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The Inconsolable Baby

Mother calming crying babyYou know how sometimes a baby becomes, for some reason, inconsolable? And no matter what Mom or Dad do, the screaming continues. And no matter how much rocking, or feeding, or burping, or singing, or bouncing goes on, the screaming continues.

And with every second that passes, Mom and Dad both start going just a little more crazy. And their muscles start spasming. And their eyes start twitching. And their teeth start clenching. And they start pulling their own hair out while they try to figure out what is upsetting their baby so much?

Well, I have this theory.

What if the baby is just experiencing a really terrible itch?

Maybe Mommy’s hair brushed across her baby’s nose and left it itching like freaking crazy. And his little arms and brain aren’t developed enough to reach up and scratch it. And the more the baby thinks about it, the worse it gets. And to make it worse, Mommy’s not doing a dang thing about it. Instead she’s forcing milk down his throat or bouncing him up and down, all the meanwhile this itch is threatening the baby’s very ability to be happy or content or love any part of the world at all…

Or maybe after Daddy picked up his baby, lifted her in the air, and kissed her back, his whiskers set an itch in motion that would spread from her back to her shoulders and pretty soon consume every part of her. And her little arms and brain aren’t developed enough to communicate this so she just screams and screams as if to say, “scratch me, dang it!” But Daddy just makes it worse by shoving a binky in her mouth or singing about how everything’s going to be okay.

Seriously. We all know how itches work. We all know what it’s like to have an itch hit us so badly that we have to stop everything we’re doing to scratch it out. We all know how itches spread when we don’t take care of them. We all know how much worse they get when we try to ignore them.

Shoot. Just writing this is making me itch like crazy.

So what if all a parent needs to do for their inconsolable baby is give her a good scratch. Scratch her nose, and back, and legs, and arms. Find the spot that’s itching.

Just a thought.

I never got to test it because I only came up with this theory a couple years ago. But I think I want to have another baby just so that I can test it out.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

PS. What do you think about my theory? What other things could drive a baby crazy that we so easily remedy for ourselves?

PPS. This blog post has also been recorded as a podcast. You know, if you’re into that kind of thing.

125 comments
Eilena
Eilena

ARGH I've had an itchy rash all week and I FINALLY was able to ignore it this morning. And then I read this. CURSE YOU! 

MPMP
MPMP

I love this idea!  I think it may have occurred to me at some point, but I don't recall.  ;)  No more babies for me to test it on (mine are 5 and 7) but I know others with little ones!  I'll pass this on to them.

Elaine MacDonnell
Elaine MacDonnell

I had a 'mentor' to help me with this. "put her down and leave her alone" was the advice. I was being too attentive and overstimulating my baby girl. hard lesson to learn

brittanykerlin
brittanykerlin

often, when my babies are like that i  find one of my (3 foot long) hairs wrapped his pinky toe.  not comfortable, I'm sure!

Kimberly Snelgrove
Kimberly Snelgrove

Next time I have a baby and this happens, I will test out the theory and let you know. :)

Susan Dowman-Nevling
Susan Dowman-Nevling

Never thought of an itch theory before but it could be part of the problem at times.

BrianaCooper
BrianaCooper

I don't know about an itch but I have started wondering if babies/small children have headaches. Think about this: if your head hurts and you don't know what it is, just that it hurts, you would be pretty inconsolable too.

Cynthia Bohli
Cynthia Bohli

When Our elder son was in his 2nd month, my husband got pneumonia. The baby & I slept in the living room, since hubby needed to be near the only bathroom next to our bedroom. Our son had many, many of those inconsolable nights, and I'm sure it was because he could sense how stressed & exhausted I was. It was just AWFUL! I really don't know how I survived b/c i felt like I was going mad. Here we are, 18 yrs later, and the kid is about to graduate. Man, I feel OLD!

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Bonnie Stroupe

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Jetteyeknight
Jetteyeknight

Um, nix on having the baby just to test the theory.  Now that it's out there, all current inconsolable baby guardians, please speak up so Dan doesn't have to go to this extreme.

Mary Andrews Flanagan
Mary Andrews Flanagan

I've been itching since I read this. We'd better test out the theory on a baby I think. When mine was young, I often did some basic massages with a little lotion all over and that often calmed them. Mine also really calmed just by feeling my touch on them. And breast feeding doesn't have much to do with calm or fussy babies. If mom has something spicy or upsetting, it then transfers to the baby and can cause them more fussiness from drinking the milk.

