When you’re a new mom it can be so hard to know what’s normal and what’s not. Call it colic, the period of purple crying, an excessively fussy newborn, a high needs baby… whatever you want to name it, the point is the same. My baby never stopped crying. If you are dealing with a colicky baby you already know the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion it can pile on to the already stressful postpartum phase. I’m here to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Keep reading for tips for coping with a colicky baby.
Our Experience Coping With Colic
I remember our bout with colic like it was yesterday.
After days of trying all the natural induction tips and a long, hard pitocin induction my 8lb 6oz beautiful boy was born after 9PM. He was perfect. And screaming.
I remember him screaming the whole night long in the hospital. I wondered what the other nurses and parents with sleeping babies thought about the screaming baby in my room. I wished I had asked my parents to stay because I was so exhausted that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
I remember thinking that I wanted to go home and I that I would be so much more comfortable there. I could deal with a crying baby at home better than in the cold, sterile hospital. I remember taking him home and showing him around the house.
I remember thinking “I don’t need to get the pain meds. I’ll be fine.” Then I remember sending my husband to the pharmacy at midnight when the pain meds from the hospital wore off and I realized I was most certainly NOT fine.
I remember my baby crying the ENTIRE first night home.
I remember waiting until 4 or 5 am, justifying that it was a reasonable hour to call my parents and beg them to come over. I remember taking my baby to the doctor and crying in front of the lactation consultant. I remember the sweet mom in the waiting room who saw me trying to feed my screaming baby. I will never forget her telling me “It gets better. I promise.”
For 12 weeks he cried almost every waking moment and he didn’t sleep often. The only times he didn’t cry was when we were walking outside or when he was in the bath. So in the summer heat of Florida I took my newborn on 3 walks a day and gave 3-4 baths a day.
I remember hearing my baby cry so hard he would turn purple when we would be driving in the car and there was nothing I could do but try in vain to rhythmically shush him until we got to a place where we could pull over.
I remember eating dinner through tears while my baby screamed in the background, because there was no other way I could eat.
I remember when he finally would go to sleep, wanting to just hold his peaceful little body on my chest and soak it in but being afraid that I would “spoil him” or create bad habits. I remember seeing my other first time mom friends with newborns and wondering why they seemed like they were adjusting so much better than I was to this whole mom thing. I never once considered that their babies might have easier dispositions than mine.
I remember being so offended when someone would say he was a fussy baby. I remember thinking that it meant something was wrong with him, and that by default something was wrong with me too. I never considered that I might be coping with a colicky baby.
I thought I was destined to have a sour, cantankerous child.
I remember being so hungry but not being sure what I could eat because I didn’t know what foods might set him off. I remember every feeding being a struggle.
I remember being in so much physical pain for days, maybe weeks, after coming home from the hospital. I remember that every emotion felt magnified because of the sleep deprivation and post-partum hormones.
I remember crying and thinking “this is my life now.” It felt like it would last forever.
If you are there right now, let me tell you that THIS SEASON WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. It is a phase and it will pass. Read on for tips to surviving this season while you’re coping with a colicky baby.
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17 Things To Know About Coping with a Colicky Baby:
1. This will not last forever.
Call it colic, call it the period of purple crying – whatever you call it, it will not last forever. Babies generally peak in fussiness between weeks 6-8 and then it begins to decline. Most babies are much calmer by 12 weeks. I remember reading that in the midst of it and thinking that it seemed like that was SO far away. If you are in that season, it will go by in a flash, I promise. In the meantime, do whatever you have to do to make it through every day.
2. You have a fussy baby.
I now have had 3 newborns and have learned that my first was most certainly a “difficult temperament” baby. Most babies will stop crying once you give them what they want. If they are fed, burped, changed, and put to sleep when they are tired, most babies will be generally okay. Some babies don’t play by those rules, though. They were forced into the world when they weren’t ready for it and they want everyone to know that they are still adjusting to their new home. Their last one just felt so secure and they’re going to scream about it. It does not mean that you are a bad mom. Do not compare your fussy baby to your friend’s easy baby. You are a great mom and this season will make you even stronger.
3. Do not make how you feed your baby a bigger deal than it should be.
Formula is not the enemy. Fed is best. If you need to supplement or switch to formula, you and your baby will be perfectly fine. HOWEVER, I also wish I knew back then that breastfeeding gets easier. If breastfeeding is important to you, find a lactation consultant. See if there is one at your pediatrician’s office. If you have WIC, you may have access to a free one. The hospital where you delivered may also provide outpatient appointments with a lactation consultant for free or cheap if you call and ask. The initial adjustment can be hard, but once you get the hang of it, it can be the easiest thing in the world. Whether you choose formula or breastfeeding, move forward confidently and know that ONE decision will not make or break your child. You are a great mom either way.
4. This does not mean that you will have a difficult temperament child.
When my oldest was a newborn I thought that his excessive crying meant he was going to turn into a sour, cantankerous child. That was so far from the truth! My fussiest baby has turned into the easiest, sweetest, most loving, sensitive, and compassionate child.
