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Fussy periods

Coping with a fussy baby can be a challenge.

fussy periods

From time to time, you may find that your child goes through a fussy period. During these times, your child seems clingier, crankier, cries more and sleeps less.

These fussy periods are different to the cluster feeding or 'witching' times of the day that young babies often have. If your baby is very young, the fussy periods may only last a few days. Later, as the changes your baby goes through become more complex, fussy periods may last a few weeks or more. Most parents find that the interval between fussy periods is a few weeks. 

Fussy periods aren't due to growth spurts or appetite increases 

Originally, everyone thought that fussy periods were 'growth spurts'. However, there is no scientific research that confirms that ‘growth spurts’ do in fact happen.  

Then, we referred to fussy periods as 'appetite increases' because we assumed that babies needed more milk as they grew. During fussy periods, babies often want to breastfeed more frequently so we thought that a baby was asking for more feeds to increase the mother's milk supply. However, research showed that this wasn't true either. Between 1 and 6 months of age exclusively breastfed babies take about the same amount of breastmilk each day.

The truth is that we don’t really know for sure why children have fussy periods and it’s probably a combination of many things including a baby’s temperament. Regardless of what is happening, we know one thing. Responding to your child and giving extra attention (such as more breastfeeds) for a few days, helps the fussy periods to pass. So, even though these times are tiring, they are normal phases your child will go through. 

What can I do when my baby is fussy?

  • Offer frequent feeds. A breastfeed provides sucking and closeness that can help to soothe your baby. 

  • Try a warm, deep bath. 

  • Do gentle baby massage. 

  • Younger babies may like to be swaddled. 

  • Provide soothing sounds - low music, singing, humming, white noise. 

  • Try gentle movements - patting, rocking, swaying, dancing. 

  • Wear your baby in a sling, wrap or carrier. 

  • Go for a walk-outside, or even just to another room. 

  • If your baby is tired use low lighting and reduce environmental noise or distractions.  

  • Look after yourself. Remember to eat and drink, ask for help from family or friends, rest when you can and minimise any jobs.  

  • Share the care with another person or place baby in a safe space if you are alone and need a break. 

Is it just fussiness?

 There may be other reasons for your child's behaviour. They could:   

  • Be unwell e.g. fever or ear infection.  

  • Have nappy rash. 

  • Be teething. 

  • Have allergies or food intolerances

  • Have separation anxiety - a normal developmental phase.  


© Australian Breastfeeding Association April 2022

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