Development FAQ: 0-6 months – Behaviour

How can get my 16 week son to be less grizzly and able to amuse himself?

Our son is 16 weeks old and is, for most of the time, a very grizzly baby. He grizzles most of the day and for most of the time doesn’t really seem to want to play. I thought things had changed when he reached 10 weeks as for 3 blissful weeks I had the most contented, smiley, happy baby I could ever ask for. Then it just changed right back and he has been grizzly for the last 3 weeks. I have done nothing different in the routine and am finding things so difficult. Especially when I meet other mums with gorgeous happy babies and mine is just grizzling the whole time!

When I go in to him in the morning I am greeted with huge smiles which continue whilst I change his nappy. I then feed him his milk at 7.15am which he drinks (we were struggling for a couple of weeks to get him to take more than 5-6oz at each feed but he seems to be back on track taking 7-8oz). He is then happy enough for about 10mins on my lap but if I put him under his play gym the grizzling starts and he rolls over and sucks his thumb or just carries on grizzling!

The same happens after each sleep – he wakes all smiley and loves the nappy change (although he cries when I wash and dress him at 8am) and takes his milk well but refuses to play alone, only plays happily with me for a short while, won’t be happy sitting in bouncer chair watching me do chores or be played with and is generally grizzling most of the time. He is starting to want to sit and stand a lot more and right from birth he has always had good head control so I try to spend time doing that with him which he seems happy to do but only for 10mins max. I try tummy time every day but he gets upset after about 2-3mins.

He always seems tired even though he sleeps well and the last couple of days he hasn’t been sleeping great at any of his naps – I can hear him grumbling on and off or chatting or moving around the cot. But this is only recently – he was still tired looking and grizzly even when he slept well.

Also over the last couple of days he has cried on and off from 5.30pm onwards until bedtime at 7pm. My husband baths him slightly later than you recommend at 6.20pm as he likes to do the bath and does it when he gets home but we think my son is so tired by then he just cries and cries. This is only a recent problem and I am surprised as he sleeps for 45mins at 4.15pm. So surely he can’t be tired? If we give the bath at 5.45 or 6pm what do we do with Max for the rest of the time as he will be upset till milk and then he only takes 10mins to drink it.

I just feel exhausted trying to find ways to keep my son entertained and I don’t know how to get him to play for longer than 10mins by himself. Why does he wake all smiles and then for it to change after about 15-20mins? Is there such a thing as a grizzly baby? Should I stop trying to solve it and just accept that my son is like that and hope it will get better as he gets older and can do more?

Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated as am feeling so down about it all. Can’t stop wishing for that lovely happy baby I had for 3 weeks and totally enjoyed.

My son takes 6-8ozs at 7.10am, 10.45am and 2.30pm. He takes 1-2ozs water at 4pm, 5.15pm 5.5ozs, 6.45pm 3ozs, 10.30pm 3.5-4.5ozs. He weighs 15lbs 14ozs.
He naps at 9-9.50am, 12-2.15pm and 4.15-5pm.

All babies have different characters and temperaments. Understanding and accepting your own baby’s will go a long way to help you learn how to cope with him. It is very difficult when you have had a happy baby for a few weeks only to see it all disappear. A baby develops at an amazing rate in the first year. A lot of this development seems to come in stages or phases, followed by a period of relative calm. Just before the next stage is reached, whether it is rolling over, beginning to crawl or beginning to make recognizable sounds, a baby may well be overly fussy, cranky and generally out of sorts. There is a book called “The Wonder Weeks” by Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij which describes the run up to these phases in great detail. [Look on the Recommended Book section of the site.] Reading it may help you understand why your son appears to be grizzly a lot of the time at this age. In a few weeks he will be babbling, using his hands together, and maybe rolling over. Once he is able to do these things he will be more able to amuse himself. At present he is still quite reliant on you to help him explore the world around him.

A baby of this age may be able to amuse himself for 15-20 minutes before becoming bored and either needing a change of scene or some adult interaction. One way to get him to amuse himself alone is to sit with him on his play mat and show him a toy on his gym. Stay with him for a few minutes encouraging him to swipe at the toys but letting him do it rather than yourself. Being beside him but not always totally interacting and playing with him can help. Then tell him you are going to leave for a few minutes. Stay within sight of him and talk to him about what you are doing. It can be difficult to “talk” to a small baby and, although some mothers seem to do it naturally, for others it takes much more effort. Because it is a one way conversation it can be hard, but keep on telling him what you are doing and what you are going to do as you go about your chores.

