New Idea - - Practical Parenting - By Jan Mur­ray

BAT­TLE CRY Ac­cord­ing to child health con­sul­tant, Jan Mur­ray, the so-called ‘ar­senic hours’ usu­ally be­gin af­ter a baby’s first growth spurt at around two to three weeks, with bub be­com­ing griz­zly and even in­con­solable at a reg­u­lar time each day.

THE CALM IN THE STORM The cause of ar­senic hours isn’t clearly un­der­stood, but it’s be­lieved to have some­thing to do with over­stim­u­la­tion of the sen­sory ner­vous sys­tem. Stay­ing calm and re­laxed, even when your baby is not, is im­por­tant. It’s nor­mal for in­fants to cry, strain, groan, break eye con­tact, stiffen and arch their backs dur­ing ar­senic hours and you’ll be bet­ter able to cope with it by understanding and ac­cept­ing that this be­hav­iour is nat­u­ral, and not the re­sult of some­thing you have or haven’t done.

Par­ents tend to worry that ‘bad’ habits will form if ba­bies are given ex­tra com­fort­ing, but you aren’t spoil­ing your child by tend­ing to his needs.

SET­TLE, PETAL Not all ba­bies feel com­forted by all set­tling tech­niques, so you’ll need to ex­per­i­ment to find what works best for yours. Keep in mind that cry­ing is your baby’s first form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion – it’s not be­hav­iour to con­trol. Cry­ing in it­self is not harm­ful, but if you’re con­cerned that your child is cry­ing too much or seems to be in pain, have him checked out by a health pro­fes­sional. Pro­vide re­as­sur­ance by stay­ing close and re­main­ing calm. Swad­dling also set­tles the ner­vous sys­tem, keeps limbs from flail­ing and es­ca­lat­ing the up­set, and helps ba­bies feel se­cure. Wear­ing your baby in a sling is an­other good idea as your warmth, fa­mil­iar smell and heart­beat will all work to help soothe your child. It also leaves your arms free to pre­pare din­ner or tend to other lit­tlies!

SOUND IT OUT If there’s a beach nearby, take your lit­tle one for a walk there – not only is the beach a great en­vi­ron­ment for you to un­wind, the repet­i­tive sound of the ocean may help a griz­zling in­fant to set­tle. Other forms of white noise are also help­ful in block­ing sud­den, star­tling sounds. Use the wash­ing ma­chine, vac­uum cleaner, or apps and CDS of white-noise record­ings.

Even if you sing off-key, ba­bies are also soothed by the rhyth­mi­cal sound of po­etry and song, so get croon­ing! Suck­ing also soothes and calms, so try of­fer­ing ex­tra feeds or a dummy (if bub hasn’t al­ready found his thumb!). Also try gen­tle back rubs or pats while your baby lies across your knees, arms or over your shoul­ders.

A deep, warm bath is a great tac­tic for calm­ing. Dim the lights if you can. If your baby doesn’t en­joy his bath, the weight and warmth of a wet washer on his tummy might help him. HUSH, LIT­TLE BABY Above all, move a baby away from any­thing that could lead to sen­sory over­load: turn off the TV, turn the lights down or move to a dark­ened room.

Ar­senic hours are dif­fi­cult for par­ents, so ac­cept help when it’s of­fered and know it’s OK to ask for help. If you need a break, put bub in his cot and take a minute for a breath of fresh air. If things be­come too much to han­dle on your own, ask your GP, child health cen­tre, or or­gan­i­sa­tions such as PANDA or be­yond­blue. Hang in there and take com­fort in know­ing it will pass.

A griz­zly baby can leave par­ents at their wits’ end.

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