Up until a few nights ago, I would have said that Jack doesn't usually cry without reason. The trick to keeping him peaceful and happy is to figure out what he needs before he has to resort to crying. We've learned how to identify and deal with the following signals: wants to nurse, wants to be held, needs help to burp, or has gas. (I would add "needs a fresh diaper", except that Jack does not appear to be bothered in the slightest by urine or poo... I'm not sure whether I should be happy about that or not). When we figure out what he needs and are able to help him, it's very satisfying for everybody. The trouble is, Jack's needs are getting more complicated as time goes on.
Infants across the world experience a bizarre phenomenon that has been cutely termed "the witching hour". Between 5 and 10pm, they fuss. They want to nurse frequently (even if they don't ingest much milk). They want to be held. They want to chat. They want to be swung, and bounced, and moved around. What they want changes every 5 minutes.
Is it gas? Is it pent up energy? Is it overstimulation? Understimulation? Tanking up on milk for a long nap at night? Knowledge that all mom and dad want to do is relax and hang out with a non-screaming baby? Whatever it is -- and, really, no one knows -- Jack appears to have entered this stage. At 5pm, the fussiness begins. By 8 or 9, he starts crying inconsolably. It's so friggin' sad.
We had an absolutely miserable night last night. He was up all afternoon and refused to nap. His prolonged state of needy alertness turned to fussiness, which resulted in regular boughts of sobbing. At 8:40pm, I started dancing with him. At 9:00, he finally got "blinky eyed" (the first sign of sleep) and eventually closed his eyes. At 9:30, I carefully shifted him to a horizontal position with his back on the bed and my arms still cradling him. At 9:40, I removed my arms. And at 9:50, I put him in his co-sleeper. He did not sleep for long, and he cried severely each time he woke up.
Tonight, Greg and I had a plan. We would make sure he napped at around 7pm. We wouldn't let him get worked up for a second. We jiggled and bounced. We turned him on his side and flexed his legs. We cooed and babbled to him. We gave him tummy time. We offered him our fingers to suck on. We distracted him with funny noises. We went vertical and horizontal. We (I) nursed and burped him and changed diapers. We danced with him. We changed techniques every 5 minutes. And then we swaddled him. And then he fell asleep, peacefully. It was a lot of work to keep him relatively calm for so long, but we are hoping that it circumvented a total meltdown.
We are also hoping he'll sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours!