This, too, Shall Pass: Dealing With Colic
September 16, 2013 8:00:00 AM EDT
Last week, we had a particularly rough night. Our youngest was getting over a cold and working on another tooth, so needless to say, he had been a bit cranky. I wanted to hop in the shower and like I usually do, I brought him in with me. Most times he will sit in the tub and play with his toys while I wash off, and then I wash him up. This night though, he was not having it! As I tried to wash my hair, he cried and climbed up my legs, reaching for me told hold him. Not wanting to get soap in his eyes, I gave up on my hair, washed him, then called for my husband to come and take him so I could finish up. As I handed him off, he completely lost it. He arched his back, screaming as loud as he could. I tried to reassure him, “I am just going to wash off real quick, it’ll just take a second.” Hubby took him into the other room, and my heart broke as I heard a cry come from my baby that I hadn’t heard in a very long time…
This time last year, I was spending every evening trying to soothe an inconsolable six-week-old. It’s such a helpless feeling, knowing your child is hurting and not being able to do anything to help. I made an appointment with his pediatrician to see what could be causing him so much pain. I explained to his doctor that every evening, usually starting around 7pm, he would start to cry. His whole body would stiffen up and it seemed like he was hurting terribly. Eventually his cries would turn into full-fledged screams. This would go on for about three hours, and then as mysteriously as it began, he would stop crying and I would nurse him to sleep.
After she thoroughly examined him, she told me that my baby was perfectly fine. He was growing the way he should be and looked great. She explained that as long as baby is healthy and growing, it is believed that baby has colic if he or she cries:
-more than three hours a day
-more than three days a week
-and it lasts for more than three weeks
I was relieved that there was nothing seriously wrong with my baby, but a bit frustrated that she could not offer me any real solutions or a cure for colic. She informed me that most babies grow out of it by three or four months of age. Being that he was only six weeks old, 3-4 months seemed a long way away…
I continued to try to find different ways to soothe my baby. I tried different holds and carries, gas drops, natural colic remedies, white noise…. I even tried an elimination diet, but no luck. The screaming continued….
Then one evening, to give my arms a break I decided to put him in my stretchy wrap. Whenever we would go to the grocery store, the bouncing movement while I walked would always put him to sleep. I kept his legs in the froggy position and nestled him to my chest in the wrap. I decided to walk outside, hoping the fresh air and a change of scenery would help… Soon after we walked out the door his screams turned into soft whimpers. As we walked up and down the road he gently bounced in rhythm with my steps. Soon the only sounds to be heard were the crickets singing. The crying had stopped!
Walking with him snuggled in the wrap up and down the road became our evening ritual. For some reason, it calmed him and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to get him relief from whatever was causing him so much distress. We continued this for the next three months. Then, late one evening as my baby smiled and cooed at me, my husband said, “Hey, no crying tonight!” It was over! We made it! From that point forward our evenings were much more peaceful.
Fast forward back to last week…I hopped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. I could hear my son still screaming as my husband tried to console him. I rushed to the bedroom and threw on some clothes. As Hubby brought him into the bedroom the crying stopped. He looked at me with his sad eyes and every few seconds would do a little sniffle. The way he looked at me, at first I thought my son was mad at me…until I walked toward him and he immediately reached for me. He nestled his head to my chest and I cradled him in my arms. He just wanted his mommy. He cries because that’s how he communicates. He is still too young to be able to tell us what is wrong and what exactly he wants.
Most of the time, when a baby cries it’s because they’re trying to tell you they need something. They may be hungry, need their diaper changed, are too hot, too cold, scared… and usually once their need is met, the crying stops. With colic, unfortunately, it just has to run its course. However, there are some things you can try that may help give your baby some relief. What works for one baby may not work for another, but here are some recommendations that may be worth a shot:
-Some babies find relief from being carried certain ways. Try experimenting with holding your baby in different positions while you gently rock, swing, or bounce. Dr. William Sears, who wrote The Baby Book with a good section on colic, finds that different “colic carries” that put gentle pressure on baby’s stomach can help alleviate pain.
-Try a carrier. For for my son, having his legs bent up in the froggy position, gentle bouncing as we walked, and feeling snug and secure against my chest in the wrap was the perfect combination. It may not work for every baby, but it was invaluable to us!
-White noise can also help babies. Although it didn’t help with our youngest, the sound of a fan or vacuum cleaner always seemed to do the trick for our older kids when nothing else seemed to work. Like magic, the crying would stop! I have heard that it reminds them of being back in the womb, which apparently must be a good place to be.
-Talk to your baby’s pediatrician about whether smaller, more frequent feedings would help and what they would recommend for breastfeeding moms. I had issues with oversupply and forceful letdown. Since my baby was gaining weight well, feeding from one breast per feeding and alternating each time helped so I wasn’t overfilling his stomach. Speak with you pediatrician or lactation consult for their recommendations.
-Most breastfeeding mothers don’t have to worry what they eat. A small percentage of babies, however, may have a hard time tolerating certain foods in mom’s diet such as dairy, caffeine, citrus, and spicy foods. Talk to your doctor to see if an elimination diet may be worth a try.
Just know that you are not alone. There are other parents going through the same exact thing you are. It can be very frustrating when nothing you try works to calm your baby. If you ever feel overwhelmed, ask for help! If no one is around and you feel like you are at your wits end, put baby in a safe place and step away for a little bit. The best thing you can do for your baby is remain calm and empathetic. Your baby needs to know that he or she is safe and loved. Colic does end, and when you and your baby conquer this difficult chapter of parenthood, you will come out stronger than you were before. Soon colic will be nothing more than a distant memory, and those stressful evenings, full of tears, will be replaced by more peaceful ones. Until then….
*This post is not intended to be used as medical advice. Any concerns about your baby’s well-being should be first and foremost addressed by his or her health care provider. Always check with your doctor before giving baby any prescription or over the counter remedies.
***I have purchased all products mentioned in this post. Although I am compensated for my time writing, all opinions are 100% my own.
Stephanie Beck is the mother of a dinosaur expert, a set of twins somehow born 13 months apart, and a wild baby boy. After losing her job as a doctor’s nurse (while on maternity leave) for standing up for her rights to pump at work, she went back to her previous job as a Labor and Delivery nurse. While she was so happy to be back in a job she loved, the newest member of her family could not tolerate being separated from her. He refused to take a bottle no matter what she and her husband tried, and screamed the entire time she was away. She realized as much as her family needed that extra money, her baby needed her more. Now Stephanie is learning to adjust to being a one income household and blogs about her adventures in attachment parenting at apronstringsattached.com. She is very excited to be blogging for TGN!