November 19, 2015

To the Mom of a Colicky Baby

My daughter turns 13 next week, and I've been thinking about her baby years, as is common when our little ones reach milestones. I tease her by telling her that I'm so excited that she's turning 3 and wouldn't it be fun to have a fairy princess party. For some reason she doesn't like that. I guess I'm in a bit of denial.

Her baby months were hard. So super hard. She was my first. I had no idea what was going on. Being a mom overwhelmed me. I had a little human being I was responsible for all the time with no breaks. And she was not what I was expecting.

Recently I met a man whose wife was dealing with a colicky baby at home and was struggling. I just wanted to give her a hug and tell her it would all be okay in the end, but I couldn't, so I'm writing this post instead, so she knows that she is not alone. Having a colicky baby is hard, and sometimes reading about other people's similar experiences can be comforting, so I hope this post helps those who are going through what I went through almost 13 years ago.

Colicky babies are so hard! But you are not alone.

I had heard that newborns slept a lot. Nobody told Maren. She liked to cry instead. She cried ALL THE TIME. Nothing was wrong with her, but she just wouldn't sleep unless she was being held, and only then after LONG sessions of bouncing and rocking and walking. And we couldn't put her down. She would wake up as soon as she was put down and then the crying would start again. She would nurse for a crazy long time, then rest in our arms for 30 minutes, then wake up and want to nurse again. I was going crazy. I thought I was a terrible mother and what was I doing wrong? I cut out so many things from my diet, thinking maybe that would help. We gave her drops that were supposed to help with gas, but we didn't know if that's what it was (and they didn't seem to help). We thought maybe she wasn't getting enough food so we supplemented with formula but that didn't help either. We thought maybe it was colic, but I had read that colicky babies would cry for extended periods of time at night. Maren cried ALL DAY LONG.  Finally at about 3 or 4 months things settled down and we got into a good nap routine, but it was a rough start to parenthood.

If you are going through something similar, I want you to know that things will get better. It seems like the crying will never end, but eventually it will. And no, you're not going to be able to enjoy the newborn phase (as I hear some people do) but the next stage will be that much better because the screaming will be gone and you will feel such relief!

Don't take it personally. You're not doing anything wrong. Some babies just have a harder adjustment into life for whatever reason. And don't hold it against her. She's not being bad on purpose. Just accept that this is how life will be for a few months. I found with my second colicky baby that it was easier to deal with because I knew it would end. I would talk to him in a silly voice while he was screaming and say things like "someday you are going to be so sorry for screaming at me all the time". Sometimes I would sing and dance around the house while holding him as he cried. Choosing to not take it personally really helped me not be angry at my child.

It's okay to put the baby down in another room and let her scream. Really, it is. If you need a break, take it. If I knew Maren was fed, had a clean diaper, and I had already given her plenty of attention and she was still screaming, I would put her down in her crib and let her cry for a while. You'll read lots of things telling you this is a horrible thing to do and you should always be there when your child is crying to comfort or you'll have attachment issues. I don't believe this applies to colicky babies. I would leave Maren to cry, and often I would then go and throw myself down on my bed and cry in the other room. It's hard, and sometimes you need a break. There are no attachment issues with my daughter and I left her to cry on her own as a newborn, so take that for what it's worth. Nathan was my 4th, so I couldn't hold him as much as I did Maren anyway, and he spent quite a bit of time crying on his own. Also no attachment issues with him. Both of my colicky babies are doing great at life.

Swaddling helped with my second colicky baby. We tried swaddling Maren but she would always break out of our wrapping. When Nathan came along we found the swaddles that velcro around the arms and stay tight. They were great! He wouldn't wake as easily when he was swaddled so we could actually put him down and he would stay asleep for 30 minutes or so, whereas Maren would be awake seconds after we put her down. Also remember that it's okay to ask for lots of help from friends and family. Leave the house without the kids when you can to have some quiet time.

When she reached 4 months, we were finally able to get her in a good nap routine and the crying faded away. She was such a sweet baby and toddler after that.

Me? Cry? Never! 

I know what you're going through is hard. For me it was hard seeing other mothers with their babies who were about the same age as Maren and they were such sweet, sleepy babies! I was upset that mine was not cooperating. I felt like I had been robbed of the newborn phase where you were supposed to cuddle and enjoy your little baby who would nurse quickly, sleep for hours, and be a joy. I didn't enjoy any of my newborns, but I'm still a good mom.  Everything will be okay, your child will be okay, and in the meantime invest in some good noise canceling earphones.

Okay that last bit was a joke. But I hope if you are reading this and you are struggling with a newborn who has colic that you will feel a bit of comfort knowing you are not alone. I hope you can find some quiet time. I hope you have supportive friends and family. And I hope you will love your screaming child.

And now I guess I have to accept the fact that my firstborn is turning 13. I don't feel old enough to have a teenager, but clearly I am. Lucky for me she's pretty much the best teenager ever. I hope it stays that way. And I still just might make her a princess cake, because why not?

Why wouldn't she want another princess party? I just don't get it. . . 

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(affiliate links to things that helped) (although really, each child is so different, that a lot of it is trial and error as to what will help with yours, so good luck!)


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