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Your Fussy Baby Paperback – July 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 243 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (July 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345463005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345463005
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,023,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

If your new baby cries inconsolably for many hours a day, take heart. The soothing help you need is here.

Renowned pediatrician Dr. Marc Weissbluth knows firsthand how stressful life can be for a sensitive, fussy newborn?not to mention the child?s frantic, exhausted parents. His own firstborn, like more than a fifth of all babies, was a colicky child, causing him and his wife to suffer many sleepless nights. Your Fussy Baby is Dr. Weissbluth?s gift to other sorely tired mothers and fathers, written to help them comfort their newborns without disrupting their own lives. Even extreme fussiness, he says, is not dangerous and usually stops when the child is about four months old. In the meanwhile, however, life can be tough for the whole family. But whether your baby cries for as long as eight hours a day, suffers from gas, refuses to sleep, or all of the above, Your Fussy Baby will gently guide your little one?and you?through this mysterious phase of infant growth. Inside you will discover

? Why your baby cries so much: The most up-to-date research, including some fascinating possibilities that researchers are just beginning to explore.
? Dangerous myths about fussiness: Facts and fiction about diet, mothering, proper medications, and much more that even your pediatrician may not know.
? The emotional effects: Avoiding the guilt, anxiety, and frustration that having a fussy baby so often stirs up.
? What to do when your baby fusses: Specific recommendations for what parents can do to minimize the distress that prolonged crying causes the whole family.
? Expert, step-by-step advice on establishing healthy sleep habits for your baby.

With this reassuring, down-to-earth guidance, you can help your fretful, fussy newborn to become the sweet, happy baby he or she was meant to be.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


chapter 1

Common Fussiness and Crying


Some of the things we know about ordinary, brief, or common fussing and crying shed light on extreme fussiness/colic. This information is often comforting to parents who are distressed by their child’s fussing or crying. (If you have skipped the Introduction, you may want to go back and read it now. The Introduction explains how to use the book and describes what I mean by “fussiness.”)

As a pediatrician, parents often ask me why their babies fuss or cry—and often during such inconvenient hours! While it is true that babies often “melt down” during the evening and sleeping hours, these behaviors also occur during the day. During the day, though, their fussing is less bothersome, making less of an impression. Step number one in understanding your baby’s fussiness is to try to become sensitive to all of your child’s fussy times and even to gradations between the best and worst fussing or crying. It might be worthwhile to keep a detailed diary so that you can separate your child’s actual behavior from your perceptions, which can be affected by your own tiredness and frustration. And even the fussiest babies have good times, too, which may also be helpful to record.

I admit it can be hard to be objective about fussing and crying. Crying is an irritating sound. It seems to suggest misery and pain. It is virtually impossible to ignore. There is something about it that, as one mother put it, “poisons the atmosphere.” You cannot sleep, enjoy a meal, or concentrate on anything else when you can hear a baby crying. Crying might be a survival mechanism that developed in the process of human evolution. It certainly seems to be nature’s way of making sure a baby gets the attention she needs.

What Does Crying Mean?

Tennyson wrote in “In Memoriam”:

But what am I?

An infant crying in the night;

An infant crying for the light;

And with no language but a cry.

Of course, crying is one of the only ways a newborn infant can communicate. But the meaning of a baby’s crying is open to interpretation. We think that a crying baby is hurting, frightened, or angry; this crying is taken as a form of criticism, loneliness, or tension.

There is something in each of us that identifies with a baby’s crying. Who has not felt alone in a strange world, cold, confused, and unable to communicate? We project onto the sobbing child all the despair of the human condition. But it is important to recognize that we really do not know what a baby’s crying means. Though babies do cry when they have been hurt or frightened, it is incorrect to assume that a crying infant is either hurt or scared. We cannot even be certain a crying baby is unhappy. Some researchers have observed that stress hormones do not increase during some spells of crying as they do during, for example, circumcision or the drawing of blood from an infant. On the basis of this they concluded that during extreme fussiness, babies were not experiencing pain. Perhaps there is some truth to the folk wisdom which claims that babies cry “to exercise their lungs” or because it’s one of the few things they know how to do. Birds fly, babies cry.

Whatever the case (and we will return to the important problem of why babies cry), remember that a screaming infant is not “doing a number” on you. Infants do not cry to manipulate, influence, punish, control, or intentionally annoy you. Infants of one to four months do not realize that their crying can get results. They do not even know that they are a separate person from you. They are just crying. And they may not even realize that!

What Should Parents Do About Crying?

