When Babies Are Fussy, It Really Is All Our Fault


twin boysSo, about 12 weeks ago, I gave birth to two handsome little babies that we've nicknamed Herman and Berman. Yes, I'm in love with them and find myself constantly open-mouth gumming their chubby cheeks with such enthusiasm, I'm concerned I might one day try to eat their faces off ... really. Okay, no, not really.

Sure, it's one big lovefest now, but I've gotta be honest: about six weeks ago, my husband and I were losing our freakin' minds. Up until then, they had been such sweet, easy little bundles, and we were sure it would just get easier from there. But before the "it gets better" part, they decided to take a detour and steer us toward a crazy-making place where no one ever sleeps and the cries just keep on coming ...

At 6 weeks old, it's like my babies suddenly discovered their voices and weren't afraid to use them. Not only did it seem like they were now crying more often and with more fervor, but they often did it in a round robin -- just when Herm seemed to have settled down, Berm decided it was way too quiet in here and began his bellowing. Oh, and that often got Herm going again. There you have it, that was the scene in my house. Hugs, please?

The good news was that we knew it wasn't colic because each individual baby didn't freak out for very long. But thanks to the back-and-forth volleying of the two boys, the crying SEEMED to go on for hours. We had a baby nurse for the babies' first few weeks who had left us with some tips, which included, "When they are unhappy, just move them to a new location until they're happy again." That seemed to make total sense ... until my husband and I found ourselves constantly transporting them from the crib to car seat to bouncy seat to swing, then back to car seat and again to the swing, like we were the hostesses at some swanky restaurant ... only frantic and in sweatpants, with tears in our eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry, you don't like that seat? Would you prefer a swing over here by the window? No, hmmm, how about I rock you some? Yes, good? (WAAAAAAAAA from baby). Okay, no good, no good, moving on, moving on!" Oh, and I know what you're thinking: yes, we have way too many seating options available for our babies.

And then, of course, there was the witching hour, which our pediatrician had warned us about. Yep, every evening, right around 5:00, darkness would descend upon our house, the wind would howl through the nursery, trees banged violently against the window, and as the clock tower chimed five times ... WAAAAAAAA, beat, HA-WAAAAAAA, gulp, HA-WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Times two, people, times two!

By the end of the week, I'd decided to lift my ban on reading crap off of the Internet and did a search on fussy babies. This one article I found was very thorough, outlining all of the signs that you might have a fussy baby. For example, a fussy baby might be soothed by the din of crowds. Well, yes, my babies did seem happier when other people were around. Or, a fussy baby might be sensitive to sounds. But wait, didn't they just say a fussy baby prefers the noise? Next up: Your fussy baby may cry intensely at times. Oh yes, it is intense, so intense it scares my husband our dog right out of the house. At least, hmmm, half of what they said really applied to my babies, but then, it seemed like everything they said might apply to all babies at some point or another. Well, regardless, after reading this random, non-scientific article, I had determined that yes, we had fussy babies and I just had to acknowledge it and be grateful that they were healthy and had such strong lungs to torture us with.

Here was the funny thing though: Whenever my Mom or other similarly baby-friendly folk were here, they'd tell us what easy babies we had. Huh, what?! Have you been here at 5:30? I thought that maybe they were just catching my guys at a good moment except, I had started to notice a pattern. When the nanny was here, they were perfect little angels. When she left though, the tears would come again. Maybe it's me, I started to wonder, maybe it's me.

Then one afternoon, as my mom, her friend, and our nanny were all cooing away over our sweet, docile babies, I finally asked, "Why are they so good with all of you and not with me?" All three of them didn't hesitate in explaining that, whenever my babies started to cry, I'd get all nervous and insecure, not trusting myself to be able to soothe them. So, instead of taking a calm approach, I'd panic, and they'd feed off of that energy. That was it, there was my answer: my babies weren't fussy, I was!

And shame on me, really, because I knew better. I'd often be able to soothe my friends' babies when they couldn't, and would explain to them, "It's because I'm not vested in whether or not they stop crying. I'm calm, so they calm down." Hell, I'd even blogged about how easy parents make easy babies! Of course, when you have two babies of your own that are wailing in unison, I guess it's hard to take your own advice. But after my little wake-up call, I realized that not only were my babies' feeding off of my nervous energy, but by chalking their behavior up to being "fussy babies," I wasn't giving myself a chance to figure out what was really wrong. If they were crying in spite of being fed and clean, I threw my hands up and went, "Well, they're just fussy. I'll wait for the storm to pass." In reality though, they often needed to be soothed to sleep, or were too hot in the summer heat, or were hungrier than usual because of a growth spurt.

