HELP! MY NEWBORN WON’T STOP CRYING
WHEN A BABY WON’T SETTLE, HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
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.