September 25, 2009 4:38 AM   Subscribe

My 5 week old baby cries most of the time he is awake unless I keep moving him around or feeding him. I am at a loss...any suggestion for this weary mom?

I have read other questions about babies who cry if you put them down. This is an unfortunate variation on that. He will cry when put down and stop momentarily if I pick him up. Problem is that after 20 seconds of being held, he will start crying until I move him to a new position in my arms. While the upright seated position seems to be his favorite position, he will quickly start crying in this position too unless I move him to another position on my lap.

It is really hard to hear him upset and would like for him to have some "enjoyable" awake time. I can occasionally get him to sit in the vibrating bouncy chair for 10 minutes without screaming, but this is not foolproof. I have ruled out hunger/dirty diaper/etc when this happens.

He actually sleeps at night and naps during the day fairly well (once we get him to sleep), but I am starting to dread when he is awake and the perpetual baby shifting routine.

Any thoughts or suggestions as to what is going on or what I can do to ake him happy/less fussy when awake (other than what I have been doing)?
posted by murrey to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you just holding him still, or have you tried rocking or bouncing (I can't believe there's an ehow for that) him?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:54 AM on September 25, 2009

How long has this been going on? Have you consulted a health care professional? Is he on the boob or the bottle? Does he use a pacifier (if no, have you tried one)? Could he be hot or cold? Sorry for all the questions, just trying to pin things down.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:55 AM on September 25, 2009

Follow up from OP

I have tried rocking and bouncing and that definitely extends the time for the next baby shift, but I still need to move him to a new position after a short while. It still does not allow me to put him down (or eliminate the need for constant shifting of positions).

We have not called the doctor yet since he does not seem to be in pain, but we will today. He will take a pacifier from dad, but not me--I am guessing because he is breastfed. I don't think it is a hot/cold issue.
posted by murrey at 5:29 AM on September 25, 2009

Our daughter was a very irritable newborn. She had reflux. You might call your ped's office and ask about it-- they'll ask you some questions and see if it warrants having a doctor examine him for it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:31 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you tried a baby bjorn? Wearing it around the house can provide the baby with a sense of motion, while keeping your hands free to do other things.
posted by brandman at 5:33 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nding calling your doctor. If they don't have helpful suggestions, GET A NEW DOCTOR. Seriously, pediatricians are there to support you as much as treat the kid.

Have you tried getting one of those slings or some other baby wearing device and just keeping him on you as you go about whatever routine? Maybe he's just easily bored. :)

FWIW, my newborn loved watching me play God of War. He'd just curl up like a big slug and watch me slay gods until falling back asleep. No permanent harm done as far as I can tell.
posted by paanta at 5:34 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not a parent, but... All the cranky babies I've known have either had reflux or been allergic to breast milk, and everyone was much happier once the issue was treated.
posted by LolaGeek at 5:39 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

does he stop if you tilt him up? colic? reflux?
posted by titanium_geek at 5:43 AM on September 25, 2009

One of the moms from my playgroup had a colicky infant like that. Wearing baby in a mei tai or a moby wrap and going for a walk helped a lot -- so did sitting on a yoga/birthing ball and bouncing with baby. Do you have a baby swing? Some babies really like those, too.

And you may already know this, but there is a *big* growth spurt that happens around 5-6 weeks, too, so if you are breastfeeding, put baby to the breast as often as possible. The little one could be hungry all. the. time. (My daughter was almost constantly nursing at that age.)

Good luck and congratulations!! Even if you have to deal with colic/crying for a few weeks now, almost all babies grow out of it eventually.
posted by fancyoats at 5:44 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hi Murrey - hang in there! They don't call it the fourth trimester for nothing - everyone has big adjustments to make.

Definitely talk to your doctor. Also - I wore my newborn around the house in a Moby wrap, he seemed to really enjoy that. The Baby Bjorn was hard on my back.
posted by pinky at 5:47 AM on September 25, 2009

We used the advice from "The Happiest Baby on the Block." The five techniques they suggest for dealing with an upset baby are 1)Shushing... Create white noise for the baby starting softer than their crying and increase to as loud as them 2) Swaddling, some babies like to be wrapped up tight, especially in the first few months 3) Side or Stomach position, The football hold worked for me 4) Swinging or jiggling, most babies like to be jiggled. 5) Sucking, some babies like pacifiers, ours just never got into it.
posted by drezdn at 5:59 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

We've had a good deal of luck with the Maya wrap, as well. The littlest ones, in particular, seem to love getting lost down inside the thing.