Judy Kress
Judy Kress

Baby's cry for a reason, even if it is just that you left the room. My little 5 year old grandson used to just be screeming (unconconsolably), then when you stepped outside with him, he stopped. So began our walks down the lane, we picked leaves, he rang the chimes and one time a bear ran accross the road right in front of us. Scarred me but he didn't mind.

gignfoxysmom
gignfoxysmom

Fabulous! What a great thought!!

My two however, did have something that drove them both bananas. I discovered it when my older one, was 7 mos and walking on his own - he'd pull his socks off. Constantly. He'd rather walk through snow, or on hot lava than have socks on. Footy jammies? He was okay. Took him until he was a year, and now I know with my little one, it's the seams on the socks rubbing on their toes that drive them crazy!


CrissyLance
CrissyLance

You could be on to something.  I know I used to try baby massage when my oldest was a baby and would just be crying and crying.  It helped him relax.  I later found out he had facial ticks and I think he had been dealing with them since he was a very little baby.  They would cause him to jerk his head and made it hard for him to sleep. We only discovered it in second grade when he would try to focus on the page to read.  His little head kept going up slightly and he would become more and more frustrated as he could not focus and keep his eyes on the page.  The doctors thought I was insane when I kept telling them he only sleeps for like an hour at a time.  It would be infuriating to be itchy and not be able to tell anybody. 

SquarePegNHole
SquarePegNHole

One of my six, loved to have his head scratched.  Really gentle, but do it for 2 or 3 minutes and his eyes would roll up and his body would become limp.  You might think seizure ...  but the minute you stopped, he was wide awake and ready to go on to something else.

boricuababe723
boricuababe723

I've noticed most of my children's inconsolable moments correlated with their attempting to do something that they can't do because they haven't reached the appropriate stage of development yet (either physically or cognitively). For example, when my daughter (5 months old) randomly cries it may just be her wanting to get up and play with her brother and sister but she just can't do it because her motor skills aren't developed enough or when she's trying to talk and just gets frustrated because she knows what she wants to say but she just can't form the words properly. This is pretty aligned with your "itch" theory considering that it would be something that can easily cause frustration because it's something a baby cannot accomplish on their own yet. Next time nothing works when trying to console her, I will attempt to scratch her all over and see how it works out.

Krista Lord
Krista Lord

Haha, just read the article and it appears we have the same theory! I think we're on to something!

Krista Lord
Krista Lord

My theory has always been: "What if they have an itch on their butt?"

ShirleyLeePhillips
ShirleyLeePhillips

Not so sure I'd try having another just to test a theory.. lol.  Out of four I never had an inconsolable moment -- fussies, yes.  My theory was and remains that the baby will be as content as Mom or Dad. Note the rising anxiety in your description of the "console-rs". If you want an infant to relax and settle down and you have already investigated probable causes such as diapers, food -but usually only if it is close to a feeding time-, foreign objects (I once heard of a parent accidentally pinning the diaper through baby skin!) -- take babe to a quiet peaceful place, get cuddly, and RELAX!

PS. The itch theory is funny though :)

GingerMannPierce
GingerMannPierce

That actually makes a lot of sense. One of these days when I have grandkids, I'm sure I'll have the chance to try it out. :-)

Katrina Edwards
Katrina Edwards

I think he/she is teething...that's what happened to my son for the first four teeth he had...NOT fun!

Shanan Winters
Shanan Winters

I never used those products on my babies... For more generations than we can count, babies were just fine without lotions and oils. We, as a species, have to tinker and improve *everything.* Sometimes our improvements are great (think: flushing toilets). And many times... not so much.

Lisa Concidine
Lisa Concidine

One of my sons as a baby would sometimes cry inconsolably at night, and there was nothing I could do to help him, I'd rub his body and hold him, and turn off all light or noise, but nothing helped. It wasn't until he was old enough to say a few words that he could tell me his legs were "owie". He was prone to leg cramps through childhood.

Kimberly Derr McManus
Kimberly Derr McManus

I have thought the exact same thing! I found that rubbing baby oil all over my body after showering was causing me to itch. I thought that if baby oil was good for babies, it couldn't be bad for me. My skin wouldn't itch right away so I didn't know until by process of elimination,it was the baby oil. That made me think; what if smothering our babies in lotion, oils, powder, etc., might cause an allergic reaction? What if they are ITCHY and we just don't know it?

