Surviving Colic

I struggled to hear the voice over the phone as I was distracted by my baby’s cries.

If she screams more or less for 3 hours three times a week late in the day, it’s most likely colic,” drums the nurse over the phone.

“Don’t all babies cry?” I squeak into the phone. Somehow, giving my innocent angel the label of “colic” seemed to make her crying even worse. I watched her swinging in her baby swing, mouth open, face red – assuming the usual evening position.

If her crying fits the description I just gave you, it is most likely colic,” repeated the voice.

What do I do?” I winced. “Can I bring her in?

She will outgrow it. Usually by 3 months, it’s over.

That was it. I was left alone with a very unhappy baby and told to wait it out. What? My baby was upset. She couldn’t be comforted. Her crying exhausted me. What is going on?

Luckily, we made it through, but only after I researched the heck out of this beast called colic. I had been curious if colic was associated with shaken baby syndrome. I tried to imagine a less patient person handling a baby with full blown colic and shuddered at the thought. I was a teacher in a low income neighborhood for years. I am a patient woman. But, facing colic, patience took on a new meaning. Worse yet, was the well meaning advice of friends. “Don’t worry. You are a new mother. You’ll get the hang of it.” What? Are you suggesting I am freaking my baby out? There was certainly much more to colic than I was aware.

Colic, severe reoccurring abdominal pain that causes infants to scream and cry anywhere from 3 to 15 hours are more depending on the severity,  typically kicks in from about 2-6 weeks, just as new parents are most sleep deprived. It can feel like the world is closing in on you. I am determined to help other parents with a baby that just “won’t stop crying.” Here are some colic tips I found helpful during my struggle to survive it.

Tips to Take-Hold of Colic:

  • Call the doc. Your first step should be the one I took. Take your baby to the doctor with a journal of his/her crying to rule out anything serious. It could also be acid reflux. There are medications that can help. Whenever you suspect something is wrong with your baby, your first call should always be to your pediatrician. Also, do not give your daughter any medications, or alter her feeding schedule until you talk with a medical expert.
  • Switch formulas. All formulas are not equal. Be careful with Soy based. It can constipate.
  • If possible, get reading. Read Harvey Karp’s, The Happiest Baby on the Block. Pay attention to the “5 S Method” – swing, swaddle, shh, side, and sucking.
  • Make some noise. Try a white noise machine or something that makes white noise like a vacuum, blow dryer, clothes dryer, or static on radio. The machine/noise can often help a fussy baby sleep thru the night.
  • Get moving. Fussy babies can often be calmed by movement. Any movement such as: rocking, walking, strolling, or bouncing gently on top of a yoga ball. Driving your daughter in a car is also another great “tried and true” technique to get her to sleep.
  • Try the “colic hold.” Place your daughter face down along your forearm with your hand firmly between their legs.  Her cheek should be by your elbow facing the outside. Your child should be able to see the ground. Then hold your arm close to your body, using it to brace and steady your infant. Most babies enjoy the “new view” and it’s easy to carry them in this position.
  • Over the counter mediations. Anti-gas medications like Mylicon drops or homeopathic remedies like Hyland’s Colic Pills occasionally work. But, like any other medication you give your child, always check with a doctor first. There are mixed reviews in the medical community as to whether these medications can cause further complications.
  • Watch what you eat.  If you are breastfeeding, keep a journal of the foods you eat daily. Often, babies’ tummies can get upset depending on what they consume through your breast milk. Foods like cabbage, onion, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, citrus fruits, wheat and peanuts, can cause gassinesss in your infant.
  • Breastfeed if possible. Breastfeeding can be more tolerant than formula, give breastfeeding a try. Although, I know colic does exhaust moms, your milk supply may dwindle if you are exhausted. Get help, get rest. Try contacting a lactation consultant to help. Yes, some are Breast Nazis, but some are like Breast fairy Mothers – shop around. You can also check with your doctor’s office for recommendations. Many offices now have a lactation consultant in their office whose service is free of charge. The Le Leche League is also another great resource.
  • Try different gear.
    • If you bottle feed, try Dr. Brown’s bottles. They have an anti colic apparatus. All bottles are not the same. Experiment with different bottles and nipples until you find one that works well for your newborn.
    • Try the Amby bed. This bed may help your daughter sleep longer. It places your baby in womb-like nest.
    • A co-sleeper makes night breastfeeding easier and you get more rest.
    • Sling it. “Wear your baby.” Purchase an infant sling to help free your hands and calm your fussy baby around the house.
  • Warm her spirits. Try a warm bath, infant massage using lavender baby lotion, and/or a pacifier. For extra soothing, take a warm bubble bath with her. It will give you a few moments to relax too.
  • Take your baby outside. There is something to be said about babies and fresh air. Take a nice long walk and you will both feel better.
  • Ask your doctor about probiotics. Researchers discovered that a daily dose of the probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri, improves symptoms associated with colic in infants.
  • It’s ok to let her cry. Your baby is OK crying for a few minutes in her crib while you shower or make dinner. Check on her, but understand that there will be times when nothing you do will calm her.
  • Get support and companionship. Take a class or find a local playgroup. The only one who understands life with a newborn is someone who is currently living with one. You may also find yourself forming lifelong friends. Try Moms Club to find a playgroup in your area.
  • Take time for you. The adage “a fresh pair of arms”, means a lot when you have a fussy baby on your hands. Your baby will pick up on your frustration. Hire a teenager or mother’s helper to come in and hold your baby while you shower or nap. Taking time for you is extremely important during this phase of your child’s development.

Some of these tips may or may not work for your baby. All babies are different. Experimentation is part of parenthood. Keep trying. Remember, a baby changes dramatically during this first year. Every month brings new changes, joys and new challenges. This too will pass.