Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dealing With An Inconsolable Baby

Not knowing what your baby needs or wants is one of the most frustrating things in the world.  As a seasoned parent on my fifth child, I still don't have it figured out because every baby is different.  Here are some things to try if your baby or toddler won't stop crying and you don't know why.

1.  Check their body for strings or hair wrapped around a toe or finger.  This didn't happen to us until our fifth child, but we had an awful night and didn't figure out why until the next morning.  One of my hairs was wrapped so tightly around two of her toes, it was cutting into her skin.  My husband had to cut it off.  This is called a "hair tourniquet".  Our poor baby was so miserable and had we known about this, we would have checked her hours before that.  She was wearing those footie pajamas and we couldn't tell.  Those are hair magnets, by the way, so check their toes before bed every night.

2.  Check their temperature.  Are they getting sick?  Even if there's no fever, they might be coming down with something. 

3.  Try a change of scenery.  Sometimes our daughter is inconsolable and then when we take her outside, she's suddenly happy.  She's really getting into exploring.

4.  Try a variety of activities.  Our daughter just recently got into books and we realized she was screaming because that's what she wanted.  She especially loves singing.  Take some time to give them your undivided attention.  Put your devices away!

5.  Take them to the doctor.  Your child might not have any signs of illness other than screaming.  Years ago our second son was sleeping at night, but he screamed all day. I was starting to feel really impatient, so I finally took him to the doctor because he just wasn't acting like himself.  I told the doctor, "I need you to find something wrong with him!"  As a mom, she understood where I was coming from and told me pretty victoriously that one of his ears was red and filled with pus.  That helped me feel a lot more compassion towards him rather than thinking he had entered a long stage.  I had my happy boy back after some antibiotics. 

6.  Try a different food or beverage.  Tonight my daughter was thirsty and she didn't want her milk, but she immediately got quiet when I asked her if she wanted some water.  It's such a guessing game!  She was temporarily happy and I'll take what I can get! Normally she loves yogurt too and she's suddenly rejecting it. 

7.  Put them somewhere safe.  Sometimes they are going through a stage and just aren't getting their way or are may be overly tired.  If you're losing patience, put them in their crib, walk away, play some music so you can't hear them crying, and do something physical like deep cleaning the kitchen.  It's not going to hurt them and when you go to get them again feeling a little more sane, they might just change their attitude because being held by you again is better than being left alone.  Or they might go to sleep.  This is not the case with my daughter.  I just have to take a break sometimes because I need to get myself something to eat or drink without her ear piercing scream.

8.  Get a break.  I have found I need to get out more, so I leave our daughter with my husband for a while or one of my older children.  Even a trip to the bank by myself can be rather rejuvenating since she tends to thrash around in public now and wants to run around everywhere.  I actually had to leave the pharmacy without getting what I needed because she was so out of control, I couldn't find my HSA card.  Talk about frustrating! 

I know what you're dealing with is so hard.  I'm in the thick of it with a now 15-month-old who wants to be held most of the day and screams in terror every time I take three steps away from her. I spend most of the day desperately trying to get her to do something independently like sit in her little swing.  Remember that it's a stage that isn't going to last forever and your child will most likely turn out normal.  With my first child, there was a period where I truly thought he was going to end up in a mental institution where I would visit him faithfully someday.  Now he's a well-mannered 16-year-old boy.  Usually.  
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