Q&A: 3-month terrors

Jill writes:

"Maybe there's no "answer" to my question but I thought I'd ask anyway since I'm desperate.  My son is 14 weeks old.  He's been an angel until a week ago.  We went on vacation to Hawaii and shared a mini-van and condo with my sister-in-law and her 11 month old screamer of a son. Now my baby won't go to sleep at night without several hours of crying. I don't know what caused what.  My husband is convinced that our baby learned to cry from listening the other baby cry all week.  My son still goes down for daytime naps like normal.  I put him in bed, sometimes with a pacifier but not always, and then I walk out and he coos himself to sleep.  But nighttime is another story.  He literally screams like I've never heard him before.  He can't be consoled.  I've tried picking him up to console him but he keeps crying.  I've tried burping him.  I've tried nursing him.  I've checked his diaper.  I've even tried just letting him cry since some people swear by that.... NONE of it helps.  Tonight he cried for well over two hours.  It was time for him to eat again, so I fed him but put him in bed before he went to sleep.  I don't want this to become a habit.  I'm already losing my mind and it's been one week!  Any ideas?  Any chance he's teething already?"

Sounds like a fun vacation.

Your husband's theory is as good a guess as any. There's a developmental spurt at 12 weeks and another at 19 weeks (according to The Wonder Weeks, the font of all my spurt info), so unless your son was a few weeks early he should be past the 12-week spurt and not in the zone of the 19-week spurt yet. (If he was a little early it could be the 12-week spurt and he'll be back to normal in a few days--I hope it's as simple as that.)

The other things I can think of are your husband's theory, diet, and teething.

It sounds a little extreme, but if your son was really frightened by his cousin's screaming (and 11-month-olds are loud), it could be sticking with him. We've all known someone who had a very early frightening experience with a dog who ends up being frightened of dogs for years afterward, so why not this? It makes total sense to me that your son got really scared of all the screaming and is just taking awhile to feel secure again. If it's that, the only thing to do is to try to snuggle him as much as you can and make everything as boring and predictable as possible.

Another thing to consider is whether your diet changed at all while you were in Hawaii (or right when you came back). Were you eating something you don't usually eat (like coffee-flavored macadamia nuts or fish tacos), or more of something you usually eat sparingly? Think of the usual suspects: dairy, caffeine, soy, wheat, eggs, corn, and peanuts. Did you start drinking a ton of coffee when you got back to deal with the jet lag? Caffeine has a 90-something-hour half-life in babies, so you'll not-so-gladly pay on Friday for a cup of coffee today if your baby is sensitive to caffeine.

But it's completely possible and reasonable that it's teething. 14 weeks is not too early at all. My older child started teething right around then, and I had two teeth myself at 16 weeks. You never know. Here's another post I wrote about teething (and homeopathic remedies for teething), but let me just list the symptoms of teething again (because it doesn't hurt to have them out in the Googlesphere for frustrated parents to find):

* biting hands or anything that comes near their mouths
* crying out in yelps of pain
* drooling
* runny nose or congestion from drooling
* "smokers' cough" from the drool going down the back of the throat
* spitting or throwing up from drool going into the stomach
* "drool stool," which is shards of drool in the poop (I know, and it's truly stunning when you see it)
* rash around the mouth
* rash around the anus
* acidic poop (sometimes you can even smell the difference) and a burned monkey-butt look after pooping
* tugging or pulling at the ears
* not wanting to nurse
* biting while nursing
* flash fevers (fevers that come out of nowhere and are gone in 30 minutes to an hour)
* extra clinginess
* unexplained restlessness during sleep

And bear in mind that any individual child can have any or all or none of these symptoms. I outlined some medications I give and also some homeopathic treatments in the original teething post.

I think (although in 20 years there will probably be research studies proving me wrong, in which case I fully expect any DIL I have to roll her eyes at me) that 14 weeks is too young for concrete bad dreams. But I think it's possible that he's feeling scared and insecure from spending time with his Amazing Screaming Cousin and that that's combining with teething pain to make a big ball of nighttime suck for the wee lad. Poor little thing. Do whatever you need to to get him to sleep, whether it's rocking or letting him sleep with you (it's never too late to change a sleeping arrangement, so don't shortchange your sleep now because of a fear of creating a bad habit) or whatever you can find that helps the little guy relax enough to drift off.

(I would never ever tell a nursing mother to drink a glass of beer before nursing her son to sleep to help relax them both. But if I did, I would say that Guinness is high in iron and is rumored to help with supply.)

Try to keep in mind that this is a temporary phase. Hang in there.