I Have An Unhappy Baby

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hello Annie, We have 17-week-old fraternal twin girls, and I have an unhappy baby. We recently relocated the family to Calgary, where we have no support network or friends, and we appear to be having issues with one of the girls. While twin A is always content and happy (and easy to pacify), twin B tends to get in a bad mood about 5 minutes after getting up, and things deteriorate from there. Generally, twin B cries uncontrollably for long stretches between her naps. The problem is probably made worse by the fact that she doesn’t like taking naps and generally increases her crying when put in her crib for her nap.

Both girls are on roughly the same schedule: they go to bed (no problem) at 7 PM, generally wake up for 1 feeding each, and get up at 7 AM. They bottle-feed every 4 hours (and do not appear to be overly hungry…). The problem is really between feedings.

The crying is really taking a toll on my wife, who doesn’t know what to do (nor do I). Our instincts tell us she is tired (although that is hard to believe only 15 minutes after waking), and she is also generally in a very crabby mood and very touchy. Twin B probably requires 90% of our combined efforts… This is made harder by the fact that, while she likes the pacifier, she can’t hold on to it; it constantly falls out of her mouth…

Can you help? Daniel

Hello Daniel,

My baby is unhappyHere are my thoughts. You’re at that stage where your twins are just making the transition from their early months to settled babyhood, if you will. Your twins clearly have very different personalities, with one being much more labour intensive and generally hardworking than the other. This is likely to remain part of the picture, and how you react now will set the stage for that future.

I have an unhappy baby: Assess the problem.

If twin B is always moody and thus gets a disproportionate share of the attention, she will grow to expect it. The extra attention may have a minor effect on her mood, but it will eventually have a larger effect than you might think on her behaviour and that of her twin, A. Think forward to when they’re toddlers, and you’ll see that twin A will eventually clue in that being “low maintenance” results in less attention. Children crave attention and will readily accept negative attention if they believe they are getting the short end of the stick. Therefore, it’s likely that twin A will eventually ramp up her displeasure to compete with that of twin B.

I have an unhappy baby: Figure out the plan and then stick with it.

Ok, so what we have here is a situation where it’s important to start the way you mean to go on because patterns set early on tend to stay with you. However, you should first make sure that twin B is physically healthy. In other words, there isn’t a physical reason for her misery. I would talk to your physician. If you can’t find anything, what you have to do is find those moments when she’s happy, which admittedly may be few and far between at the moment. When you find a happy moment, give her lots of attention. Sing, coo, and play peek-a-boo. Once she gets cranky, start to withdraw your attention. Concentrate on Twin A. Twin B will likely get extraordinarily cross, and the trick will be to let her. If you can start this on a weekend, your wife will have your support, which will be beneficial. Babies don’t tend to have much staying power at 4 months of age, so at one point she will likely fall asleep. When she wakes up, act as though you expect her to be happy. If she isn’t, give her a reasonable opportunity to be pleasant and then withdraw your focus. Provide entertainment for twin A, but keep in mind that your long-term goal is to balance their attention and teach them to be content to entertain themselves for short periods of time. Keep doing the above as long as it is necessary.

I have an unhappy baby: Make her part of the activity but not the focus of it.

When you have an unhappy baby, you can try wearing her for short periods of time, such as in a backpack. Sometimes this calms them down, and being close to mom is soothing. Just make sure you offer the twins an equal opportunity to enjoy you carrying them around. I like back packs because your baby is with you, but you are not continually focused on her, and that is key. Don’t worry too much about the pacifier. If she really needs it, she’ll find a way to make it work. What you want to avoid is having to constantly soothe the baby. Sometimes you want them to soothe themselves, as it’s a skill we all need to learn as we grow up.

I have an unhappy baby: Make the routine work.

Napping is certainly very important for children the age of your twins. It’s very hard to leave a child to cry in their crib. However, learning to fall asleep and relax for naps is something they need at this age. If you feel really uncomfortable, go in at five, ten, fifteen, and then twenty-minute intervals. Say hello in a low, deep, calming voice. (It’s difficult to get the stress out of your voice, but it’s necessary.) Don’t pick up the baby; simply reassure her that you’re still there with a simple sentence. Keep it minimal, and then leave and come back later. She may get extremely mad, but the key is to stay calm, as nap means nap. She will get the idea eventually, as long as you don’t give in.

The proviso in all of this is to have a medical checkup beforehand. I don’t know your family, and I can’t possibly be aware of all the factors you’re dealing with; therefore, it’s sensible to check with your family doctor. I wish you the best of luck and hope this has been helpful. It’s never easy raising children in a new city without family support. If you’d like further information or support, please visit my services page to see the options available.

All the best,


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