On Coping with Colic

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.

Coping With Colic | Twin Cities Moms Blog

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!

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9 Responses to On Coping with Colic

  1. Darcy T July 30, 2014 at 8:18 AM #

    I had back-to-back colicky babies. I felt like I was being punished for something. When you are in it, it is the worst feeling in the world. THE WORST. At one point, I remember thinking “I get why people shake their babies”. I would NEVER EVER shake my baby, but there was a time when things were so bad, I understood how it could happen. I learned to take breaks. If I was home by myself and there was no one to relieve me, I would put in ear buds and turn up music and just tune out the crying. I would put baby in her crib, where I knew she was safe and I would do something constructive so I could be distracted long enough to calm down. I would check on her often, and eventually, I could refocus my attention on her. My girls are now 4 and 6 and I assure you, neither are emotionally scarred from having been left alone to cry in their cribs on occasion. Bottom line, colic is something that you CANNOT change (believe me, two babies, I tried EVERYTHING IN THE BOOK and nothing worked), but you can learn to just power through it and know that it will pass……

    • Amy July 30, 2014 at 3:38 PM #

      I completely agree. Our first was colicky and the best advice my pediatrician gave me was, “Don’t be afraid to put her down in her crib and let her cry a little.” Not for hours, obviously, but the CONSTANT crying will make you crazy and sometimes the best thing for your mental and emotional health is a small break. I was always better prepared to handle the crying when I picked her back up again! She is now a happy, healthy, well adjusted, confident 6 year old who is very secure in our relationship. It’s so tough but it is temporary!!!

    • Anna August 7, 2014 at 8:57 PM #

      Oof, Darcy and Amy – while I’m glad to be in good company, I’m sorry you understand colicky babies so well! I totally get the shaken thing. I would never, ever shake my baby, but like you said – I understand where someone could get driven to that point. Also like you said, taking a break was the best thing I could do. Sometimes I would put my son in his crib and get in the shower. That was the best – I couldn’t hear him, he was safe, I got a break and I showered =) I’m happy to hear your kids are all adjusted and settled down! =)

  2. Robin July 30, 2014 at 9:46 AM #

    A resounding “yes” vote on The Happiest Baby on the Block book. My husband and I owe Dr. Karp a million dollars for that one. We are sane today because of the 5 S’s. Anna, thanks for sharing your story. My colicky girl just turned 7 and the feeling of helplessness, exhaustion and frustration are still not far from my mind – but she has turned into a loving, kind, big-hearted young lady – we suspect she will always know on some level how it felt not to feel good and she’s that much happier when she does feel well. 🙂

    • Anna August 7, 2014 at 9:00 PM #

      It’s really something, isn’t it, that we just don’t forget those feelings? My son is over 2, and like you said those feelings aren’t far from my mind! I love how you’re viewing her empathy – that is wonderful!

  3. Jennifer August 1, 2014 at 9:33 AM #

    I can completely relate to this. I went through the same thing with my daughter. She slept and was quiet as a mouse for 3 weeks and then the constant crying started. It went on for months. Around 5-6 months she got much better. It’s so exhausting during that time and I tell every new mom about our experience because if their child is colic I don’t want them to think they are alone. I used to get sad seeing all the smiley faces of my friend’s happy babies on instagram/facebook and I just wondering what I was doing wrong! I felt so guilty when friends couldn’t stand to be gone from their kids and I was counting down the days to go back to work. It was one of the hardest experiences I have ever gone through, emotionally and physically with the sleep deprivation. And my husband felt the same way – you just wanted to bond with your new baby and when they have colic it makes it really hard to do that. Hang in there parents, it does get better. And have a support network of family/friends that you can call on when you need a break.

    • Anna August 7, 2014 at 9:25 PM #

      Loved your comment Jennifer – you’re so right.

  4. Nik November 2, 2014 at 1:20 PM #

    The big blue exercise ball saved us for the first 4 months or so. The only thing that worked was bouncing around the house. The baby would only sleep for a few hours on me or my husband. Then it was like a switch flipped and when he was able to sit up and move around more on his own, he was much happier. Gripe water was another life saver for us.

  5. Carolyn December 8, 2015 at 8:42 AM #

    This all sure sounds familiar. My first daughter had terrible colic and my husband and I tried everything imaginable. We did finally find a few things that helped like tightly swaddling, tiger in a tree hold, then bouncing her to sleep on a yoga ball. After the ordeal, my husband and I actually created our own site to help consolidate all the good info into single place with tons of possible remedies including articles and videos for each and no ads or popups. Check it out if you get a chance http://www.colic-cures.com. Thanks!

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