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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

My 2-month-old cries so much more than her sister did, and so much more than all my friends’ babies. Does this mean she’s going to be more difficult later on too?

Q: My 2-month-old cries so much more than my friend’s babies and than my first child. It’s stressful to deal with, but my biggest concern is if this has any bearing on how fussy she will be as she gets older. Will she be crankier than other kids who don’t cry as much as babies?

A: You can put your fears to rest. By and large, the research shows that young babies who are fussy are NOT more likely to grow up to be cranky kids.

There are several reasons for fussing in the early months:

  • Some babies’ central nervous systems are more sensitive and reactive to stimulation from the outside world. This can cause irritability, because these babies are more likely to experience sensory overload. As they mature over the first 3 to 4 months, they usually become better able to handle all the sights and sounds they’re encountering.
  • Your baby might be dealing with reflux, a temporary condition, which occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, which separates the esophagus from the stomach, is relaxed. This allows acidic stomach fluids to back up into the esophagus, causing an uncomfortable, burning sensation.
  • If your baby cries continuously for more than 3 hours, 3 days a week during the first 3 months, she may have colic. (Up to 20 percent of babies have it.) Although the cause is unknown, the condition is temporary and won’t impact your child’s development or personality.

Whatever the cause of your child’s crankiness, what’s most important is to find ways for both you and your baby to cope. Your feelings matter. When parents are stressed, it can increase rather than decrease their child’s fussiness, since even young babies pick up on what their parents are feeling.

If nothing you do to soothe your baby works, put her down for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes they (and you!) need a total break from stimulation—the rocking, singing, and talking—to calm down.



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