December 30, 2004

crying babies

Several of my friends had babies within a month of us... and it seems that right now we are all dealing with a period of newborn development that happens between 2 and 6 weeks called the adaptive stage in which they fuss often, cry loudly, and are hard to put to sleep. The only thing that soothes the child is his mom. So what to do. In our case we have been going through a small library of books and asking friends with older kids for advice. But frustratingly the books (and our friends) have a range of suggestions often contrary to one another. On one end of the spectrum you have those who say that you should stop jumping ever time the baby cries, establish a routine stick to it, and let the baby cry it out; at the other end you have those who say the baby wants what it wants and for now your job is to fulfill those needs as much as possible. Particularly troublesome for us and most of our friends is the child's tendency to snack... ie to have small feeds and fall asleep at the boob only to wake and appear to be hungry 45 minutes later only to have another tiny snack. The snacking seems to leave the baby more gassy than when he has a big spaced out feeds (and of course the gas leads to more crying). This is particularly hard on the wives who barely have a moment for themselves.

These are the general solutions suggested both by friends and in the books:

Method 1: Don't "reward" the baby for crying by running to him each time he gets hysterical. Establish a fairly strict routine of sleep and feeding with at least 3 hours between feeds. Hold and comfort the baby only when he is not crying, and otherwise let him cry it out. Train the baby, don't let him train you.

Method 2: Map your babies habits fairly rigorously and establish a flexible routine based on his needs. Try to space out feedings as much as possible but don't let the boy get to the shrieking level. The baby is probably using the boob for comfort because he is over-stimulated. A good portion of his crying is not because he's hungry, but because he's tired. Try to get him to sleep much more than you are doing by limiting stimuli, putting him in a darkened room with some white noise. Also limit visitors and trips out. Try wrapping him tightly and allowing him to calm down before the crying gets into the crazy phase. Try having him sleep in a bassinet. Also make sure to put him down before he starts fussing and try soothing him to sleep in the crib (as opposed to in your arms rocking and stimulating him). The more he sleeps the less he will cry and more time you will have between feedings.

Method 3. The baby is in the 4th trimester. It's not even really human yet and in survival mode. It's brain is only 20% functional and what you need to do is simulate the womb environment where he is rocked, fed, warm and comfortable all the time. If he wants the boob, give him the boob. If he wants to feed for 10 minutes let him feed for 10 minutes. The child doesn't understand cause and effect yet. Comfort him by simulating the womb with gentle rocking, by swaddling tightly, and by using white noise. Just know that this phase will end in about 6 weeks and then you can start establishing routines.

#1 doesn't work for us. Neither of us has the ability to just let the kid cry. Also from what I understand about newborn development they don't understand causality so any Pavlovian training you might achieve might also leave the kid with a sense that world isn't secure... I understand why this technique might work later but for newborns...well, not for ours.

Method #2 makes the most sense to me, and I do believe newborns are generally overstimulated (all those new nerve endings are firing at once). Jenn tends towards Method #3 and that's generally what we've been doing, but we're being flexible in trying to figure things out. Ultimately #3 does work for us. The baby does calm down when he feeds and does sleep in Jenn's arms. But the burden is all on Jenn. Other than taking the baby out for stroller rides (which put him right to sleep), method 3 is very mom-centric.

In the meantime. I've created this handy chart for tracking sleep/wake/diaper. In the sleep column I just X out the blocks where he's asleep and use a A for agitated. C for crying. Q for quiet. L for Alert. G for hysterical. In the Feed column I draw boobs with numbers in them for the number of minutes on each. You can probably figure out the diaper column on your own. The chart really helps you get a sense of what's going on and where you might be able to tweak things. For example yesterday we realized the baby had gone almost 7 hours without a decent sleep. That's bad news for a newborn.

Update on the previous post.

Peter's body was not identified, but might have been one of the ones found and quickly buried on Wednesday (there were few foreigners in Kahawa). Peter's wife Alva is apparently on a flight scheduled for later this week and is staying with friends near Colombo. The house was seriously damaged and later looted. Alva is considering leaving Sri Lanka permanently. I have heard all this 2nd hand, so I can't vouch for the accuracy of the information. The family will probably set up some sort of of charity based fund in Peter's name. I'll admit I've been thinking about this all day...

posted at 01:50 AM by raul

Filed under: on kids

TAGS: chart (1) crying babies (1) parenting advice. baby (1) sleep (8)


12/30/04 03:58 PM

have you tried a binky yet? if he's doing all that snacking, maybe he just needs sucking instead of nutrition. Another thought -- keep his extremities covered -- hat, socks. that will help him sleep longer and deeper. If his belly button has fallen off, give him a warm bath before his last evening feeding which when combined with the nursing, will knock him out for hours of productive sleep. he's probably in the middle of his first big growth spurt, that's why he's so fussy!

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