Ever had a baby with colic? My second daughter screamed non-stop from 5pm-9pm for the first 3 months of her life, and it nearly broke me.
Then I took her to the nearest “Baby and Me” class around, but things got worse. While the other babies cooed and slept soundly, my little pumpkin cried aloud inconsolably. What was wrong with my child?
Did I miss anything? Was there anything I was doing wrong? I didn't think so. At least things worked out well with my first baby, Duke. But why was this one different? After six weeks, I was already worn out and frustrated. The joy of motherhood was slowly leaving me. The noise had become unbearable, and I felt terrible as a mother.
Luckily, after three long, difficult month of searching for a solution, my husband was able to arrange an appointment with a pediatrician. It was during that period that we learnt about the true condition of our baby, Jessie. She had colic, and I wasn’t responsible. Later on, I discovered other mothers had a similar experience.
What exactly is colic?
Medical professionals define colic as a state of fussiness or extreme crying which usually lasts between 3 weeks to 3 months from the first or second week of their conception.
Usually, the baby will cry for more than 3 hours every day for at least 3 days in a week. Now that's a lot of crying!
Even the most loving mom and dad can "lose it". The incessant howling can be hard to bear, not to mention the stress and frustration of trying to console an inconsolable baby.
Parents caring for colic babies are often very jumpy and distressed. In fact, many experts claim they can easily tell when a baby has colic by merely observing the countenance and reaction of their parents.
Unfortunately, experts are yet to determine the exact cause of colic, although many of them believe it can stem from everything, ranging from an immature nervous system to a sensitive temperament. Some also attribute it to over secretion of a neurotransmitter responsible for maintaining the baby's sense of well-being and security.
Some underlying issues like protein allergy or acid reflux can also make a baby very difficult to control. Even hunger and sleepiness can be probable causes. This is why it's very important to see a pediatrician to ascertain the true condition of your child.
Although I retired from childbearing after my fifth child***winks***, I've always been astonished at how this infantile affliction can bring even the most experienced mother to her knees.
Luckily for me, I was able to handle colic more comfortably when it later appeared in my fourth child. I no longer felt frustrated and guilty like I did with my second baby because I had learnt to survive through it.
Down in the trenches, my experience has helped me discover various remedies, both old and new, that can help your family survive through colic.
Although I must confess that my meeting with the pediatrician served as the major breakthrough for me as it offered me relieve and freedom, which was what I needed to go on.
How do you cope?
Desperate parents try everything they can to stop the tears from rolling. It's understandable, and you can’t blame it on them.
But things can get even harder when you don't know what to do.
Just like labour, colic comes with a lot of physical and emotional demand. It's as if you will never forget the experience. This is exactly how I feel, even now. But am glad I can look back now with the wisdom that distance and time affords, and say, "yes, I wish I knew what I know now from the very beginning!"
Anyway, I don't intend to have any more bundles now, but I can share my knowledge and experience to mothers going through colic experience at the moment.
Even if you are awaiting mother, the wisdom I will soon be sharing here will help you live through a colic experience without the frustration and distress my family went through with Jessie.
So, without wasting much time, here is how you can survive through colic:
Realize that you are not the cause
The first step to surviving colic is to realize that you are not a bad parent. It's not you that's making the baby scream-it’s the colic.
Although, I must confess-it’s torturing and distressing to hear your baby scream uncontrollably. Like I said earlier, several nights of battling colic can bring even the most experienced mothers to their knees.
For my family, it was always a guessing game. Since the baby couldn't communicate her discomfort or pains, we were always trying different things to soothe her.
I don't think there is anything we didn't do. Sometimes we got lucky; other times, it seemed as if she was going to bring the whole place down.
We didn't go out that much because of her.
I felt terrible as a mother, and it didn't take too long before depression started settling in. But our meeting with the doctor changed everything. In time I realized the problem was neither with me or my loving husband, Harry.
According to the pediatrician, our parenting skills were never in doubt. Instead, the problem was colic!
Get someone to help out
The truth is that you can't handle colic duty every time. It's impossible to go through every night for hours straight without burning out, even if you're a super mom. If you're not a single mom, try taking shifts with your hubby. If not, get a friend or family member to help you.