A well-known British pediatrician, Dr. Illingworth, once claimed that one cause of crying is fatigue. This might suggest that you should let a crying baby alone to sleep. But Illingworth also added, categorically, that during the first few weeks of life an infant should be consoled rather than left alone. He claimed that picking up a baby when he or she cries results in less crying later on. This claim was later verified in a direct observational study by American researchers Silvia Bell and Mary Ainsworth at John Hopkins University. They disproved the notion that continually responding to a newborn’s cry encourages crying behavior.

You Cannot Spoil Your Newborn

Bell and Ainsworth focused on twenty-six middle-class infant-mother pairs. Data were gathered by observing these mothers and children at home. First, observers confirmed that all infants have some crying spells. They noted the number of crying episodes that a mother ignored, the number she responded to, the length of time it took her to respond, what kind of response she made, and the overall effectiveness of her response. Picking up the baby and holding him proved to be the most effective way to terminate crying. Talking to him or gesturing at him from a distance was the least effective.

Bell and Ainsworth observed that, during the first few months, some mothers were deliberately unresponsive when their babies cried because they feared they might spoil their babies. Data over an entire year, however, showed that mothers who consistently and promptly responded to their infant’s crying were rewarded at the age of one year with infants who cried less frequently, and for shorter durations, than those infants whose mothers ignored crying or delayed responding.

The authors of the study concluded, therefore, that infant crying is so disagreeable or “changeworthy” to adults that it probably serves a useful evolutionary function. They added that infant crying should be viewed as an “attachment” or “proximity-promoting” behavior because most often it served to bring a parent closer to a child. Furthermore, Bell and Ainsworth acknowledged the extreme difficulty of a mother or father ignoring a baby’s crying. They recommended that a mother not struggle to overcome the natural impulse to comfort her crying child. An infant less than three months of age is, according to their study, at no risk of being spoiled.

The conclusion of this study is similar to others that suggest that conditioning or training an infant is extremely difficult even in a carefully controlled laboratory environment. Spoiling, after all, is simply encouraging an undesirable behavior. But babies under a few months of age cannot “learn” a crying habit because they are not neurologically mature enough (neurological maturity is a necessary precursor to what later becomes psychological development). After all, at three weeks of age a baby is not even neurologically mature enough to learn to smile specifically at her mother. This suggests that it takes time for a baby’s brain to develop before it can recognize you and respond to this recognition (and melt your heart with her fantastic smile). Specific social smiling at parents normally develops at about six weeks (in premature deliveries, this occurs at about six weeks after the expected date of delivery). The logic follows: If you cannot teach a baby to smile before she is neurologically ready, why assume you can teach her to cry? Actually, during the first several weeks of life, babies do smile when they are asleep. But this is not a socially responsive smile. Interestingly, they can cry when they are asleep as well.

However, studies performed after the Bell and Ainsworth study strongly suggest that you can teach a crying habit to children over six months of age by indiscriminately responding to all vocalizations—always picking them up and/or soothing them. These children—having reached a sufficient level of neurological maturity—learn to cry for attention. For infants over six months of age (in contrast to newborns), parents who respond only to cries that appear to be intense or related to hunger or soiling and do not respond to quiet whimpers, mild calls, and other types of low-level whining sounds have children who at one year of age cry less. By the way, many parents do not realize that even the best babies may exhibit quiet whimpers, mild calls, low-level whining, or whimpering sounds while they remain sound asleep!

Frequent and Infrequent Criers

Bell and Ainsworth also concluded that in children between nine and twelve months of age, frequency of crying (how often a crying spell occurred) was a sign of “individual stability.” Babies under nine months of age displayed fewer patterns of crying, but after nine months a baby could be identified as a frequent/long or infrequent/brief crier, an identification that often held as the child grew older. Logical conclusions from this study are, then, that infrequent criers after nine months of age were those babies whose mothers responded promptly to crying during their early months, becoming increasingly discriminate as they matured. These conclusions may, however, be too simple. Might there be biological differences among certain groups of babies that cause some to cry less and others, more? To begin to investigate this question, more background is necessary.

Similarities Between Common Fussiness/ Crying and Extreme Fussiness/Colic

Several studies of common fussing/crying show that the line between normal fussiness and extreme fussiness/colic is indistinct. Specifically, common fussiness mimics patterns associated with extreme fussiness/colic in five fundamental ways.

1. All Babies Cry Some of the Time

Crying in infants was studied intensively by a group of researchers at the Mayo Clinic. In their first study, they observed seventy-two babies in a newborn nursery. They worked in shifts so that each baby was observed twenty-four hours a day. The observers recorded start times of any and all crying as well as the duration. They attempted in each case to attribute a cause to the crying—wet or soiled diapers, hunger, cramped positions, chill...