Does he calm down in the car? You can simulate a ride by putting him in the carseat on top of the dryer. White noise can sometimes help, as can something with a regular beat (loud clock, for example).

And yeah, this too shall pass.
posted by jquinby at 6:02 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since you are breastfeeding, are you in touch with La Leche League or a lactation specialist? I cannot imagine breastfeeding without a support system of breastfeeding veterans. Pediatricians don't often have enough experience with this to give advice.

My first thought was that his intestinal bacteria might not be balanced. Is there a baby equivalent to the acidophilous that adults take? My kids are grown so I don't know. Can you ask your pediatrician or lactation specialist about that?

You should definitely take him in for a check up. And please give us an update here - I'm sure it would help a lot of people who will be reading this.
posted by cda at 6:05 AM on September 25, 2009

Both are boys needed to be carried about 24 hours a day. If you put them down, they would start crying.

A baby sling really worked for both.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:16 AM on September 25, 2009

As a dad, I was there, where you are. I can only say that it will get better. However, my advice is, in addition to your other steps, get some earplugs. They will cut the noise a bit, and help you to keep your sanity during these first difficult months.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 6:17 AM on September 25, 2009

Oh, that is a rough age! I remember my babe's fifth week on Earth as one of the hardest of my entire life. My heart goes out to you.

I agree with others that you should definitely see a new pediatrician and try to rule out problems like reflux. It could also be colic, which is a euphemism for "We don't know why he's crying but he's probably not going to stop and this could continue for several more weeks--good luck". Could be reflux, could be colic, could be something more serious (but probably it isn't), or maybe your little guy just likes to cry. Mine did.

My son was incredibly high needs at that age and literally had to be held and cuddled all day and all night or the screaming would begin. Like other above, I recommend getting a good wrap and learning the ancient and simple art of babywearing. For infants that small, the Moby Wrap is ideal, because it's super soft and snuggly and stretches nicely around the baby. You can even learn to nurse hands-free in it, which rules. If it weren't for the Moby Wrap and its lazier, slightly more stylish cousin, the Hotsling, I would have completely lost my mind.

It will get better soon, mama. It really will! Stay sane and remember to take care of yourself, too. Hang in there.
posted by balls at 6:18 AM on September 25, 2009

Exactly this happened with me. I think part of it is the baby's personality. My son (now 21) is a sensitive individual who doesn't like change, and what could be a bigger change than birth.

I am not sure there is a medical solution. I persisted with breast feeding and I am very glad that I did. I rested whenever he slept, whatever else needed to be done. I always rested when he wasn't crying, and I recommend this.

I wish in retrospect I had been more assertive with my partner that I had to be allowed to do this. I wish I had made more use of friends and family to look after him, to give me (say) a one or two hour break from the crying every day. I think people would have helped me if I had felt able to ask - but they won't realise it's what you need unless you ask. If you ask a lot of people then the burden on any particular individual is little for the benefit it will give to you. This is the one thing I would change if I could go back and live those days again.

Oh - something else - I found taking him outside for a walk calmed him. But I found loud external environemnts threw him into a worse crying fit than before - so a very quiet outdoor walk, with him in a carrier against my body, calmed him and me.

Good luck to you.
posted by communicator at 6:21 AM on September 25, 2009

One of my nephews cried all the time as a baby. It turned out he had some food allergies (dairy and soy) that were giving him painful gastro-intestinal distress. He was nursing and when his mom (my sister-in-law) would eat these things, he'd be in a world of hurt. My sister-in-law changed her diet and this helped a LOT. Good news is, he is 4 now and seems to have outgrown the food allergies.
posted by pluckysparrow at 6:33 AM on September 25, 2009

Time is your ally here. As long as there is nothing physically wrong (check with MD), then keep trying different things, but he will grow out of it (if it doesn't kill you first).
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:36 AM on September 25, 2009

Can a baby be allergic to breastmilk? (No.) About reflux.

