Anyone who has a baby with colic can relate to the feelings of helplessness that I experienced when my daughter was an infant. She cried nearly all afternoon and evening, everyday, for the first three months of her life. I was a first time mom and completely clueless as to what she needed, let alone how to meet her needs.
My husband and I did our best to comfort her, care for her and not kill each other in the process. Looking back I can now see that I went from feeling like a clueless, helpless bundle of tears, to feeling confident and capable of loving and raising my baby. We tried a lot of methods and strategies that sometimes helped and sometimes didn’t.
As much as I always hesitate to give parenting advice since babies are all unique, I know I could have used ideas from a friend who had walked in my shoes. I want to offer to you the top three things that helped us make it through this time in hopes that you will take what you can and leave the rest.
IT IS ALL ABOUT SURVIVAL.
We threw away our schedules and expectations, our ideas of what a baby should and shouldn’t be doing at what age. We had to stop worrying about spoiling her and what others might think. I let the housework slide and took time off from all other commitments. We had to just live one day at a time and I could do those things when this season was over.
Meet Baby’s Needs Quickly
Second, I learned to meet my baby’s needs as quickly as possible. If “normal” infants have a five minute window of time between fussing to let you know they are hungry and hysterically crying, a colicky baby would have about thirty seconds before they push the panic button and are too upset to eat, thus beginning the vicious crying cycle.
In an effort to stop the cycle before it starts I would keep a mental list of her basic needs, and when the fussing started I would go quickly through this mental list to find what she needed almost immediately. I would start with the most likely thing… For example, if she had just eaten 20 minutes earlier I would try burping first not feeding. My list looked something like this: need to suck, swaddle, hungry, tired, over stimulated, gas bubble, wet/poopy.
If the crying wasn’t comforted within ten seconds or so I would quickly move on to the next thing. There were many times I wouldn’t be able to find the right thing she needed, but my list caused me to feel like I had a plan and was in control, which was something I needed. This also helped my husband to feel like he had some things to try instead of just saying “here she goes again” and handing her to me.
The Fourth Trimester…|Create a Womb-like Environment
Last, but most importantly, we began to understand that she needed a “fourth trimester”. I am not sure where I heard the expression but it is right on. Our daughter truly needed an extra 3 months in the womb. She wasn’t ready to be out in the cold harsh world yet. Once we realized this and began working to make her life more “wombish” things began to improve and she began to seem more content and calm.
We started “baby wearing” carrying her in our arms instead of in a car seat or swing. We swaddled her, used warm blankets, took her into a quiet dark room, made shooshing sounds and danced her around in combination to all the rest. We tried to create an environment that would meet her need for more time in the tummy.
Remember, the crying will stop. At almost three months to the day our daughter stopped crying. It was amazing, and although we would tense anytime she cried thinking maybe it was starting again, it never did. Our daughter is now an amazing, sensitive girl and there is no evidence of that inconsolable baby.
I thank God for those terrible three months. They taught me so much about myself, my child and my God. Hopefully my experience will help you walk through yours.
This post was originally published here at A Frog In My Soup for Baby Fest on January 30, 2009.