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Book Review
THE FUSSY BABY (revised edition)

by William Sears, MD and Martha Sears, RN
La Leche League International, 2002
Available from the LLLI Online Store

Reviewed by Molly Emmons
Crescent City CA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 4, July-August 2002, pp. 142-143

Dr. William Sears has just revised and updated his classic book The Fussy Baby, which is designed for parents who have a very demanding infant. The revision retains the comforting “voice” of the original with updates throughout. Sears and Sears have added medical information where needed, as in the section on gastroesophogeal reflux. The chapter on nighttime parenting includes a new section on setting limits for toddlers.

Dr. Sears, a pediatrician and father of eight, describes two of his children as former “high-need babies.” He knows from experience that these babies require extra love, patience, and attention.

This book explains why babies fuss and suggests things that parents can do about it. It also discusses how baby’s temperament traits and the caregiver’s responses work together in the baby’s development and in the adult’s growth as a parent.

The Fussy Baby distinguishes between different kinds of babies and cries; describes symptoms, duration, and probable causes of colic; and offers a new approach to colic, referring to a colicky baby as “a hurting baby.” Sears encourages breastfeeding whenever your baby wishes, “wearing” your baby in a carrier, sleeping with or very near your baby, and responding promptly to all crying.

The chapter on disciplining a toddler helps frazzled parents understand why spanking and battles of will do not work. The book presents a rational groundwork for a more gentle style of parenting and provides a stress test for parents and information on burn-out, which mothers of high-need babies sometimes experience. Since high-need babies need extra attention and patience, Sears calls for active parenting and more support and understanding from fathers.

The book is easy-to-read and contains many stories from real parents that will remind the reader that she is not alone. The last chapter is a typical case study of one couple and their high-need baby. Sears cites many studies to support his approach to parenting the fussy baby, including those that warn that some high-need babies can turn into “problem children” if they are not given sufficient patience and support. Parenting a high-need baby is demanding, but the message Sears delivers repeatedly is that high-need children can grow up to be “sensitive, caring, trusting, fearless individuals.”

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