Even older siblings, neighbors, grandparents can help especially if you and your partner are both at wits end.
In my case, Harry was extremely wonderful. I never knew he could be so cool and patient. All the while, he was always telling me things will work out. Although it wasn't easy for me at that time, I have come to love him even more now.
So don't battle colic alone, or you risk losing your mind or cool. Even more, you’ll feel better knowing you’re not alone in the struggle.
Try different soothing tactics
Apart from breastfeeding or allowing your baby to gnaw on her hands, there are many other ways you can soothe her.
The most common one is using white noise- a method popularly known as shushing. However, make sure the noise is not too loud. Ideally, it should be something that can remind the baby of the utero sound or heartbeat she was used to while in the womb.
There are so many baby toys you can use for this purpose. Other devices like hair dryer, vacuum cleaner, rattles, CDs, apps, portable sound machines, and swings, amongst others, can be conveniently used to produce a shushing sound.
Most babies really enjoy being tossed around or moved around. So, swinging is another method that works just fine. It worked for me several times. Am sure it will do the same for you.
You can swing the little pumpkin on your arms, or you can take her for a brief ride in your car when you notice she's getting fussy.
Vibration is another way to swindle a baby. So, try placing the child in a bassinet or seat that can be vibrated or shaken.
Swaddling is another ancient practice that works great. It involves wrapping your baby with a piece of cloth (blanket) to make her feel secure and cozy.
Swaddling helps to encourage your baby to sleep by restricting involuntary movements that may rattle her awake.
Avoid using any other blanket material to swaddle apart from cotton. When not properly done, swaddling can lead to SIDS or other serious issues. So, do it the right way!
Don't be afraid to try new things. Remember, your aim is to calm your bundle, even if it requires you to run an electric drill.
Be sensitive to your baby's need
Colic is not the only reason babies cry. Hunger and tiredness can also make them scream. Sometimes, they may also need a diaper change.
So don't get caught up swaddling, swinging, or shushing. Try to find out if something else is wrong with your child.
Even turning off or turning on the lights can trigger a response from a baby. This is why you have to be sensitive as a parent to know what your baby likes.
Don't worry, over time, you will learn to know what she prefers as you both get to know each other.
Learn to Put Baby Down
Sometimes it's best to just allow the baby to fuss and cry. It is understandable if you feel guilty about it- in fact, we all do. So don't get hooked trying to calm your child that you forget about yourself and the other people around you.
Take some time off, especially if nothing seems to be working. Put the baby down and get on with other stuff you need to do. Don't worry. Crying never kills anybody! So your baby won't be the first. You may want to take your bath, brush, or have a nice meal. You can even listen to a good music just to relieve yourself.
Also, try to spend time with other members of the family. You can go for a walk around the block or have some good conservation together, even if it's for one hour.
Never allow the incessant crying of the little fellow to rob you the joy of family life.
If possible, cry a little. Walk away if you have the urge to shake or hit the baby.
Taking a break from time to time will also give you some relieve and help you regain balance.
Don't isolate your yourself
Parenting a colicky baby can be really isolating.
From my experience, I found out that many mothers prefer facing the problem alone because they don't impose their babies’ behavior on others.
They can't talk about it because it feels painful to share. The thought of thinking they are not doing well as mothers can be very difficult.
But you know what? You won't make it through colic that way. The breakthrough starts only when you start talking.
There are many mothers who have been through your situation; looking up to these people for advice will definitely help you a great deal. Just like what am doing now-helping you by sharing my knowledge and experience!
You can also meet up with parents who are caring for colic babies at local playgrounds. Coming together this way will enable you to exchange useful tips and technique with each other. You will definitely be glad to know that you're not the only one having a hard time.
Meeting with a therapist may also prove to be extremely helpful.
Whatever you do, have it in mind that colic is temporary. Your baby is likely to outgrow it sooner.
So, you should get to that point where you can say, "The problem is with the baby, not me".
Trust me; this will give you a sense of relieve and help you cope with the situation more freely.
Remember, the problem will not last forever. So take it easy one day at a time.
Take care of your baby and also take care of yourself.
You will eventually get to the point of hugs, smiles and laughters. And the colic experience wouldn't even matter anymore.