Raising Wild Things
Raising Wild Things

Good theory. And I think you def should have another baby to test it out! You've now started a movement of baby scratchers everywhere. ;0

Mary Lynch
Mary Lynch

Totally makes sense to me! (Mother of 3)

Julie Beam
Julie Beam

While my son is 17....so yea old enough to scratch his own itches..lol...I work in a nursery and we get babies that start crying and won't stop. Will have to give this a try! :)

Samantha Russo Hardy
Samantha Russo Hardy

My kids were both breastfed and had inconsolable times... I think sometimes they just need to cry... I was always told, if you've done everything you can for them (fed, burped, clean diaper, rocking, patting.. what have you) Put them in their crib, walk out of the room and close the door. Sometimes that's all you can do to keep from throwing them through a wall... (and save your sanity) Lol

Hilary Cook
Hilary Cook

At Christa Bedwin, of course 'breast fed only' babies have their moments of being inconsolable! I exclusively breast fed for a year each, and although that was the best way to go for them, it certainly wasn't a cure all for every little thing!

Val Catlin Payne
Val Catlin Payne

Yesterday I had an inconsolable baby - went to change his diaper and found glitter in there. Talk about an itch. And no. I have no idea (other than the fact that he has a big sister) how the glitter got in his diaper.

Jeanne Marie Crosby
Jeanne Marie Crosby

Axe body spray is evil. My allergist says he sees more people having breathing issues due to fragrance than anything else. Especially babies. He says mom comes in reeking of whatever fragrance is all the rave and doesn't understand why her kid is crying all the time. Sadly they wont give it up more than half the time.

Christa Sola Bedwin
Christa Sola Bedwin

Do breast fed-only babies get inconsolable? I think the cause is likely parents who are disconnected from the universe, or something with the baby disconnected. Call me a hippie, but that's my theory.

Christa Sola Bedwin
Christa Sola Bedwin

Any number of women will be offering to give you another baby now. I'm free... and my baby was never inconsolable.

Sara Brodt
Sara Brodt

Hahaha oh my gosh! That could be it-you may have just solved it

Terri Rash
Terri Rash

I'm going to remember that next time I have to deal with a fussy baby....

Hilary Cook
Hilary Cook

Awesome theory! You could probably develop a technique for itching your infant, write a small book about it, (of course title it something sellable like "itch your infant and sleep through the night") and you would sell a billion copies!

Jessica Jaramillo
Jessica Jaramillo

Totally legit!!! My youngest had eczema and I bet itching was a lot of his problem! also, as I was reading this I caught my self scratching my arm...contagious itching.

Colleen Whale
Colleen Whale

If that's the case, I had a very itchy baby for about three months straight! :)

W Broadous B Gersch
W Broadous B Gersch

that is brilliant! I want a baby so I can test it out too! LOL...I have a noisy little one next door...suggestion time! lolol

Casey Cunningham
Casey Cunningham

Sounds completely plausible to me, but what do I know...

Very
Very

@ShirleyLeePhillips Having had an inconsolable baby for 11.5 weeks straight, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week without a moment's break - and it suddenly stopped overnight like someone flipped a switch... I feel very confident telling you it's not just about how calm the parent is. It could be any number of things other than parenting at the root of the problem - from illness, to pain, to autism, and yes, maybe even an itch. 

Dan, I will admit that in all those weeks it never occurred to me there could be an itch. It is a highly plausible idea IMO.

MPMP
MPMP

@Samantha Russo Hardy  I was told that babies get stressed and tired at the end of their day too - just like we do.  You know that "witching hour (or two)" that always seemed to hit around dinner time?  It was just them releasing their stresses of the day.  When my two would get there, I'd end up just walking laps around the house and/or yard.  There wasn't much else to do.  It was when this started that I figured out to make dinner after lunchtime and just keep in the fridge to reheat later.  :)  If you've checked everything you can think of, it's ok to cry.  It won't hurt them.

Very
Very

@Christa Bedwin See my post earlier where I describe my 11 weeks of hell-baby who screamed the house down until suddenly it stopped overnight with no explanation. Fully breast fed. I'm sure breast feeding helps eliminate a bunch of problems, but it's really not that simple. I know my story is not uncommon. 

 And for the record, I was certainly not disconnected from anything.