Nth sling or other soft carrier!
posted by kmennie at 6:37 AM on September 25, 2009

I second the reflux question/possibility. My son was a very colicy newborn at night (10-2am). But he also had a milk protein allergy. Is your baby gassy and boogery too? Could be an allergy. By the time my son was 2.5 months old he would scream like you're killing him. It was definately acid reflux and he had to be on Previcid until 8 months old.

You can never love a newborn/baby enough. Some babies need to be held a lot to be comforted. It's hard and I wish you all the sanity and happiness in the world. As stereotypical as it sounds, it DOES get easier. Enjoy your little one.
posted by stormpooper at 6:39 AM on September 25, 2009

Have you tried the Happiest Baby on the Block (I recommend the DVD)? It really saved our sanity.
posted by pyjammy at 6:45 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Colicky babies have always been among us, and-- provided you get a clean bill of health from your pediatrician-- you may just have to deal with the fact that your baby is more sensitive to stimuli. Definitely try the football hold as well as rocking, bouncing, and swaddling. I take you at your word that you have ruled out "hungry" but I want to emphasize that infants should be allowed to breast feed whenever they want. My newborn sometimes ate every hour or two.

You also need to figure out some strategies to cope with an incessantly crying baby for your own mental health sake. My number one coping mechanism for crying baby/toddler was singing. I sang songs to keep myself sane and to keep from building up anger. You should also make sure you are getting enough alone time. What would probably be most helpful is joining a new mommy group. I started a Mommy & Me Gymboree class for newborns when my daughter was the minimum age (Something like 6 weeks old) and it was a fantastic resource. Not only did we gain lots of ideas for interacting with our new babies, I made numerous friendships that carried on through toddlerhood and beyond.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:49 AM on September 25, 2009

Nthing The Happiest Baby on the Block - it helped us a great deal.
posted by Artw at 7:05 AM on September 25, 2009

This is not mean't to alarm you (not a doctor, don't have kids and have a tendency to talk out of my ass) but to be on the safe side, take him to a doctor and ask to have his urine tested to be sure he doesn't have any sort of bladder, ureter or kidney infections. I just flashed back to my little brother's behaviour from many years ago. He had undersized ureters and could be momentarily distracted from the discomfort but it would start to bother him again after a few minutes.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:06 AM on September 25, 2009

Ditto with the reflux ... we took a short video of the baby "in action" and took it in to the doctor since we didn't know if we could re-create it on the spot. Took a look at the video and said, yep, reflux. Gave a prescription for some meds and he was fine after that and grew out of it in a few months.
posted by cyniczny at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2009

Baby Zizzle was very much the same way --- and he didn't have reflux. Could it be that he is gassy instead? Try pumping his legs, folding his legs into his stomach, and bicycling them. I found this worked, and oh my...the gas that would release! So very much!

I also highly, highly, highly, highly recommend the Maya Wrap someone above pointed out. It keeps the babe closer than the Bjorn, bunches the legs up which helps with gas, and keeps you hands free (and I found pulling the wrap material up over the back of his head was better for keeping strangers from touching him). I found going for really long walks helped with the fussiness. And singing while swinging with him in the sling at the park. In general, just getting out of the house and changing his environment went a long way. Taking different routes to the same places helped, too.

Baby Zizzle's colic lasted for nearly 10 weeks! He had it bad. I mean, screaming for hours and hours and hours a day starting around 4 or 5 pm and ending when he went to sleep around 9 or 10 or 11. His was extreme. We survived, though barely. You will too, even if only barely.

As he got a bit bigger, a warm bath with me in the tub was a magic cure. He'd stop crying almost instantly, get a big grin on his face, and just sit in the tub very happy for as long as we were in the tub --- the crying would start up again as we'd get out, but oh those ten minutes were heaven.

Gripe water also helped a bunch at around 8 weeks --- boy oh boy, did it help. We'd give him a little bit a couple of times a day and it did seem to help lower the intensity of some of the colic --- again, his was really due to gas and the gripe water helped with that.

