Q&A: Baby doesn't like to be held
My 15-week-old son is our first and possibly last baby. I am a married 28-year-old business owner who chose to stay at home after he was born. The problem is I never know what is considered "normal" behavior for an infant. He gets cranky very suddenly, and I don't know why. He does have happy periods when he babbles, smiles, rolls over, and seems glad to see us. But, there are also moments when he flails his arms and legs a lot, while he is in his car seat, swing, or bouncy chair. Is this just extra energy, is he frustrated, or is this perfectly normal?
My main question is, why doesn't he want to be held? He hates the cradle position, arches his back and tries to get away, he lets us hold him up over a shoulder for maybe six minutes maximum. I thought babies craved attention and holding. Cooper is generally happy laying under his play gym and in his swing. He will play with us while doing both, but we would like to be able to cuddle with him. Is this a phase? Is it a sign that he hasn't bonded with us? To stay at home after ten years of work is hard enough--does he not like us too?
From looking at this I would say you are describing a classic case of colic.
Let me start with a few words about colic. This “colicky” label applies to babies who are usually between four and 20 weeks of age and who are fussy three or more times a week for a few hours at a time. Evening is the most common time to see it. It’s a behavioral diagnosis, for which there isn’t a proven physical cause.
As a rule, these babies show good weight gain (they are often chubby) and normal development. It’s as if all the stimulation of the day needs an outlet, and crying is the only outlet.
It’s very frustrating for parents–as you well know–and families try hard to find solutions.
Colicky babies are ultimately gassy ones, because babies gulp air as they cry and trapped air results in gas. Simethicone drops are useful only in that they dissolve trapped air bubbles, but gas is often the effect and not the cause of colic.
Formula changes are common, too, and sometimes a new formula seems to help, but if the problem was exclusively a formula intolerance, the symptoms wouldn’t be confined to a certain time of the day. So, I don’t recommend switching to an elemental formula, which easily doubles your cost with no proven advantage.
What may help is changing your bottle system, to one which allows less air to be drawn in during feeding, especially if you have a ‘tough burper’. The Playtex system (or a similar one) with plastic bags inserted into a separate holder and a short, squat nipple usually accomplishes this.
Otherwise, if your baby is growing and thriving, reassurance that he will outgrow this at around four months is sometimes the best advice.
You may be interested in reading Doreen Nagle’s article on colic: When Baby Won’t Stop Crying.