At present he seems only able to manage about ten minutes before needing a change of scene. If you encourage him by both playing with him and staying near but letting him amuse himself for short times you will gradually notice he gets better at amusing himself. Until he has more physical skills he does need a lot of help from you. Work at getting one chore done such as emptying the dishwasher before you go back and interact with him again. Take him from his chair and spend five minutes on the floor practising rolling with him. Then take him with you and have him near you as you do the next chore. Keep your expectations low of how much you will be able to get done whilst he is awake. Look for things which will only take five or ten minutes before you will need to be with your son again.

Take a good look at the toys he has and make sure they are suitable for his stage of development. Some times a baby will prefer to play with something simple such as a wooden spoon, rather than a specially designed rattle or toy. Look around the house for simple, safe items to give him. Beware of sharp edges, small pieces and make sure whatever it is it won’t be harmed if sucked. Just have one or two toys out at once. Over stimulation with too much to look at and grab for is often a reason why babies are unable to settle to any one thing.

Make time each day to get out of the house. Sitting in his pram your son will be able to look at the world around him. Try to go to different places, such as the park, as well as shopping. Stop and look at a flower stand or watch the leaves blowing from the tree. Encouraging his interest in what is going on around him will help him take a little more interest in the world.

Consider starting a class with your son. Massage or baby yoga could help deepen the bond between you. Most babies adore both. You could also consider a swimming class which would give him plenty of exercise and stimulation. With so much on offer now to mothers it can be easy to over schedule, but two different activities in the week would help break up the days a little and give you something to look forward to.

From your notes, your son seems to be feeding and napping at regular times. He is maybe a baby who needs slightly more sleep and is still not able to stay awake for a full two hours before needing to nap again. Although he still naps in the afternoon, crying after his bath time is most likely to be through tiredness. Would it be possible to have your son all ready to go into the bath as soon as your husband is home from work? He could be in the bathroom enjoying a kick with no nappy on and so be ready. If you do decide to bring his bath time forward he will still be having his milk around 6.15pm and then may be happy to have a short play before bedtime. If tiredness is an issue many babies of this age are settled at 6.30pm/6.45pm.

Watch him in the day for signs of tiredness and take him up to his room for a quiet ten or fifteen minutes before he settles for a nap. He may need to go down slightly earlier than he has been, in order to settle and sleep better. A baby who is tired will not be able to amuse themselves well and so resort to thumb sucking or grizzling.

Another thing to look at is his feeding. Does he take his bottles really quickly? If he does he may be a baby who needs a break and short play mid feed so he is actually sucking over a longer stretch of time. Although he is only 16 weeks old he is quite big and you may need to discuss with your health visitor or doctor the best time to wean him.

Once your son is physically more able to do things for himself, such as rolling and holding toys well, he may begin to be less grizzly and demanding of your time. It is hard work when you feel that nothing is satisfying him but after just a few changes, such as earlier naps, taking him out and about and having lower expectations yourself of what you want to achieve in the day, you will probably feel happier about this stage of your son’s life.

Development FAQ: 0-6 months – Behaviour

My daughter of almost 4mths seems quite a grumpy baby and is unable to amuse herself for any length of time unlike other babies of her age

My daughter is a very grumpy baby and seems to cry more than other children I see. She is almost 17 weeks now and spends little quiet time with me or on her own. She needs quite constant attention and holding, rocking, talking, singing, playing etc. I don’t mind doing any of this as she’s my first baby and I have a lot of time to spend with her.
She goes down with small amount of fuss for naps but after ten minutes is asleep and sleeps from 6.30pm to 6.30am most nights. She loves her food so I have little to complain about.

I do get regular smiles and the rare giggle. I just want her to be happier. Am I doing something wrong or is there something else I could be doing to help? She doesn’t seem tired except at night after bath time and before feeding. She can’t be hungry as drinks she 2 8oz bottles at least as well as breast feeding.

She hates any fuss and screams when getting dressed, getting a coat and hat on, being put into a car seat or a pram. She just seems angry most of the time when other babies I see at baby massage class lie down laughing and gurgling, my daughter disrupts the class with crying and leaves her mum looking inadequate and embarrassed.
Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

My daughter breast feeds at 7am and 2.30pm and has 8-9ozs of formula at 11am and 6pm.

She naps at 8.45-9.30am and 12-2.00pm. She settles at 6.30pm and sleeps through to 6.30am.