Please, please, please, please, please MeMail me if you need to. I have many more tips that would work at least briefly that I can share with you. This is a really, really hard period, so don't be afraid to reach out. I have sooooo been there and have sooooo done that.
posted by zizzle at 7:23 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

In addition to reflux, I would look into a milk intolerance/protein sensitivity - cow's milk, not mom's milk. I know you are breast feeding, but, if you are drinking cow's milk the proteins are transfered into your breast milk. My son exhibited very similar behaviors and once I quit dairy (it takes about two weeks to get out of your system) he was a much happier baby.

Many babies outgrow it but, in our case, at 20 months old milk is still a big problem for him. Feel free to contact me if you would like more info.
posted by a22lamia at 7:26 AM on September 25, 2009

My first born (now 23) did this for FIVE FREAKING MONTHS. He was, however an absolute jewel of a toddler (and ever since, for that matter). Ask your pediatrician. Ask your mothers group. If you aren't in a mothers group, join one FORTHWITH (put up a notice at the ped's office or check Facebook to see if there are any in your area. Call everyone who was in your Lamaze or other labor prep group-- their babies are all the same age as yours, perfect. How about a special new parents MeFi MeetUp?) Mothers groups are the new mom version of the hive mind. More practical advice-- leave the baby with your partner and go out, by yourself, with friends, just get away. Baby crying? Stick the little screamy demon in the stroller or the snuggli and go for a walk, screams and all. Every granny in the neighborhood will have ideas and one of them will work.

Finally, try a little belly massage (his, not yours). This worked for nax jr better than anything-- the pediatrician showed me how to find the path of his intestines and basically jump start peristalsis. This was a miracle.
posted by nax at 7:29 AM on September 25, 2009

Lots of good stuff here - especially the "check with your pediatrian" references.

One comment on rockers. One of the best purchases we made was to get a glider rocker. This saved us on many sleepless nights. In contrast with an old fashioned rocker, a glider has mostly horizontal motion. This worked great for our kids...and kept us from having to walk around constantly.
posted by NoDef at 7:29 AM on September 25, 2009

You are going to get a lot of advice on how to solve this problem and something might work -- but, don't get your hopes up. We have a 12 week old who has been similar to how you describe for a while. It's "colic" and nothing has really worked at all. We've spent hundreds of dollars on gadgets, books, formulas, and medications. And if I hear a "have you tried swaddling her or Happiest baby on the block again I'm going to blow my brains out!", yes we've read the book and I could swaddle a NFL linebacker so tight he couldn't move.

Every baby is different and some babies are just very, um, sensitive? Our baby doesn't cry quite as much as you descibe but doesn't sleep well (at all).

Our post here

My advice -- try EVERYTHING you can but don't get your hopes up. Set your expectations low even if something works for a little while there is no guarantee your little guy won't tire of it in a few days. Work on disconnecting from the crying, don't take it personally. Turn into a zombie who carries around a screaming baby but doesn't really notice.

Specific things to help you:
-log everything, turn it into a scientific journey where you log how long he cried, what you tried, etc
-it's ok to get frustrated, just never treat your child differently
-do anything you can to help and don't listen to people who say you're going to spoil him (colic is mainly about YOU surviving)
-try not to talk to people with "good" babies, they will give you ridiculous advice like "have you tried walking around with him, that worked for us". DUH! of course you've tried that, what do you they think you are, an idiot?
-if you have good insurance take him to the pediatrician over and over and over until you and they have ruled out any cause for his crying (at the very least it gives you something to do during the day)
posted by wolfkult at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's lots of suggestions in this thread so I'll just say try them. Try anything and everything. Talk to your doctor, wear a sling, give up milk. Just do what it takes to keep yourself sane so you don't start resenting the kid.

Because it gets better. The first few weeks with a newborn are a lifetime but after that, time flies ridiculously fast.