So, yes, I started paying better attention to their cues, and also started to trust my instincts, which included recognizing that sometimes they didn't want to play musical chairs -- they just wanted me to put them down already! After a couple of weeks, I got better at being a Mommy, and as a result, they became easier babies. Of course, they got older too, which inevitably made them easier. Regardless, after taking a deep breath (and some ownership), my boys finally mellowed out. They also started giving us those melt-your-heart baby smiles and laughs that made up for every pull-our-hair out moment.

Did your baby seem to get happier once you started figuring him or her out?


Image via Jenny Benjamin

colic & crying, multiples, newborns, twins & more


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corri... corrinacs

Good job mama :).  You know, much of parenting cannot be described in a book or given to you as advice.....its all about "going with the flow".  Your baby, and only your baby, knows what he/she needs :).  Only you can provide it for him/her :).  I am glad you figured it out, becuase it takes some parents YEARS and they wonder why they hate parenting so much....I love every second of it, and I think my son is benefiting from the constant example of "just breathe a minute".

ms_mo... ms_morgan

It's good to see you back Jenny!  Good luck with those two precious boys :)

nonmember avatar emma

This might sound totally crazy and it only works when both parents are home but when my twin sister and I were little my parents literally assigned themselves to one of us. When i was crying it was my dad who got out of bed in the middle of the night and when my sister was fussy it was my mom who took her out of the restaurant to calm her down. People say you can put twins on the same schedule (napping, eating, playing) but we weren't having any of it and this system made my parents sane for the first 6 months. Obviously we weren't ignored if there was just one of them around but i think it helped my mom out a lot that she was not the de facto non-sleeper even though she was breastfeeding.

CoolR... CoolRelax

Aww, congrats on your boys!!  Being a twin parent is like nothing else. I had my girls almost a year ago.  They really didn't go through too many "what the hell are you crying for?" moments.  I'm just going to pray that they stay that way through the teen years.

hutch... hutchfam2007

YAY, Jenny's back!!!! :):):):)

hutch... hutchfam2007

If my daughter was happier once I figured her out... I didnt figure her out until she became mobile because she was NOT happy very much At All until she was able to get after whatever it was she wanted. Every baby is different, though. In the rhelm of life it really is only a heartbeat of time and its over. Now I look back as DD is almost 3 and miss those moments (well not the pull your hair out, wanna cry yourself to sleep moments... ;)) It really is only a very short part of your and their lives and it goes by very fast. Congratulations and Enjoy!!!!

jessi... jessicasmom1

YES, I totally believe  our children know us all to well,  and basically know how to push your buttons Momma. When your nervous it makes them, if your upset so are they. Congratulations on 2 cutie pies.

xxhaz... xxhazeldovexx

Great article!

My first dd was actually an angel.. but then again she was one of the first born grandchildren in the family, so she also got a lot of attention (Beware, this makes for troubled times in toddlerhood!! lol). I say one of the first born because her cousin was born across the hall from her at the hospital an hour and a half before her (made it easy on my parents, whom just had to cross the hallway to see both of their first grandchildren born lol).

My second, I was pretty much solo minus my three year old daughter for a lot of it, so at times I would get sooo nervous and had to remind myself to calm down, we've been through this.. it'll be okay! lol.

xxhaz... xxhazeldovexx

So anyways, my first born always had someone soothing her so was always a happy calm baby for probably 95% of the time.

My second born, not so much.. she actually DID have collick, and sooo picky about things it was the complete opposite from my first. (add in being solo this time  for the most part, and chasing around a 3 year old all day) and my nerves were about shot!  I've finally managed to manage my time better and myself, so thankfully, the kids have mellowed, as have I.

Melis... Melissa042807

It's so true that babies can sense when we're nervous and tense, and they respond negatively to that. I made such a conscious effort to remain calm when my son was fussy during his babyhood. I did not always succeed - there were several times I'd call my  husband at his office wailing "I don't know what he wants!!!". But for the most part, being aware of my own response made it easier to get him calmed down. And it helped me figure out his cues sooner - I could tell if he was just tired and wanted to be left alone so he could go to sleep, or if he was bored and needed some new stimulation. 

And the bit about "maybe he just wanted to be laid down"? Also SO TRUE. My sister-in-law's first baby was really needy and fussy and constantly wanting to be held and coddled. So she was confused when her 2nd baby got even angrier when she tried to hold and rock and bounce him. One day she was at my mom's house, and my mom said "May I?" as the baby was angrily wailing, took the baby, wrapped him in a swaddle, and laid him down. Within thirty seconds he was out cold, sound asleep. Little dude just wanted to be left alone! It was a revolutionizing moment for my sister-in-law. 

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