THE DETAILS: Overwhelmed parents of fussy babies aren’t always sticking to those guidelines. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics followed low-income families in North Carolina to assess early infant-feeding patterns. Their findings? Though about 70 percent of the babies were fed at least some breast milk in their first month and 20 percent got breast milk exclusively, by age 3 months, things changed. Just 25 percent were being breastfed, and only 5 percent of the babies were getting breast milk exclusively. In addition, almost 20 percent of the babies were fed solid foods or juice by age 1 month; and by 3 months old, 70 percent were getting fed something (often fruit juice or added cereal) in addition to milk or formula. And the mothers who classified their babies as fussy were nearly twice as likely to feed them solid food early, compared with moms who described their child as calm.
WHAT IT MEANS: The concerns here are that not only do young babies not need solids or juice, but that those foods provide lots of extra calories. Infants fed these foods consume 100 more calories a day than infants given only formula or only breast milk, which can lead to babies who are overweight for their height. And sweet fruit juice may soothe a fussy baby in the short run, but establishing an eating pattern based on treating moods with sweets isn’t a good idea in the long run.
Though it’s easier said than done, overwhelmed parents can try other things to calm a fussy infant. For tips on soothing a baby without falling into the trap of giving them extra calories or age-inappropriate food, we turned to Daphne Miller, MD, a family practitioner in San Francisco and author of The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World--Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home. Here are her suggestions:
1: Try gently massaging your baby. See our story Coax Any Cranky Kid to Sleep for techniques to try.
2: Take a walk with your baby and breathe in some fresh air.
3: Put on your favorite music and dance with your baby in a sling or a baby carrier.
4: If you’re breastfeeding, take a look at your diet and eliminate gas-producing foods like coffee, cruciferous veggies, and acidic foods, and see if that makes a difference. Sometimes avoiding dairy can also help.
5: Give your baby a couple of teaspoons of unsweetened chamomile tea.
Most important, says Dr. Miller, understand that this is a passing phase.