Four Surprising Reasons Your Baby Is Fussy

Hi Mama,

If you're reading this post, you probably meet one of these three descriptions:

  • you're pregnant and wondering how you might be able to prevent your baby from being fussy
  • you have a newborn baby who's fussy right now
  • you've had a fussy newborn and are still bewildered by what you were doing "wrong"

First of all, if your baby is fussy right now or was in the past (despite everything you tried to calm her down) please know this...

You're NOT doing anything WRONG.  

In fact, you're probably doing a lot of things RIGHT.

If you're loving your baby, keeping her safe, and feeding her then you are seriously winning, Mama.  Good work.

Next, if you're a pregnant mom and wondering what you don't know that you don't know about fussy babies, again--good work!  The fact that you're here reading this means that you're very likely going to be Rockstar Mom.

You may already know that the first three months of a baby's life are referred to as the Fourth Trimester--essentially the period of time when the baby learns to live outside the constant safety and warmth (and endless supply of nutrients) of your womb.  Some babies breeze through this period of time without creating too much ruckus.  Others.... well, let's just say it's not quite so easy.

But what I'm about to share with you can and will make it easier

The fussiness of the Fourth Trimester is sometimes (often) blamed on things like colic and reflux.  We used to believe that babies came out with ineffective digestive systems and put them on drugs.  What we know now is that these medications are not able to fix the cause of a baby's fussiness...and most of the medications used for colic and/or reflux can actually contribute to worsening gastrointestinal problems. (talk to your healthcare provider for more details)

Knowing that, you likely want to use medication as a last resort!

So I'm going to share with you here 4 things you want to be sure you rule out before resorting to medications for your baby.

1. Breastfeeding can be the cause of your baby's fussiness.

SAY WHAT!?!  Isn't breastfeeding the healthiest and most loving choice you can make for your child?!  YES.  ABSOLUTELY.

But some moms are super-producers (like me).  They make a lot of milk and eject it very quickly after the baby starts to nurse.  Your little one might have a hard time keeping up with the flow, and you'll sometimes recognize that this might be an issue for you and your baby when she seems to choke, cough, gag, or just plain get REALLY MAD within the first couple of minutes of a nursing session.

Overall, this a good problem to have, because your baby is getting a lot of great nutrition and antibodies from you. But overactive letdown in mom cause mean that baby takes in more air when nursing, leading to a gurgly belly, lots of spit up, or a lot of gas coming out the other end. 

Two things I found to be very helpful with this issue?  PATIENCE and PUMPING. Oversupply is very likely to get better with time so just keep going!  And pumping, especially pumping just a little bit right before nursing baby, can help slow down your flow and make it easier on your little one.

One more note: oversupply often gets diagnosed as undersupply, which then has Mom thinking she's not producing enough for her baby.  Please seek the help of an experienced professional if you're uncertain about any breastfeeding challenges you're having.

2. Lip ties and/or tongue ties.

Again, another sneaky cause of fussiness in breastfed babies, especially.  If the connective tissue between your baby's lip and gums or tongue and floor of the mouth are too tight or restrictive, it can make breastfeeding difficult for your precious little one.  

Lip and/or tongue ties can produce many of the same symptoms as we talked about with overactive letdown and oversupply of milk. Fussiness, excessive spit up, noisy belly, and/or a lot of farting :-)

Hopefully there is a doctor in your area (in the St. Louis area, we have Dr. Amy Grawey) who specializes in assessing and possibly correcting these concerns.  (By the way, as a chiropractor, I check all babies for lip and tongue ties to make a preliminary assessment). 

Please know that you may choose to leave your baby's lip or tongue tie uncorrected if she is gaining weight appropriately and there are no other major health concerns.  BUT.... regardless of if you choose to have your child undergo a frenectomy, she should also receive myofascial and cranial work by someone trained to perform it.  

Did you read that last sentence and then think "What the what is that?!?" Let me explain it like this:

If you glued your lip to your gums, can you imagine how restricted the movement of your lip would be?  Might you sound different when you talked?  Might you have a more difficult time eating food or drinking liquids?  Might you even look different (especially when you smiled)?  Now imagine that you leave the glue for quite some time.  Can you imagine that your facial muscles would begin to work a bit differently?  

Ok, this is why little ones with lip ties or tongue ties deserve to have myofascial and cranial work.  So we can optimize the function of their facial muscles and bones.  So they can eat and drink more easily, develop their speech optimally, and later have a healthy smile. 

So, long story short, if you find at some point that your baby has a lip or tongue tie, be sure to have them checked out by a pediatric chiropractor to help optimize their function and health.  If you're uncertain or just have a hunch that your baby might have a lip or tongue tie, bring him to our office for a preliminary assessment. 

