This post is completely my opinion. I am not a medical professional, just a mama with a formerly colicky baby, sharing our experience. Always check with your doctor before giving your baby any medicine, changing routines, etc. What worked for us may or may not work for you and your baby – this is just our story and experience.
Oh mama, I have been where you are. I know the helpless feeling that washes over you as your beloved baby screams and twists, no matter how you bounce/rock/sway/burp/love. Just so you know, it is not you that is making your baby scream. Truly. No matter what it seems or how it feels. Your baby adores and loves you, even if it doesn’t seem possible. And I know how you love your baby, no matter how frustrated and even angry you get. Mama of a colicky baby, you are not alone. My first child had colic, and it’s been the biggest test of my mothering yet. I want to share my experience with you, and offer you a little encouragement.
Does your sweet baby cry and scream? Twist about and contort? Have these crying fits predictably? Your baby may have colic, defined as:
A frustrating condition marked by predictable periods of significant distress in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. If your healthy baby cries for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for three weeks or more, they may have colic.’ (Mayo Clinic)
Doctors don’t know what causes colic, and there’s no cure. I am now a mama to two little ones, and I can tell you that my son was definitively colicky (and bless her, my daughter is not!). Here’s what we experienced with him:
My son was born wide-eyed and alert, taking in more of the world than his little brain could handle. He started crying, screaming and not sleeping when he was two weeks old, and cried his way through much of his first year. At first, my husband and I thought it was just how babies were. But the weekend of his baptism, family milling all around our home, several of them whispered to me that they just didn’t think it was ‘normal’ that a babe cry that much and sleep that little. I also recall a friend talking about when ‘newborns wake up from the fog after a few weeks,’ and I remember thinking, “huh?!” Mine was never in a fog – he was awake from day one, and screaming all the time! My son had a full head of hair when he was born, and before he was three months old he had a ring of baldness about an inch above the nape of his neck because he would thrash around in his bassinet and rubbed off his hair. He would sleep up to a few hours at a time (if that), and highly preferred sleeping on one of his parents. I would snuggle him up in a wrap carrier and sometimes he would sleep there. Often he’d sleep upright on my husbands chest, the two of them sitting up in an armchair.
And while well-meaning advice-givers told us to put him in the carseat and drive around, that was never ever an option. If there was anything my baby hated more than sleeping in his crib or bassinet, it was being in his carseat. We hardly left the house because drives were so miserable and we were even more helpless while driving. He wouldn’t take a pacifier often, but he would nurse often. Really often. So I spent most of our days on the couch, nursing and crying with my baby. I loved him so deeply and wanted so badly to ease his pain, and the only thing that stopped his crying was eating. So I fed him constantly.
We were resigned to the fact that we would be housebound with an unhappy baby forever. It was an extremely difficult time in my life as a mama. So how did we cope? What did help? Where is the ray of sunshine?!
If you’ve got a colicky baby, I stand with you, friend. As you sway your perfected mama sway, praying and hoping that this time it will help your bundle to stop screaming and sleep, I’m swaying with you. You are doing a wonderful job, and despite what they’re showing you, your baby adores you. For real.
Here’s what saved us as new parents of a colicky baby:
- The five S system: swaddle, side, shush, swing, suck. We used these principles (from the Happiest Baby on the Block) to try and force sleep and calm on our wee one. We kept a Halo sleepsack on each level of our house and walked laps while holding baby boy on his side. My son wasn’t big on the paci, but he did nurse a lot! When we were able to employ all five of these at once, sometimes he would nod off for a bit. We do these five things with our non-colicky daughter as well, and she’s a champion sleeper.
- Bouncing: My husband bounced while holding our son for hours on a giant blue yoga ball. Sometimes it would lull our baby boy to sleep, and as long as there was a chance of him sleeping, we bounced. And bounced. =)
- Change the scenery: If we could get our little guy into the water or outside, he would often quiet. Sometimes in the middle of the night we’d go out on the deck, just for a minute, and the change of scenery and temperature would provide a minute of respite.
- Infant Gas Drops: we noticed that our son didn’t put out a ton of dirty diapers. We thought perhaps his little tummy was backed up, hurting, and full of gas. He was exclusively breastfed until six months, so I changed my diet: I cut out gluten and dairy, separately and then together. We were hoping that was the ticket, but no such luck. He cried on. So I went back to my regular diet, and once in a while we would give our boy a dropper of gas drops like these. I’m not sure if they helped, but they absolutely made me feel as if I were doing something to help him.
- Sleeping when he slept: honestly. My husband worked at home, and when our son would fall asleep, no matter what time it was, we hustled to bed as well. I know not all parents are able to do this for a myriad of reasons, but if you are able to, SLEEP. Leave the dishes, leave the dirty kitchen floor, leave the laundry and SLEEP.
- Knowing it was a season: we knew it had to end someday. This was a season – a loud, frustrating, exhausting and hard season - that we were enduring together, the three of us (and our patient dog!)
When my son was about ten months old, his crying mostly subsided and he began sleeping 3-4 hours stretches at night. He also would take two short naps a day. By the time he was 18 months old, I could count on a full 11 hours of sleep a night and a solid three hour afternoon nap from him. He is now two and a half, sleeps 12 hours straight every night, and takes a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon. And he only cries when he’s having a regular two year old tantrum =) His digestion is fine, he’s a great eater, and has a sweet & sassy temperament that I’m smitten with =) There is hope, mama. Hang in there. You are a wonderful mother, your baby loves you, one day he or she will stop crying, and you will leave the house again!