More About the Author

MARC WEISSBLUTH, M.D., a pediatrician with thirty-five years of experience, founded the original Sleep Disorders Center at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital and is a professor of clinical pediatrics at Northwestern University School of Medicine. He has lectured extensively to parent groups and has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Weissbluth lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 5, 2003
Format: Paperback
At this moment three years ago I was in the middle of a special kind of hell. I had a baby who simply would not stop screaming, who was impossible to get to sleep, and who I spent the entire day rocking, holding, carrying. I had Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep Habits" which is a very good book, but it was hard for me to figure out exactly what to do with my colicky, fussy child. I thought I was either an idiot or completely insane because I could not for the life of me recognize his "drowsy cues" - well, as I have gleaned from this new book, colicky babies often don't exhibit them or they are incredibly difficult to recognize.
This book perfectly addresses everything we were going through. If I had had this book, I would have been less worried that things were going to go on this way forever. I also would have had a very clear plan of action for sleeping ("Healthy" does go over these things, but for me it was not clear and simple enough for my sleep-deprived, colic-crazed brain). At the time I had Sears's "Fussy Baby Book" and basically it said, "this is the way your child is, you need to learn to deal with it." Not very comforting, and also not very accurate. Once my child was older, and I understood Weissbluth's sleep concepts better and my kid wasn't chronically overtired (from months of colic) he was no longer a "high-needs child."
Some people blast Weissbluth as that cruel "cry it out guy" but please read this book before you jump to that conclusion. He encourages you to respond to your baby, not leave them to scream from day one. He is a huge fan of breastfeeding. His approach is humane and child centered, but unlike Sears, it is also practical and does take into account what a parent needs in order to be an effective parent.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By EmmaW on August 25, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought several books about fussy babies in an effort to help my 2month old newborn. We've had many bouts of fussiness from the time she was 2 weeks old.

Weissbluth denies that there is any correlation between fussiness and the breastfeeding mothers diet as well as denying gastrointestinal problems. I strongly disagree and prefer Dr. Sears fussy baby books because he differentiates between the fussy baby and the hurting baby.

My baby was clearly hurting and her cries told me so. Experimentation has led me to conclude that both my diet (which now excludes dairy) as well as acid reflux were overlapping issues causing her pain. By trying a new diet, we saw improvement with gas problems first and then later solved the acid problems with reflux medication. My pediatrician supported my instincts and now we have a much happier baby. She still fusses a little but no longer cries from pain.

Some babies are just fussy and some are trying to tell you something. I'm glad I listened. The Dr. Sears book supported my feelings and filled in some of the gaps on things I needed to know.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. French on October 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a quick fix to soothe your cranky newborn, this is not the book for you. That's because, as Dr. Weissbluth convincingly argues, colic (or extreme fussiness) is still not fully understood.

Weissbluth presents the latest research on the problem, including theories on hormonal imbalance and disordered sleep, both of which may be related to "exterogestation," the idea that all human babies continue to develop after birth in a sort of fourth trimester. After dispelling most of the popular myths about the causes of and cures for colic, he concludes that the only thing we know for sure is that most babies outgrow it by 3-4 months. Because simply waiting is not an option for most parents, and because, Weissbluth acknowledges, these babies are hurting and distressed, he also provides a list of methods that might work to soothe your child, including swaddling, rocking, music, encouragement of sucking and massage.

This book was written with care and first-hand understanding in order to help worried parents understand and cope with their children's symptoms until they outgrow them, as well as to anticipate and prevent sleeping problems after the fussy months are over. Weissbluth had a colicky baby himself, and it is clear that he respects the toll that it takes on frustrated and sleep-deprived families.

Weissbluth does NOT advocate letting babies "cry it out." On the contrary, he urges parents to promptly respond to crying in young infants (as Sears does, Weissbluth acknowledges that you cannot "spoil" a newborn by holding, carrying, or rocking).
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Ginn on August 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a must read for all parents whose babies are colicky or extremely fussy. Dr. Weissbluth offers effective, sound advice that produces results. As a mother of an extremely colicky baby, it was a welcoming relief to find a book that directly addresses my issues, such as ways to soothe the crying, facts and fiction about colic, and how I can start healthy sleep habits even now.
Dr. Weissbluth provided encouragement which eased the emotional rollercoaster of having a colicky baby. I pick this book up at least every other day for continuous support. I highly recommend this book. It has helped me, my husband and our baby TREMENDOUSLY.
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