort of things you should consider for your check list. Here is what I have on mine, and why I check for these things. These are ordered by which is most common, but how fast and easy the task is to address was also taken into consideration when I made my list.
The Check List
- Diaper: With particularly young children always check their diaper first. Some kids really hate being messy and may cry to let you know its time for a butt change. While changing their diaper be sure to check for rashes or redness, especially with little girls. Little girls can get yeast infections too, and they are just as uncomfortable as the ones mommy gets. If there is redness with any kind of vaginal discharge, foul odor or bumps put some athletes foot cream on the affected area to help ease her pain and make an appointment with your child's pediatrician. I recommend athletes foot cream because its the same exact formulation for vulvar yeast infection creams but with the added benefit of having a topical analgesic in it... a pain killer. This helps reduce swelling, burning, and itching. In fact, this is what my doctor usually prescribes to me as an adult to help with yeast infection treatment as most of the vulvar creams on the market can be really quite painful and irritating, even for an adult, so please, for the love of all that is good and holy in this world do NOT put Monistat or Vagisil on your baby. That will for sure make them cry harder. Be sure to check little boys, especially those that are uncircumcised, for any rashes under their scrotum, penis or inside the foreskin. The foreskin in particular is very sensitive and yes, little boys can get yeast infections in there too, though its not nearly as common. Either way, a rash in those three areas can be just as painful and irritating as a yeast infection on a little girl, so always be on the look out for that.
- Thirst or Hunger: If the diaper is not messy or they continue to fuss after being changed, offer them something to eat or drink. If they refuse the drink they may be hungry. If you give them something to drink and they are still fussy they may be hungry too. Since food and drink are in the same area, generally, these two things are easy to address at the same time.
- Attention, Boredom, Loneliness: Kids love attention and outings. DUH! you might say, but sometimes we as parents get kinda wrapped up in what we are doing, be it cleaning the house, doing laundry, Facebooking, reading or what-have-you that we sometimes neglect to give our children the amount of attention they might be needing. So if you have tended to the other items on the list, or you know you haven't been paying them much attention, try playing with or holding your child. This may not stop the crying right away so be sure to devote at least 10-30 uninterrupted minutes with your child to see if this helps them calm down. Sometimes just picking them up is enough. Sometimes your child may become fussy because they are bored of being in the house. Kids generally like playing outside or going on outings, and this can help keep them happy and wear them out a bit so they sleep better. If the temperature or weather is too extreme to permit outdoor play, try taking a walk around the mall or go to the book store. Many malls now have play areas for young children, and some Barnes and Nobles have a small play area in the kids section. If you don't have access to that, a pet store that permits children to hold or pet the animals is a good distraction as well. Also, kids are more like adults than you might think, they miss people just like we do. I have noticed that whenever John, my husband, is gone for a few days, Elsa will be particularly cranky for a day or two. This also happens when John is busy with school and/or work and doesn't get to spend much time with her. She's sometimes gets irritable because she misses her daddy. These next few suggestions are of particular importance to military families, people who travel often, or who do not live in the same state as the child. If you suspect that your child is missing someone, or someone they are accustomed to having around a lot is preparing to leave, you should keep photos of that person around the house, and skype, video chat, or talk on the phone with this person as often as possible. This can help keep your child in a better mood till they can physically see the person again. You can also take some videos of that person interacting with or talking to your child to play when its not possible to video chat or call. When they are available make sure your child gets to spend adequate time with them. For my husband this means taking Elsa out for lunch dates, or even just out to run errands, as often as his schedule allows. Family activities and kiddie play dates are also highly recommended to prevent boredom and loneliness not just in kids, but also in parents.
- Nap, Bed Time, Time Out: Especially if you have been busy, or in my case the clock you normally rely on has broken, you may be running behind on your child's usual sleep schedule. Check your child for signs of sleepiness, and even if they do not appear to be tired, you may want to put them in their bed for about 20 minutes to see if they will go to sleep. This can also be used as a time out to teach your child that crying like that doesn't help them get what they want. This can have the effect of encouraging your child to learn to speak or point to what they want so that their needs are better understood and easier to meet. Giving them a time out in their crib can also be a helpful way for mommy or daddy to get a little bit of a break from said fussy child without having to worry about them, as discussed earlier in this post. Also, take a look at what your child's sleep schedule has been like. Your child could be fussy because they are not sleeping enough, or may be sleeping too much. Ask your pediatrician how many hours of sleep a day is common for your child's age and adjust their schedule if it needs it. Any changes to the sleep schedule should be done gradually if there is a huge difference that needs to be made up. Changing the schedule too abruptly can make the adjustment difficult or traumatic for you and the child.
- Sickness, Teething, or Medical Condition: This is the last one I check for. Why? Because I cant stand moms that give their kid medicine for every little thing. Its creating a generation of hypochondriacs and it drives me nuts. This whole disinfectant and antibiotic craze is creating children with weak immune systems and aiding in the evolution of super viruses. Kids are supposed to get sick from time to time, that's what builds a strong immune system. How can the body prepare itself to handle infections if its never been exposed to an infectious agent before? I'm not saying you should seek out sick kids and expose your child to them, I'm just saying that its ok to let your kid play in the dirt, or go to public play areas...etc without carrying disinfectant spray or hand sanitizer all the time. Just practice good hand washing, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and avoid sick people when possible. There is no need to go mental about it. Anyway... I could rant on and on about it, but lets get to the main point. If you have tried everything else and your child is still fussy they may be feeling sick, cutting teeth, or possibly suffering from a medical condition. Check for fever, diarrhea or constipation, runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, tugging on the ears, refusal to suck (with breast or bottle fed children), or anything that is out of the ordinary. Most childhood ailments are easily treated at home. If you have age appropriate medicines try giving a single dose and note if there is any change in mood. If it helps, give them another dose at the appointed time. If it doesn't help, your child's mood worsens, or their symptoms seem unusual to you, or even if you just have a bad feeling about it, call your pediatricians office and ask the nurse or doctor on duty about it. If its late at night you can call your local ER or Urgent Care. Someone there will be able to tell you what you should do. Just whatever you do, DON'T PANIC and always call the doctor before going to the hospital if you aren't certain... except, of course, in cases when its obvious that something is seriously wrong. Here is a link to the Mayo Clinic website that discusses what is worthy of a doctors visit, and what is worthy of emergency attention: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healthy-baby/PR00022. But after a call or two to your doctor you will quickly learn what is really worth seeing the doctor for and what isn't a big deal. Its all part of becoming a parent.
- Accept It: If you have done everything on this list and your child is still fussing, chances are they are crying over something you do not have the ability to change. Honestly, sometimes even the child doesn't know why they are upset, they just are!