Ask Jessi: Why is my newborn fussy at night?

August 20th, 2010by Jessi Arias-Cooper

A Reader Asks:

My son is 2 weeks old and the nights are really rough. It doesn’t seem to matter what I do, I can’t put him down for 10 minutes without him becoming fussy. People told me my the first month or so would hard, but I had no idea how true that is until now. I need some sleep BAD. Why is my newborn so fussy at night?

Jessi Says:

Wow. I’ve been there, mama. Three times.

The nights were so rough the first few weeks, I wondered how anyone could possibly want to have more than one baby. Why would you put yourself through such torture more than once? I even broke down and called my mom in the middle of the night a couple times, bawling my eyes out. I frequently asked her why she would subject herself to two more children after living through the first. It’s nothing short of masochism.

Then I had two more.

Sleepless nights are ugly while they’re going on, but like childbirth, your love for your child overrides the temporary pain of it. A mother’s heart is bigger than any midnight crankiness, or days you’re so tired you walk into walls.

So why is this baby so fussy?

I’m sure you’ve heard someone talk about her baby’s days and nights being “mixed up” and there’s some truth to it. When your baby was occupying your uterus, he was in a nearly constant state of darkness, so the concept of “day” and “night” didn’t exist.

What he did know was, you were at rest at certain times of the day, so he wasn’t being rocked by your movements (while you walked around, exercised or swayed to music) and he didn’t have your soothing voice to lull him to sleep. Your daily activity was actually helping him rest better.

When you were pregnant, did you ever notice that as soon as you sat down to read a book or snuggled into bed for the night, your little man would start bopping around like a crazy person? That’s exactly what’s happening now, except he’s in the outside world, and can voice his need for attention.

I wish I could tell you I have a miracle cure for what ails ya, but I don’t.

There are (thankfully) ways to work with his schedule to get some sleep until his internal clock shifts to a more reasonable schedule.

  • Take naps during the day. If he’s napping, follow his lead. It may be difficult to adjust to at first, but your body needs rest and you have to get it when you can. Don’t waste that precious time on cleaning or doing dishes. Those things will wait. Trust me
  • Enlist help. If you’re parenting with a partner, make sure that he or she is taking turns with the overnight responsibilities. If you’re going it alone, ask for help. You have family and friends who want to be there for you. This is great time to take them up on it. They’d rather take night duty a couple times than see you miserable
  • Don’t turn on the lights. If he’s up before the sun, don’t turn on bright lights or watch exciting TV shows. Making a “daytime” atmosphere confuses your message that this is sleep time. If you need some light, use a small lamp or nightlight. It may be boring, but it’s more restful for both of you
  • Let him hear you. Babies like sound, especially your voice. If he needs to hear you singing softly or reading a book quietly, the sound of your voice may soothe him to sleep faster
  • If you’ve fed and changed him and he’s still fussy, he might have a tummy-ache. Take turns rubbing his back and belly to relieve any gas that might be causing him discomfort. You can also lay him on his back and gently push his legs up so his knees come to his chest. He may toot or belch his way to happily groggy

Hang in there, sister. Every parent has been where you’re at, and many of us went on to have other little ones afterward. You WILL survive this and even laugh about it some day. As an added bonus, you can hold it over his head when he’s a teenager. It gives the “Because I said so” defense some more firepower.

“Why can’t I sleep in? It’s Saturday.”

“Sleep? SLEEP? When you were a baby, I never got WINK of sleep and you didn’t care what day it was. You can’t sleep in, because I say so. See you in 10 minutes.”

See? It all works out in the end. Someday he’ll be asking you why his newborn is so fussy, and you’ll have a story to tell.

Jessi Arias-Cooper is the senior writer and an editor for She is a work-from-home mother of 3 boys and has been married for 10 years. If she had time for hobbies and interests outside of parenting and keeping house, they would be jewelry making, baking, watching bad B-movie horror flicks and creative writing . If you have a question for Jessi, click here.


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