Babies all have different temperaments, in the same way as adults. They react differently to situations. Some seem to take the world in their stride and others find it quite a bewildering and overwhelming place. If your daughter is a baby who is rather sensitive she may take longer to get used to new situations, such as a massage class. This doesn’t mean you have to stop taking her out and about to meet other babies and children but you may need to help her get used to the world. At the same time, it is a good idea if she does become more used to amusing herself for short periods of time. You can help her in this as well, by not always interacting with her but being nearby should she need you.

Start by helping her play alone for short periods. To begin with this may only be for a few minutes but, if you work on it gradually, you can build up her time. At this age it is reasonable to expect a baby to be content for 15-20 minutes without needing your attention. This is more likely with a baby who has always been allowed to have short spells alone, either under a play gym or mobile or on their tummy looking at a mirror or toys, with an adult close by but not always interacting with them.

Choose a time of day when your daughter is not getting hungry or tired. Keep your own attitude playful and light. Babies are very sensitive to adult emotions and can sense if you are tense or stressed. Lay out her play mat with two toys such as a mirror and a book of simple outlined pictures. Talk to her as you lay her down, and then sit beside her. If she starts to cry straight away don’t pick her up. Talk to her about the pictures in the book or say,” Look, can you see… [your daughter’s name]” and tap on the mirror. If she does begin to take an interest in the book or mirror quietly observe her rather than talking to her all the time. All babies need plenty of interaction but they also need time on their own to find out things for themselves. It may only be five minutes before she seems to be unhappy again. Console her for a few minutes then try again leaving her to look at herself in the mirror or look at her book. Rather than overwhelm her with different toys or amusements it is better to stay with one or two things at a time. Make the first few occasions short but gradually increase the time she will amuse herself, by looking at or holding a simple toy, without needing your interaction.

Find rattles and playthings which are suitable for her age. There is no point in giving her toys which are too old for her hoping it might encourage her to progress faster. She needs toys which will help her practise the skills she has already. If she is quite adept at holding a small light rattle in her hand then offer her that, although it may appear rather simple and lacking in excitement to you. If she is able to wave it without hitting herself in the face, bring it to her mouth to gum it and maybe even pass it from one hand to the other, she is practising a variety of skills. At some times in the day she may enjoy playing with a rattle. At others, if she is getting tired, she may prefer a quieter occupation such as looking at her reflection in a mirror. If you can find one which is a wedge shape you can encourage her to have a short time on her tummy each day. This will help her physical development and let her see her world from a different viewpoint.

There will still be plenty of times when you do need to pick up your daughter and amuse her. Don’t feel this always has to be with singing and playing. She will like the sound of your voice just talking to her about what you are doing. Over stimulating a baby can be as damaging as under stimulation. They may want to be with you to feel secure but you do not have to be a one woman entertainment centre all day long. Because you do have a lot of time to spend with your baby it is easy to always feel you should be “doing” something with her. Let her become an observer as well. Talk to her about what you see from the window, what you are going to cook for supper, what you need to write on the shopping list. The actual language may be beyond her comprehension but she will respond in her own way by beginning to babble and chat to you.

Comparing your daughter with other babies of her age is not going to help her. All babies develop at a different rate and have different temperaments and characters. Look at your daughter in her own light. She will have her own unique character. She may not be so willing to lie and gurgle when massaged but she may be able to lift her head well when on her tummy. If your daughter has never been happy to have her nappy changed or be undressed she will take a while to enjoy massage. Again, your own attitude is important as well. If you are tense and worried that she may cry when being massaged she probably will cry. Try to relax and enjoy being with other mums for their company rather than comparing your baby with theirs. If you relax, your daughter will begin to do so as well.

Handling a sensitive baby takes time and patience. Reassure your daughter by telling her what is going to happen next. You need to respect her own physical space. Although it may take longer to get her ready to go out in the car or get undressed, try talking through the process with her each time For example, when preparing her for her massage class, tell her that you are going to get her undressed and talk to her reassuringly as you go through the process. Many babies do not like the feel of air on their skin. Keep part of her covered with a muslin or small towel to see if she can relax a little more. If she needs to be picked up and cuddled during the session then do so. Gradually, as she feels more secure, she will begin to enjoy the class. Also, before changing her, tell her what you are going to do. Although it will be several months before she “talks” back to you tell her before you lift her legs, or take off her tights, as the sound of your voice will reassure her.

Your daughter will feel more secure if she is not suddenly moved from one activity to another. The more you try to help your daughter now, and allow for her rather sensitive nature the more enjoyment you will get from seeing her begin to relax and enjoy life knowing that the security of your arms is always near, should she need it.

