What is normal baby fussiness?
Whether breastfed or formula fed, during their first few months, many babies have a regular fussy period, which usually occurs in the late afternoon or evening. Some babies’ fussy periods come so regularly that parents can set their clocks by it! The standard infant fussiness usually starts at about 2 to 3 weeks, peaks at 6 weeks and is gone by 3 to 4 months. It lasts on “average” 2 to 4 hours per day. Of course, there is a wide variety of normal.
To distinguish between “normal” and a problem, normal usually occurs around the same time of day, with approximately the same intensity (with some variation); responds to some of the same things each time, such as motion, holding, frequent breastfeeding, etc.; and occurs in a baby who has other times of the day that he is contentedly awake or asleep. Normal fussiness tends to occur during the time of the day that the baby usually stays awake more, the most common time is in the evening right before the time that the baby takes his longest stretch of sleep.
What causes babies to be fussy?
If you feel that your baby’s fussiness is not normal, it’s never a bad idea to get baby checked by the doctor to rule out any illness. A common cause of fussy, colic-like symptoms in babies is foremilk-hindmilk imbalance (also called oversupply syndrome, too much milk, etc.) and/or forceful let-down. Other causes of fussiness in babies include diaper rash, thrush, food sensitivities, nipple confusion, low milk supply, etc.
Babies normally fuss for many reasons: overtiredness, overstimulation, loneliness, discomfort, etc. Babies are often very fussy when they are going through growth spurts. Do know that it is normal for you to be “beside yourself” when your baby cries: you actually have a hormonal response that makes you feel uncomfortable when your baby cries.
Comfort measures for fussy babies
(many fit into several different categories)
|Rhythmic motion / change of pace||
One of the most interesting things I’ve seen in the research regarding infant fussiness is that almost anything a parent tries to reduce fussiness will work, but only for a short time (a few days), and then other strategies need to be used.
If you nurse and it doesn’t seem to help, then try other comfort measures. If you pick him up or nurse him, and baby is content, then that was what he needed. If it works, use it!
I’m worried about spoiling my baby
Your baby will not be spoiled if you hold him and nurse him often – quite the opposite, in fact. Studies have shown that when babies are held often and responded to quickly, the babies cry less, and the parents learn to read baby’s cues more quickly. A young child’s need for his mother is very intense – as intense as his need for food. Know that your child really needs you. It is not about manipulation or something you can “fix” with the right discipline. Often a baby who is perceived as fussy is simply a baby who needs more contact with mom (and is smart enough to express this need) and is content once his needs are met. See the links below to read more about spoiling.
Caring for a fussy baby can be very stressful! Give both yourself and baby some extra TLC. Surround yourself with supportive people, de-stress in other areas if possible (for example, minimize housework), and tell yourself you are doing a great job. It is very difficult to feel good about yourself as a parent when you have a fussy baby. Don’t be too alarmed if your efforts seem to have no positive effect – they are. When you stay with your baby to try to provide comfort you are beginning to teach your baby that he can count on you and that he is loved.
- Cluster Feeding and Fussy Evenings
- My baby fusses or cries during nursing – what’s the problem?
- Growth spurts
- Nursing to Sleep and other Comfort Nursing
- Is your baby nursing all the time?
- My baby is gassy. Is this caused by something in my diet?
- If you’re worried about baby getting enough milk, see Is my baby getting enough?
@ other websites
- Learn to Calm the Fussiest Babies with Singing by Penny Simkin, PT, CCE, CD(DONA)
- The “fourth trimester”: A framework and strategy for understanding and resolving colic by Harvey Karp, MD, from Contemporary Pediatrics. February 2004;21:94. Includes parent handouts on how to swaddle baby and a nice description of his “5 S’s” for calming babies (Swaddling, Side or Stomach Position, Shushing, Swinging, Sucking).
- Fussy Babies by William Sears, MD and and Martha Sears, RN
- High Need Babies by William Sears, MD and and Martha Sears, RN
- Coping with Colic by William Sears, MD and and Martha Sears, RN
- Colic in the Breastfed Baby by Jack Newman, MD
- Colic in Infancy by Carolyn Lawlor-Smith, BMBS, IBCLC, FRACGP and Laureen Lawlor-Smith, BMBS, IBCLC
- Hiscock H, Jordan B. Problem crying in infancy. Med J Aust. 2004 Nov 1;181(9):507-12.
- Buchanan P. Assessing the evidence: Treatments for Colic. The Breastfeeding Network Newsletter, March 2002. “This paper considers the strength of evidence for different treatments for colic.”
- The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longerby Harvey Karp, MD
- The Fussy Baby Book: Parenting Your High-Need Child From Birth to Age Fiveby William & Martha Sears
- CranioSacral therapy and other gentle body work for breastfeeding problems links @
- Relaxation and Visualization Exercises can be helpful when you’re stressed from a crying baby.
- If you feel like you’re losing confidence in your ability to nurse your baby, talk to another mom who has successfully nursed her baby, or call a La Leche League Leader, or go to a La Leche League or other breastfeeding support meeting.
- If you feel that you just can’t cope, then postpartum depression may be a factor. If you feel violent or aggressive toward your baby, or if you think you’re incapable of responsibly caring for your baby, seek professional help immediately.
- Are you worried about spoiling your baby? Read on…
- Spoiling from AskDrSears.com
- Can I spoil my baby? by Pinky McKay
- Could your baby be spoiled? by Gayle Peterson, MSSW, PhD
- Will I Spoil My Baby by Holding/nursing Him So Often? LLL FAQ
- Will I Spoil My Baby If I Carry Her in a Sling? by Dr. William Sears
- Where does fear of spoiling come from? by Teresa Pitman
- Shutdown Syndrome from AskDrSears.com
- Reflections… by Paula Yount @
- Infant Massage by Angela Sinclair
- Baby massage: tips and benefits from the UK’s National Childbirth Trust
- Baby Massage from the book “Hola Familia” (Hello Family)
- Benefits of Baby Massage by Michelle Ebbin