3. It's not her; it's you.

(No one else will tell you what I'm about to share here, Mama.  They are likely all too afraid.  And that's ok :-) )

Hey, remember that college roommate you got stuck with freshman year who complained about everything? She complained that it was too hot, and then too cold.  She hated getting up at 6am for track practice and she hated when her coach called to wake her up.  She hated what a jerk her boyfriend was and she griped about him incessantly.  

Remember how you felt when you were around her all the time?  Like you started to notice some of that negativity coming off on you?

Yeah, your baby could be feeling that exact way right now.  She could simply be fussy because she can sense your discomfort and difficulty adjusting to your new role as 24/7 caretaker of a (albeit adorable) poop-machine.  The challenging part is that she can't talk to you about it.  Or just walk away.  The only outlet she has.... is to cry right along with you. 

If you have had any thoughts of harming your baby or yourself, see your doctor immediately. If you've felt as though you don't want to take care of your baby, please ask for help from someone you trust right away. 

If you and your baby are both safe, then there's more that I want to share with you right now.  Yes, your hormones are changing rapidly right now and that can certainly play a part in your moods.  Blaming your hormones is not a solution, though.  If you're ready, willing and able to change your life, read the book "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie.  If you feel like your hands are physically too full of baby to manage a book right now, get it on audiobook (about $15 bucks on Audible). Send me a message and let me know how doing The Work that Byron Katie teaches changes your outlook.     

4. Your baby's nervous system is irritated.

While basically all of the things we talked about above can essentially be irritation to your baby's nervous system, there's one other point to make here about fussy babies.  

As adults, we're exposed to all kinds of things that could cause dysfunction of our nervous systems:  

  • poor quality food (which is everywhere, all around us, every day, tastes so good and is cheap, no less)
  • toxins in the air, that we've been injected with, that are in plastics, and on and on
  • injuries--sports injuries, falls, car accidents and more

When you think about all of the things that you've been exposed to and that could have happened to you by the time you reach your 30s and 40s, it's easy for people to understand why chiropractic care will help their bodies.

But babies (especially newborns) haven't been exposed to this kind stuff...... right?!

Not so fast.

Let's think about nutrition, for example.  While in the womb, the baby's nutritional status was dependent upon the mom's diet.  And not just what she ate while pregnant, but especially what she had eaten in the months and years leading up to conception of her child. It can be pretty challenging for some women to eat very clean diets while pregnant (hello ice cream cravings?!?), and baby can be effected by that.

And how about mental and emotional stress?!  I myself found pregnancy to be a particularly stressful time.  I worried about my health, my baby's health, what work would be like after the baby came, if we had all the supplies we needed (now after two babies I realize all they really need is love, warmth, food and to be kept clean), what labor and delivery would be like and on and on.  Studies have shown that babies born to mothers who experienced higher levels of mental and emotional stress during pregnancy have associated health risks. 

(Read "The Prenatal Prescription" by Dr. Peter Nathanielsz for more amazing information on how a person's health is largely determined by what she experiences in utero)

Besides nutrition and mental/emotional stress from mom, a baby may experience its own physical stress, in a couple of ways:

1. in the womb - if a mom has a tension, restriction or structural anomalies in her uterus, it can cause baby to be cramped for space.  And if baby is cramped for space, he might develop tension in his spine or other areas causing rotation of his head, tilting of his head, favoring one breast while nursing, and later things such as flat spots on his skull.  All of this can also effect his function! (ie, his ability to nurse well, sleep soundly, pee, poop, etc.)

2. during birth - whether your baby made his debut via vaginal delivery or Cesarean, can you image the physical stress on his little body as he moved through (and maybe to some degree was pushed through or pulled out of) your body?!?  When you consider the amount of stress that may occurred to his little spine, it's actually not at all surprising that some babies have issues with their spines that can be corrected with chiropractic care.

Regardless of how the irritation got there, it's really important for parents to know that chiropractic just makes sense for newborns and infants.  

So if you're baby is fussy, I hope I've helped you see some things differently.  Let's recap: 

  • it's very likely not that you're doing something wrong
  • there are some causes of fussiness in babies that most people don't know, don't understand and/or don't recognize
  • the good news is that you have a safe and effective healthcare option for your sweet little one

Hi, I'm Dr. Danielle Eaton, a Holistic Chiropractic Family Physician.  I'm a wife and mom of two little girls.  We are a breastfeeding, babywearing, cosleeping family with a big emphasis on health and love in our home.  

My mission is to help moms ease into motherhood peacefully, naturally, and healthily.  Want to keep learning more about what I share to help other moms and families?  Be sure to subscribe to the Ease Chiropractic newsletter below.