Development FAQ: 0-6 months – Behaviour

My 15 week daughter has begun to become very fussy and crying a lot over the past two weeks

I have been following the CLB routine from birth with my 15 week old daughter. I have had to adjust the 10.30pm feed to keep her up for an hour as you suggest which is working and now finally she is sleeping though for the last week. (I intend to follow your advice and cut the time down that she’s up)

But for the last two weeks she is very fussy and nearly crying all the time. I cannot put her down for five minutes which is not normally like her. I have tried to get her more interesting toys and a new door bouncer. I tried to change her formula (onto cow and gate Omneo Comfort in case she was getting tummy upset ) this didn’t work she ended up with almost water poo after two bottles so I put her back on SMA white. I’ ve changed her bottles to tommiee tippee health check to reduce any wind , she is teething and I am giving bonjela( the banana favored one only when I really need to ) but nothing has worked and she is becoming more and more wingy every day. I am coming to the end of my tether and got very upset today. She is eating and sleeping, I just don’t know what to do.

My daughter feeds at 7am 6ozs, 11am 6ozs, 2.00pm 6ozs, 6.00pm 5ozs, 7pm 3ozs, 10pm 4ozs, 11pm 2ozs. She takes 2ozs of pear juice at 4pm.

My daughter naps at 9-10am, 12-2.00pm. She settles to sleep at 7pm.

Although your daughter is eating and sleeping well it would be a good idea to have her checked over by your doctor for any signs of gastric problems. Changing formulas should really be done after asking a doctor’s or health visitor’s advice as it can cause slight digestive upset for a few days.

Once you have had your daughter checked over and are reassured that there are no clinical reasons for her clinginess then try to find ways to organize your day so that you have times when you are with her and short spells when you encourage her to play on her own. A baby needs to play on her own as well as spending time playing with you. Getting your daughter used to both will help her be able to amuse herself for short spells of time without becoming too clingy and whiney, trying to get you to pay her some attention.

A baby of this age is beginning to form attachments to her main carer, which is you. It can be difficult if you feel that your daughter wants to be picked up all the time, having been content to play on her mat when younger. This is why it is a good plan to split your day up into sections.

Have some time when she is with you while you work, some time when you actively play with her, and part of the day when she amuses herself for short periods of time. Try to take her with you from room to room, using her baby chair. She then can be near to you and see what you are doing. Talk to her as much as possible, even though she is only just beginning to make sounds herself. It may sound silly talking to a baby about what you are cooking, what you need to buy at the shops, what jobs you need to get done, but she is a willing listener. Look at her as you talk, and be quite expressive in your face. This will encourage her to “talk” back to you. Put on a CD of nursery songs and sing along to them, if you remember the words. You could have this playing whilst trying to get the household chores done and keep drawing her attention to it.

Your daughter depends on you to provide her with stimulation as she is unable to yet do much for herself. After a short time of being in her chair watching you, spend some time playing with your daughter on her mat or on your knee. Show her a toy and encourage her to reach out for it. She may be able to hold a toy by now, and will also be fascinated by her hands. Sit close to her and encourage her to grasp, grab and swat at toys on her play gym, as this will develop her hand-eye coordination. If she has not quite reached this stage of development some of her clinginess and whining could be through frustration. Once your daughter has become more dexterous with her hands, and can hold and manipulate her toys better, you may find this phase of clinginess and whining passes. If she has had a play gym for some time hang some different toys on it, or find some shiny paper you can cut into spirals and hang from the frame.

Once your daughter has become interested in her toys whilst you are sitting by her, stay nearby but don’t constantly interact with her. If she seems content to play alone move yourself to a nearby chair and see if she will continue playing. Don’t expect this to go on for very long to begin with. She may last 5-10minutes and then want to be held again. But by using this method every day, spending time with her and then leaving her to amuse herself whilst you stay within sight, she will gradually extend the time she is content to be on the floor.

Play plenty of singing or action games with her, such as “Round and round the garden” and “This little piggy went to market”, through the day as these involve physically touching her which will help reassure her. Also, spend time looking at books with her as she sits on your knee. Talk to her about what you see in the pictures. The sound of your voice will be reassuring to her.

Try to get out for a walk every day if you can. See if there are some local Mother and Baby groups near to you which you can drop into, even if just for half an hour. Talking to other mums will be good for you and your daughter will like to watch the other babies, even if from the safety of your lap.

You may like to look into starting massage or baby yoga classes. Both these activities encourage a lot of physical contact between you and your baby which you both will enjoy. If you have no classes near to you there are videos available to show you how to enjoy these activities with your baby.

