Fussy babies are frustrating, both for parents and their Pediatricians.
Is the baby sick? Is something really wrong?
The first step in figuring out why a baby is fussy is knowing whether this is a new problem or one that has been going on for awhile. A baby that has been fussy for several weeks or months might have colic, a formula intolerance, reflux, or because they have a difficult temperament.
It is more difficult when a baby that has usually been happy all of a sudden becomes fussy, crying, and inconsolable. Although these babies usually need to be seen by their Pediatrician, there are some things you can look for first.
Is he off his usual routine, with a late night or a missed nap? This often happens when you are traveling or you have visitors in your home.
Is he teething?
Does your baby have a fever? Has he had a runny nose or cough? If so, then he might have a simple ear infection.
Does he have sores or blisters in his mouth or on his hands and feet? These sores and blisters could be a sign of a viral infection, like Hand Foot and Mouth disease.
If he has some vomiting and diarrhea, then he might have a stomach virus, especially if other people around him have been sick. Persistent vomiting and a distended and tender abdomen might indicate a more severe infection or a blockage, so seek immediate medical attention if your baby has any of these other symptoms.
Does he have a rash? Insect bites, eczema, or skin irritation can cause an itchy rash that might make a baby fussy as they can't usually get relief from scratching the rash.
In an older, mobile infant, you might also look for signs that he may have fallen and injured himself. Is he moving all of his arms and legs normally? Are any areas of his arms or legs painful when touched or moved? Remember that some injuries in young children, like a Toddler's fracture, might not be red or swollen.
The child without other symptoms is even more confusing.
In this case, a careful examination of your undressed baby can help to find common things that can make a baby fussy.
The first thing to look at is your baby's fingers and toes (check your baby boy's penis too). Are any of them red or swollen? If so, then he may have a hair tourniquet, in which a hair or thread twists and wraps around the extremity and cuts off circulation. This is usually a medical emergency, so if your child's fingers or toes are red, tender and swollen, you should seek immediate medical attention.
An incarcerated hernia can be another cause of inconsolable crying. Check your baby's groin area. Is there an area that is swollen? If so, is it painful when touched? A swollen and painful and swollen bulge in your child's groin could be caused by a hernia that has become trapped. This is also a medical emergency and you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. A hernia that is not painful is not usually a medical emergency, but you should still see your doctor about it.
Another cause of crying in an otherwise healthy baby is a scratched eye. Is his eye red and watery? Does he have other scratches on his face? Although this will usually heal on its own in a few days, your doctor may prescribe antibiotic eye drops or an ointment to prevent the scratch from getting infected, so call your doctor if you suspect this. Fussiness and eye problems can also be caused by infantile glaucoma.
Food intolerances might also cause your child to become fussy. Have you introduced anything new into your baby's diet? If breastfeeding, have you changed your own diet recently?
Management of the Fussy Baby
So what do you do when your baby is fussy?
The first thing you should likely do is check your baby for a fever. Next, get him undressed and give him a good once over. Do you notice any of the problems described above?
If he appears normal, doesn't have a fever, is eating well, and you don't suspect any of the symptoms described above, you might just give him a pain reliever. If that relieves the fussiness, a visit with your Pediatrician the next day might be a good idea.
If he does have a fever and is inconsolable, or you do suspect an injury, hernia, hair tourniquet or any of the other problems described above, then you should call your Pediatrician or seek medical attention.
It can be frustrating taking care of a crying baby, so get help if you are having trouble coping with your infant's crying. Remember that you should never shake your baby, which can cause shaken baby syndrome. Get help if you think you might harm your baby.