Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

Book Review: Your Fussy Baby May 30, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 3:25 pm
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Book Review: Your Fussy Baby by Marc Weissbluth

I am so grateful for this book. It is the only book on parenting that has made me feel okay about my child. The author has raised four children, one of which happened to be “fussy.” He is also a pediatrician and has extensively studied sleep disorders / sleep issues in children. According to this book, about 20% of babies are considered “extremely fussy.” Using the term “fussy” sounds negative and we all know what happens when we label a child: they become the label. But let’s say that you could use the label because the individual fits the definition and the definition helps you feel more sane about what is going on. Weissbluth states  ad nauseam that all babies get fussy for no apparent reason. It is just that some babies fuss considerably more so than others and he calls these babies “extremely fussy” or the old-school label: “colicky.” Ewwww, no one wants to hear this when talking about babies. But the fact of the matter is our little boy fit right into this category.

How is the fussy baby defined? Extremely fussy / colicky babies cry (or fuss) for more than 3 hours per day, at least 3 days per week, for at least 3 weeks duration. That, to me, seems like a mild definition. But this is the criteria for an extremely fussy baby. Now, to the review:

This book, though quite small, is loaded with information about colic. The introduction really caught my attention with two sentences: that the book is “based on the belief that an informed parent is an effective parent” and “Parents are better able to soothe fussy babies when they understand why newborn babies fuss” (p. xxiii). And it is so true.

It opens by outlining several studies that try to uncover what causes such a condition. Basically, all studies on colic over the past 100 years simply show what does not cause extreme fussiness. The author’s wife shed some light on the subject when investigating the role of melatonin and seratonin in extremely fussy babies. This was the only study in the book that found any positive correlation between any variable and the fussy baby.

The idea that temperament might play a part is discussed and clearly explained. There are many variables and possibilities for how nature and nurture interact in this area. Weissbluth gives several examples of how the extremely fussy baby can be soothed, such as rhythmic rocking motions, swaddling, and lullabies.

The part of the book most helpful to me was the presentation of sleep patterns of extremely fussy babies and what the parent or caregiver can do about them. He gives clear advice of how to avoid sleep problems once the colic has ended at around three or four months.

The author presents the information in an objective way, and maintains consistency of his opinion regarding sleep and causes and treatment of colic throughout the book. He gives different options for people to choose to approach the extremely fussy baby based on lifestyle choices and what the research says is most effective. He gives examples of how to breastfeed or bottle feed and co-sleep or use a crib. These are generally the big issues that divide people on whether to use a certain technique or not. He also gives options for using gradual extinction or just extinction (let cry some vs no cry). I found this to be helpful, since one will often act out of character when faced with a desperate situation.

My take on the book:

I liked this book so much, I borrowed his other book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” from the library. I thought “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem” was the best book, but this one might be better in that it gives you options for how to approach sleep training. This book helped me to accept my fussy baby for who he was and that it isn’t something he can help doing. He isn’t “playing” me; babies don’t know how to do that when they are this young.

Our son has gotten better, aside from his sleep (which is basically horrible). He is happy, smiling and quite easy now at 3 months.


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