Development FAQ: 0-6 months – Behaviour

Should I always be entertaining my 15 week old twins, or is it alright to let them play alone?

I am a mother of 15 week old twins and it seems to me that they get bored quite easily. I spend most of the day trying to amuse them and hold and cuddle them. When I leave them to amuse themselves I feel a great sense of guilt and feel like I should be entertaining them. I need your advice, what do babies of this age need? Constant attention or can I leave them for a few hours a day on their backs or in a bouncing chair? When I say alone I mean I would always look after them but if I can be free to do some other tasks that would be helpful.

It is great that you are thinking about this now, as it can be very easy to give constant attention to your babies which may result in them not being able to amuse themselves for even short periods as they get older

Getting the right balance between interacting with them and leaving them for short spells on their own, whilst you are close by, is what you need to aim for.

Babies of this age are capable of amusing themselves with a toy, or on their mat, for about 15- 20 minutes at a time before getting bored and losing interest. This does mean you may not get a lot of tasks done all at once, but can certainly manage to do a few things of your own whilst staying within sight of them. Some babies may need to learn how to do this. Don’t expect it to happen straight away. You may need to build up the time they are left to play alone, but it is worth doing now before they become too used to constant attention.

After they have fed they may enjoy some time under their play gym. Settle them down and interact for a few minutes and then let them explore and discover the toys for themselves. The added bonus of twins is that they will soon discover each other, which will help them stay amused for perhaps slightly longer periods of time. Stay within sight of them, but certainly get on with some other tasks.

After about 15-20minutes you may find they are beginning to sound a little grizzly and bored. If they are not due a nap then change their scene. Take them with you into the kitchen maybe and let them watch you from their chairs. You don’t need to be physically holding or cuddling them to interact. They will love the sound of your voice. Tell them what you are doing as you busy yourself. Just watching you move around and hearing you chat will amuse them. Some mothers do feel a little silly when chatting to their baby who is not yet able to really reply. But this is how communication starts. They will begin to make noises and coos back to you in response to your voice. You can keep this “conversation” going even if busy cooking or cleaning.

What is important at this age is to realize they do have a limited attention span. Unless very placid in character most babies will want some kind of attention every 20 minutes or so. You can break up your day so you do have times of cuddling and holding. You can also begin to share books with them, naming the objects on the page and talking about what you see. Sing or play nursery rhymes and songs to them as well as just holding and cuddling.

Avoid them becoming over stimulated with too many toys and playthings out at one time. This will result in boredom as they will be unable to settle to any one thing if there is too much on display to distract them. Put them under their gym for one period of play and don’t put anything else out near to them. Once they have explored this either take them along with you, if you move to another part of the house, or change their position again and spend some time interacting with them. Then let them have another spell of being on their own with different toys to look at and play with. Perhaps they could be on the floor with a baby mirror and board book propped up where they can see it.

The toys you provide do need to be right for their level. A baby of this age will not be able to cope with an activity center which requires finger dexterity but they will enjoy grabbing at toys suspended above them on their gym. Always consider what they are capable of doing now rather then trying to push them onto the next stage. So many toys are labelled as “stimulating” or “educational” but a baby will learn at his own pace. Providing them with toys which are too advanced for them now will result in frustration and boredom as they are unable to get any value from them. By the time the toy is suitable for their abilities they will be bored with seeing it and may leave it to one side.

Of course you can spend time playing with your babies but try to hold back from always showing them how a toy works. Play is a baby’s work. Through play they learn about the world around them. For your babies, being given the time and space to do this at their own pace is as important as spending time with you. It is for you as a parent to make sure you get this balance right. A baby who is able to amuse himself now for short periods, who is not always looking for attention or wanting to be carried, will continue to be able to do so as he grows and discovers the world around him. Being twins this may be easier as they will always have each other to watch and amuse. A singleton can easily get to rely too much on his mother’s or carer’s attention and be unable to spend time on his own, if he has never been given that opportunity.

Once you see that they are able to play on their own for short periods you will feel less guilty about not being with them all the time. They need to learn how to play on their own as there is nothing worse than a small child who has been constantly attended to and is unable to play, or even think of playing, alone. It is not the child’s fault that they are like this; the opportunity was never given to them at a young age. If you start now, with short periods of time on their own interspersed with your interaction, either with your voice or a spell of you actually playing with them, they will grow up secure both playing alone and with you. When they are playing on their own, observe them at times and see how they are exploring and discovering all of the time. This standing back from a baby is a good habit to get into as you will be more aware of how they are developing and what their changing needs are.