Can you get PTSD from life with a colic baby? My daughter is four now, but I actually had to turn off an episode of Flipping Out on Bravo because I couldn’t watch their colic baby scream–like she was “being murdered” as the fabulously honest Jeff Lewis put it. Hearing her cry actually gave me pangs of anxiety, as if my now-preschool-age daughter were screaming again from down the hall. It’s so very hard to deal with a colic baby because there is so little you can do. But, through the four-plus months of constant crying, I learned a few tricks. Here is my best advice on how to handle colic.
Don’t Blame Yourself
I will never forget that scream, I will never forget the inadequacy I felt because I couldn’t soothe her, I will never forget the hopelessness I felt with her constant crying. And, I will never forget the loneliness I felt when it looked like every other baby in the world could be taken out, could cry normally without screaming.
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The thing is, we have no control over our babies, no control over how much they cry. This is one of the worst parts of the colic experience, I think, especially for a brand-new mom. I felt like such a failure because I just couldn’t soothe my baby. I would constantly think, “What am I doing wrong? If I’m her mother, shouldn’t I be the one to soothe her?” On top of it all, I was breastfeeding and my daughter was a fussy feeder. I felt rejected on so many levels.
Of course, the first piece of advice everyone gave me was: you should change your diet. And, I did. I tried so many different ways of eating: I cut out garlic, then I cut out dairy, then I cut out citrus fruits. There was a stretch of a couple of days when I only at oatmeal. (Side note: there is nothing more depressing than only eating oatmeal). Here’s my advice to you: try it if you want, but don’t feel forced to change your diet. For me, none of those changes worked.
I did learn something very important from this, though: don’t blame yourself. You are not the reason why your baby is crying so much and you are not the reason why she is inconsolable. Try to remind yourself that you are a good mom, because you are. If you need help with reminders, check out my post here.
The Mayo Clinic specifically states that “colic can be particularly frustrating for parents because the baby’s distress occurs for no apparent reason and no amount of consoling seems to bring any relief.” You see? It’s not you, mama. By definition, these poor babies cannot be consoled.
Take Care of Yourself
The most important thing any mother can do during this period is practice self-care. I know you are probably shaking your head saying, “I barely have time to read this, how am I going to find time for self-care!” It’s totally natural to feel this way–I did too when I had a colic newborn–but I learned how to find time for myself. You can read my best tips on finding time for yourself here.
We’ve already established that you don’t have control over the baby’s cries. But, you do have control over your own actions. I found that getting out of the house for even a few hours every week by myself helped immensely.
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Drown out the Crying
Many colic babies love the sound of the vacuum. As an added bonus, it helps to drown out the sound of crying. You can also try noise-canceling headphones. My father-in-law loves to tell the story of how he used to blast death-metal music in his headphones while my husband cried back in the 70s. You can listen to something a little more soothing than death metal (what isn’t?), a fun book on tape, or an interesting podcast. Again, if you can’t control the crying, at least change what you can to make your life more pleasant.
Try Out Soothing Products
When my daughter was a baby, I tried to make the crying go away by throwing money at the problem. I spent hundreds of dollars on every product with a positive review I could find. The truth was, some worked, some didn’t. If you’d like to try out some products yourself, here’s what worked best for my baby. Remember, every baby is different, so there isn’t a magic bullet.
This swing was an absolute lifesaver, not only for my colic baby, but also for my second child. You see, not only does the swing soothe your baby, it helps him to sleep better (at least for my kids). In fact, both of my children slept in the swing until they outgrew it–and had no problem transitioning into the crib. I think that sleep is essential when dealing with a colic baby. My husband and I both said it was our “Ace in the hole.” Since our daughter slept through the night most nights, we were better able to deal with her crying during the waking hours. Read more about baby sleep here.
This worked wonders with my daughter. Being close to my chest almost always helped to soothe her. During the first month or so, she refused to be put down for a nap, so she actually took all her naps in here. I used to sit with her curled up inside the carrier and spend a blissful hour reading my Kindle.
This is a phenomenal swaddling blanket for the swaddling-challenged. No actual swaddling required! You just need to use a zipper and we can all manage that. It’s also an incredibly soothing blanket for all babies because the soft, stretchable cotton mimics the security of the womb.
This is a great little invention from the makers of the Nose Frida (which helps you to suck up snot. It sounds gross until you have a baby with a stuffy nose. Then, you’re all like, “Wow! Amazing! Where can I buy it?”). The Windi is also slightly gross (you need to insert it, well, you know where). But it works incredibly well and is worth the, um, effort if you have a gassy baby.
Mylicon drops are another wonder if your baby is gassy. I would sometimes give them to my daughter several times a day and they worked beautifully.
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Don’t Worry about Other People
The thing is, others can’t understand unless they have a colic baby. My second child had a perfectly fine constitution and was perfectly happy most of the time. I freaked out before he was born though, thinking I was going to go through the same thing with him, but I didn’t. In fact, for weeks after he was born, I would actually think, “Why isn’t he crying? What’s wrong?”
It didn’t feel normal to have a baby who was content when he was fed and changed.
If I had my son first, I would have never, ever even imagined what it could be like with a colic baby. I don’t even think I would have believed that kind of hell could be possible.I was lucky enough to talk about it with a sympathetic colleague when my daughter was about eight months old and out of the thick of it, mostly. She also had a colic baby and totally understood.
I think we need more of that commiseration out there in the world. Other mothers of colic, or even just perpetually fussy babies need to know that they’re not alone. They need to know that caring for their infant might be brutal at times, maybe even most times, and that’s ok. It’s ok if loving and caring for your baby isn’t a beautiful, heaven-sent experience. But, it will get better and you will have more and more of those beautiful moments as your baby grows up and out of whatever is giving her pain.
In the meantime, please try out my tips and tricks below to help soothe your baby and ease your mind.