Oh, my friend. Your baby has colic. That’s what your doctor tells you, even if she can’t quite tell you what exactly that means. The Internet isn’t clarifying things, either. Is it indigestion, tummy troubles, gas? Is it simply the “witching hour”? Is it acid reflux? All you know is that your baby cries. Every day. For hours at a time. You don’t know how to help. You can’t make it stop. I imagine you’re tired. If your baby is crying in the evenings, you probably feel like you’d do just about anything to help him go to sleep. You’ve tried swaddling. You’ve tried sleep sacks. You’ve tried Harvey Karp’s “5 S’s” method. You’ve tried white noise and alpha music. You’re even considering taking your mother-in-law’s advice and offering some rice cereal at bedtime, despite the fact that your doctor says it’s a no-no and your online friends say it didn’t work for them. MIL says it helped her kids to sleep, so maybe it’ll help yours? If your baby is crying in the middle of the night, I imagine you’re groggy and desperate. There’s nothing worse than getting woken from your own broken sleep by the cries of your needy newborn.
Again. There’s nothing worse than knowing that you, no matter how hard you try, are simply not enough. Not enough to soothe. Not enough to induce sleep. All you want is to go back to sleep yourself. I imagine you’re sad. Maybe even depressed. There’s nothing so heart-wrenching as listening to your baby sobbing night after night. It doesn’t matter that it’s not your fault. Your baby is sad, distraught, devastated. And you can’t fix it. There’s no worse feeling than knowing that all the snuggles in the world can’t help your little one feel better. I imagine you feel guilty. Sometimes, at least. Someone posted in one of your parenting forums that they discovered that their little one had been suffering from GERD for months, and that once they got her on reflux meds, she immediately started sleeping six hours at a time every night. Maybe your little one, too, has severe heartburn? Someone else shared an article positing that tongue tie is intrinsically connected with colic.
Suddenly, you’re ashamed of refusing to get your little one’s anterior tie clipped or lasered or whatever. Sure, it would have hurt short-term, but would it have prevented these regular nighttime fussies? Or maybe, on the other hand, your child doesn’t have tongue tie. Does he? Did the doctor or lactation consultant or anyone even bother to check? Is it too late to find out now? What about probiotics? You read on a blog somewhere that gut imbalance is the root cause of colic. Maybe you’re now wondering if thrice-daily doses of probiotics are the answer. What’s the best brand? Can you even afford it? Maybe you’re thinking shamefully of your cesarean, medically necessary or not. Haven’t studies shown that babies born via c-section have different gut flora than babies born vaginally? Is this all your fault because your baby wasn’t birthed ‘naturally’? I imagine you’re angry, at least some of the time.
After all, depression and anxiety often manifest as anger. Chances are, there are times you’ve felt on the verge of snapping at your baby. You want to yell at her. Maybe you put her down on the changing table a little rougher than necessary. You’re tempted to just plop her into her swing and walk away, to let her cry her little heart out because you just can’t take it anymore. You used to laugh incredulously at campaigns to stop Shaken Baby Syndrome – those ridiculous billboards and ads in parenting magazines and the flier the hospital sent home with you. Who would ever shake their baby that hard? you wondered to yourself or aloud to your partner. How ridiculous.
Now you know. Now, you fully understand. I imagine you’re fed up. Haven’t you tried everything? You’ve cut dairy and gluten and broccoli and every possible irritant you can think of out of your own diet. Didn’t help. You’ve tried snuggling the baby in a ring sling every night, pacing and bouncing and trying desperately to soothe him. Didn’t help. You’ve tried diluted lavender oil on her feet, even though you’re a little wary of this essential oils stuff. Didn’t help. You’ve even picked up an amber necklace on Etsy, hoping the succinic acid or whatever the description said it was will help ease any unidentified pain. Didn’t help. You’ve been to the pediatrician’s office several times in between normal well-baby checks, only to be told that it’s normal. There’s nothing you can do.
The good news is, there’s a light at the end of this tunnel. In most cases, colic passes on its own. Remember how it appeared out of the blue one day? Well, it disappears in the exact same way much of the time. You might get a day here and there at first, when your little one goes to bed easily, at a normal time, and you realize that there were no long bouts of crying that day. For just this one night, you feel like you can breathe. Sure, your baby is still up every hour or two or three all night, but she actually goes back down easily. You get some real sleep in between. The next morning, you actually feel refreshed – for the first time in weeks. Sure, the crying starts up again the next night, but somehow, you feel better equipped to handle it. You’re a little more patient, a little more loving. That night of relative rest shored up your defenses. After a week or so, you get another respite, and another a week or so after that. Maybe two blessed crying-free days in a row. You’re on a roll! Before you know it, the haze of colic has lifted. You’re having more good days than bad.
A few more weeks pass, and suddenly, you can no longer remember when you were last up until 2 a.m. with a baby who wouldn’t sleep. Sure, you’re still exhausted; you have a small baby, after all. But it’s normal new parent exhaustion. The kind you can adjust to. You no longer feel frazzled and on the edge. It’s amazing how good you feel now that your infant is no longer screaming into your face on a daily basis. Believe me, friend, I’ve been there. For three awful months, my own baby, my second-born, had colic. It started a few weeks after we brought him home from the hospital. At first, it was just a day here and there, but then it really set in. For months, I was rarely in bed before midnight. I tried everything I could think of. I had his tongue tie clipped. I offered gripe water. I did probiotics. I bounced and swayed and wore him. I swaddled him. I went gluten-free for about two weeks. We spent hours every night in the bathroom, because sometimes the white noise of the bathroom fan soothed him – and when it didn’t, it at least masked his wailing so that everyone else could sleep. It was, quite simply, awful. Dreadful. Wretched.
But you know what? It passed. Colic passed. And I lived to tell the tale. It’ll pass for you, too. You’ll emerge on the other side, tired and worn down, but with a baby who is at last willing to be soothed. Just hang in there, my friend.