5. Go with your gut.
To schedule or feed on demand? To cry it out or to rock to sleep? To safely co-sleep or have baby in their own room from day one? To work or to be a stay at home mom? To use a daycare or a nanny? Pray about your decision, and then move forward confidently in what you feel is best for YOU and YOUR family. Everyone has a different method and it is OKAY.
6. Scheduling does not work for every baby.
I tried so hard to schedule with my first baby and took it as a personal failure that all the scheduling moms were bragging about their easy, happy babies. If that’s where you are, guess what – their babies may not have the same temperament as yours. Thanks, Suzie, for the suggestion that if I would just implement your particular schedule it would all be better, but the reality is that not every baby’s temperament works like that. Give yourself permission to do what works for you and your baby.
7. Accidental bad habits can be broken.
They’re only little once. I was so conflicted because I wanted all the baby cuddles I could get (especially because he wasn’t peaceful often) and I wanted to hold and cuddle him for naps but I didn’t want to create a bad habit. Guess what, sister. This is your little gift from God and if you want to cuddle, you go right ahead. I don’t regret a single cuddle.
8. Do not be afraid to call your pediatrician.
They are used to getting calls from first time parents about all kinds of things. They won’t judge you. If you feel like they do, find a new pediatrician. It’s okay to do that.
9. Try baby wearing
Experiment with different kinds of baby wearing gear to see what your baby prefers. Ergo? Wrap? Sling? Baby wearing is a gift for the colicky baby’s mama! Tip: don’t spend lots of money on fancy gear before you know what your baby prefers! Borrow baby wearing gear from friends or find it used at your local children’s consignment shop or on Facebook marketplace.
10. Have your baby evaluated for tongue and lip tie by a knowledgeable professional.
If your baby has any of the following symptoms it is worth having an evaluation by an IBCLC to determine if your baby has a tongue tie or lip tie.
- Difficult/no latch
- Prolonged feeds
- Unsatisfied after long feeds
- Poor weight gain
- Reflux/gassy baby
- Clicking noise while sucking
- Loud gulping noises during feeds
- Choking on milk or gasping for air mid feed
- Noticeably strong suck
- Inability to effectively remove milk
If you are a breastfeeding mom, you may have the following symptoms:
- Severe pain with latch
- Incomplete breast drainage
- Bleeding nipples
- Plugged ducts
You can find an IBCLC here.
11. Consider that your baby may be overstimulated.
I thought that my baby was hard to keep entertained, but looking back I think that he was actually overstimulated much of the time. If you think your baby is overstimulated, try sitting in a dark, quiet room with your baby and having some skin to skin time. Try to balance the amount of bright light, noise, and activity your baby is exposed to throughout the day with enough calm, quiet times.
12. Control your thoughts.
Girl, when you are already sleep deprived, hormonal, and dealing with a high needs baby, toxic thinking can wreak havoc on your mind. You can give yourself a free pass for so many things in this season, but giving yourself a pass to let your thoughts run away with you is not one of them. Take control of those thoughts. Actively acknowledge any toxic thinking patterns you have fallen into about your child, your spouse, yourself as a person, or how good of a job you are doing as a mom. Fill your mind with wholesome, truthful thoughts. Play worship music. Don’t hang out on the negative mom groups on facebook or message boards. Repeat scripture and positive affirmations out loud to yourself daily.
13. Research reflux and silent reflux.
I’ll never forget the day that a more seasoned mom said to me, “it sounds like he has silent reflux.” I went home and googled it and realized I could have written the book on silent reflux symptoms. It seemed like they were describing my child. By that point he was already past the worst of it, but I sure wish I had known about silent reflux earlier in my journey! You can read more about reflux and silent reflux symptoms in babies on this site.
Just survive. Order take out. Go to bed at 7. Take a nap when you can. Forget about folding your laundry. Go right ahead and give your baby three baths a day if that’s the only time they won’t cry. Get a friend to watch your baby so you can take a walk around the block to get away from the crying if you need to. Bring your baby to the gym childcare and go take a shower. Get a responsible babysitter who can handle the crying and go out for a while. Call in any and all reinforcements you have.
15. Take a deep breath.
Your baby’s crying makes your cortisol go up, which makes you want to meet their need to make it stop. It’s part of God’s design. The problem is when baby’s crying just never stops, it can really do a number on your nerves. Breathe in deep. If you have to, put your baby in their crib and go in the other room and get a drink, get a snack, and take a deep breath before going back to try to calm them again.
16. Give yourself the gift of grace.
You will make it through this season. It will not last forever. You are not a bad mom. You have what it takes. You can do this!
17. Get professional help if you need it.
I would be remiss if I wrote a whole post about colic without addressing postpartum depression. Dealing with a high needs baby in addition to your own sleep deprivation and hormonal changes can be overwhelming. Goodness knows I shed plenty of tears in the midst of those colicky days. You do need to ask yourself if you could be struggling with postpartum depression. It’s hard to spot in yourself, so talk to the people who are close to you and see if they have noticed anything that is concerning to them. Click here to read more about postpartum depression.
If you are coping with a colicky baby know that you are not alone. This is just a season and it will not last forever! You can do this! Take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. I would love to lament with you or answer any questions about our experience coping with a colicky baby! Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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