Surviving a colicky baby
Whatever you did and however you did it—you’re doing a great job.
Your baby bundle is total bliss. He sleeps all the time. She nurses like a dream. He’s gorgeous. She’s perfect. This isn’t so hard. This isn’t hard at all!
Then it happens: The whine . . . that turns to a whimper . . . that slips to a cry . . . then grows into a blood-curdling, mirror-shattering wail. And nothing will make it stop. You’ve fed her. You’ve changed him. She’s burped. He’s pooped. You’re pooped. An alien has eaten my baby!
You call for backup. You pace. Your mother paces. You cry. Your mother cries. The two of you get into a fight. You reconcile. Then cry some more. And when the doctor’s office opens in the a.m., the three of you are the first to burst through the door.
The doctor examines your baby up and down, inside and out. Then over your baby’s screams, he calmly tells you, “She’s fine. It’s just colic.”
“Colic? What can I do!?”
Wait for it . . .
“You’re just going to have to ride it out.”
In other words, party’s over.
There’s no known cause for colic, nothing that tells you definitively what makes an otherwise healthy baby colicky as opposed to fussy—or miserable. But after you’ve checked and double-checked every possible reason for the crying, and when you see a pattern materializing from the nonstop sobbing, you are most likely looking at some form of colic.
The bright spot is the belief that colicky babies grow to become successful people because they know how to be heard. They are the kids front and center in the classroom, hands straight in the air, trying to get the teacher’s attention.
I know this to be true: 18 years ago, my baby was given the illustrious title of “The Worst Case of Colic I Have Ever Seen” by pretty much every pediatrician in Los Angeles. Her colic lasted eight months. My marriage fell apart. My wrists developed carpal tunnel syndrome. My life as I knew it ceased to exist. Then the colic vanished as quickly as it arrived, and my screaming bundle grew into the force from whence she came. She was that kid in the front and center in the classroom, and is now majoring in music at the University of Southern California as—you guessed it—a singer.
The kinda good news is that there are some methods of dealing with this common affliction. So grab your vibrator (for your baby) and your martini (for you), and let’s get this kid to stop crying.
Comforts for a colicky baby
- Feed your baby twice as often and half as much. Too much milk too fast can cause a baby to have gas.
- Some babies like the feeling of warm water on their tummies. Wrap a warm (not hot) water bottle in a blanket. Put it on your tummy and then put your baby on top.
- Some babies calm down with gentle massage.
- Sound machines can mimic the sound of mom’s heartbeat or the liquid of the womb. White noise can also soothe: the clothes dryer, a hair dryer, or in my daughter’s case, the kitchen fan.
- In contrast, other babies respond to quiet and darkness.
- Put your baby in the backseat of your car and drive. I put a lot of miles on my car during those first eight months.
- Baby vibrators are devices that attach to a bouncy seat. A combination of the sound and shivers can soothe a savage beast.
- Some babies need a simple change of scenery. If you are inside, go outside. Fresh air, movement, and distraction can calm. If you are outside, go in. It might be time for some quiet.
- Put on your papoose: Studies show babies who are held more during the day cry less at night—perhaps due to the closeness or just the increased awake time. Put your baby in her front pack or sling, and go about your day.
- While the baby is in the sling, a gentle bounce or side-to-side sway can work. But note: This is habit forming. You will forever be bouncing and swaying watermelons while waiting in line at the grocery store.
- Swaddling is a miracle! It can get your baby to sleep and keep your baby asleep. Wrap your baby snugly (but not too snug) in a blanket. He will feel less out of control and more like in the womb. It will also keep those sleeping baby twitches from turning into wild baby flails.
- Warm baths, even several a day, can relax and distract a baby. Your baby will be super clean and quiet.
- A pacifier . . . your finger . . . the baby’s finger . . . forget the best-laid plans. Now is the time to try anything a baby can suck.
- And finally, stay calm!
Don’t get frustrated or angry. If you have to, put the baby in her bassinet and walk away. You’ve done nothing to cause the colic so cut yourself some slack.
Hand that baby sling to someone else, and take a nap!
And remember, you cannot die from sleep deprivation. This, like all other phases in your baby’s life, will pass. And in 18 years, it will all have been worth it. Having been there, I can safely say that you, Solo Mom, can survive colic.
You can survive anything . . . and you will . . . because you are a single mom.
And you have to.
If you want to hear the voice that my own colicky baby’s screams turned into, check it out below.
Kathleen Laccinole, ESME’s Dating Resource Guide, has penned numerous films and parenting books but is best known for producing the highly lauded Greta, age 20, and William, age 16.
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