If it's just developmental fussiness then I highly recommend The Wonder Weeks. It made such a difference for me and I passed it around to my girlfriends. It doesn't stop the fussy times but it helps you identify them and gives you tips for dealing with each phase. By six months, I was able to identify the tough times for what they were without even looking at the book.
posted by wallaby at 8:06 AM on September 25, 2009

If it is colic, clinical studies have shown some easing with the use of probiotics. They're selling L. reuteri preparations in Europe now, along with gripe water and simethecone as treatments for colic. Talk to your pediatrician about this approach as well as all the other things you're doing. I hope you can find some relief--it is a very hard thing to deal with.

(From PubMed--one of a few papers--and one of the most current.)

Savino F, Pelle E, Palumeri E, Oggero R, Miniero R. Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection Strain 55730) versus simethicone in the treatment of infantile colic: a prospective randomized study.
Pediatrics. 2007 Jan;119(1):e124-30.

[Abstract truncated by me] CONCLUSIONS: In our cohort, Lactobacillus reuteri improved colicky symptoms in breastfed infants within 1 week of treatment, compared with simethicone, which suggests that probiotics may have a role in the treatment of infantile colic.
posted by marmot at 8:12 AM on September 25, 2009

I have a three week old granddaughter. She cries a lot at night, doesn't sleep well. My daughter-in-law is breastfeeding her. Several people told her to switch breasts every few minutes, and that may have caused the problem.

They finally sought help from LaLeche League which told them that mama should let the babe empty one breast before she offers the other, that the intestinal distress had something to do with the chemical makeup of milk that varies depending on whether it's the first milk to come out of the breast or the last within one breastfeeding session. My scientist son gave very technical details about this, I hope this is making sense.

Anyway, since mama starting doing it the old-fashioned way- the way I nursed this babe's daddy 30+ years ago-, empty one boob, switch to the other. And yay, the babe has calmed down considerably.
posted by mareli at 8:37 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

1 - Call your pediatrician
2 - Try a baby swing. Thankfully both of my kids love(ed) the swing - we just keep dropping cash on batteries (should have gone the plug in route).

Also if it is reflux the swing may angle your baby up enough for him to be comfortable.
Good Luck.
posted by doorsfan at 9:07 AM on September 25, 2009

Mefi loves baby swings - we never had one but friends swear it saved their sanity.
posted by dmt at 9:46 AM on September 25, 2009

Can a baby be allergic to breastmilk? (No.)

posted by kmennie at 6:37 AM on September 25 [+] [!]

Sorry, I have a baby allergic to breastmilk and formula. It's called a protein allergy. My son has it. It's different than lactose (sugar) intolerance. So we had to put him on special formula that breaks down teh protein into smaller molecules for easier digestion (Allimentum). I had to give up breastfeeding at 7 weeks because he passed blood. We dealt with a lot of gas and mucos and refusal to feed because of the allergy but had no idea what was wrong. The blood was the final stage where his body said 'hello! Protein allergy!".
posted by stormpooper at 10:05 AM on September 25, 2009

And sorry to be a "not true, not true". The Ivillage article is poorly written "he can't be allergic to breastmilk just the proteins." Ugh the protein is in the breastmilk so thus, he's allergic to the breastmilk.

God I hate Ivillage.
posted by stormpooper at 10:07 AM on September 25, 2009

Oh, I feel for you. Nthing Drezdn's 5 suggestions. DD#1 had to be swaddled and have a pacifier - or else. DD#2 only dozed off if if she's was riding in the car. I've heard of breastmilk being too acidic for some children. Yes, call the doctor or whatever hotline/hospital has nurses who might have a suggestion or two. Or, best, find some woman who's had a few kids and can relieve you. You must need your rest by now.
posted by x46 at 1:48 PM on September 25, 2009

Need to check for ear infections too.

Let us know if you find something that works!

- AJ
posted by Alaska Jack at 6:24 PM on September 25, 2009

Of course you should follow up on the ideas people have presented above... however, some babies do just cry more than others. The good news is they stop... in a few years...
posted by glider at 9:15 PM on September 25, 2009

It sounds like colic. Colic is unexplained prolonged crying. Get as much help as you can; both from medical professionals and family/frinds. In many cases, a 1st-time parent with a colicky baby is not given credibility. My son had severe colic; it was a whole lot of no fun. Email me if you need a pal.
posted by theora55 at 9:38 AM on September 29, 2009

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