How can I soothe my extra-fussy baby?
Some babies can be extra-fussy, which can make things even more difficult at sleep times. For instance, babies who were exposed to opioids and other substances during pregnancy may be extra fussy. There may be times when your baby is very fussy and you feel like there is nothing you can do to soothe your baby. Take a deep breath; there are millions of parents who have had these feelings (including parents of babies who had no prenatal issues)! Having a baby that is difficult to soothe or that has a hard time sleeping for long periods of time is very stressful for moms and dads and other caregivers. If you need to take a break, put your baby on his back in a crib and take a few deep breaths in another room. Your baby will be fine. It’s important for you to take care of yourself for a few minutes before trying to calm him down again. You can even put on earphones and listen to music while you rock your baby.
Sometimes a change of scenery can help your baby, even though he is so young. Try going for a walk outside. Head to a different room in the house. Know that this crying will not last forever, and your baby will start to settle down.
Some caregivers may feel guilty about not being able to help their children sleep and may not feel comfortable reaching out for help. Know that you are not alone – and that these kinds of sleep difficulties are common. Reach out to your pediatrician or an early intervention support person for individualized help. Remember to take care of yourself and your sleep. You will be a better caregiver if you are as rested as possible. This means asking friends and family for extra help. Needing extra support will not last forever as your baby will eventually sleep for longer periods of time.
Elisabeth Conradt, Ph.D., a Pediatric Sleep Council guest contributor, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah who studies the developmental consequences of exposure to early life stress. She completed her doctorate at the University of Oregon and clinical internship in infant mental health at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Conradt became interested in the biobehavioral development of children with prenatal substance exposure at Brown University, where she completed her postdoctoral training. Her two lively boys have taught her about the importance of a good night’s sleep for both mom and child.