Colic is Satan incarnate. “She won’t stop crying. I seriously can’t take this anymore. Will this ever stop? Is something wrong with her? Is she ever going to be a normal baby?” I repeated to myself, tears rolling down my cheeks, every day for two months straight. This is life with a baby who has infant colic.
So what exactly is infant colic? It’s defined as three or more hours a day of crying for more than three days a week, for a minimum of three weeks, in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. And the kicker, the cause of the colic is generally unknown.
When I told people my baby girl had infant colic, I was given a sympathetic nod, and the conversation quickly moved to a new topic without giving it much weight. I understand. If you haven’t dealt with a colicky infant, you can’t possibly understand the torture parents go through those weeks (or months) that it lasts.
I had no idea just how low maintenance Rocco was until we had Giada. Our biggest challenge with him was that he spit up a lot after eating. Any jostling would result in vomit on him or us. We solved his spit-up problems fairly simply, with a perma-bib tied tightly around his neck and sitting him upright in his bouncy chair as soon as he was done eating.
Right away, we knew our daughter Giada (we call her “Gigi”) was anything but low maintenance. At about 4 weeks old, her colic kicked into high gear. Her crying was, and to some extent, still is, not a whimper like some babies have. Gigi’s cry is a high-pitched, full-tilt, full-throttle, mouth-wide-open wail as if she were acting in a horror movie and we were coming at her with a butcher’s knife – except hers would last for hours.
There is no middle ground with her. She goes from the most beautiful toothless smile you’ve ever seen to an all-out, high-pitched scream in a split second. Sometimes she even manages to smile and cry at the same time. The word crazy has come out of Jade and my mouths more than a few times.
Gigi is just more sensitive than her brother. She was easily bothered by a moist diaper; even a slightly damp one would set her off. And don’t even think about changing her clothes. The minute I’d remove her sleeper, she’d break into her blood-curdling scream. “How dare you take my clothes off!” I imagined her saying between her wales.
During these two months, Jade and I were constantly on edge. We argued over the stupidest little things. There were many moments where we felt tinges of regret. Should we have waited longer to have a second baby? Should we have stopped at one? Is our child ever going to be normal?
We worried that our love for her would be permanently tarnished, that the resent we felt for her behavior would linger. We feared that she would never stop, that her behavior was just who she was. I feared that having her early had caused this, that I was somehow to blame.
Luckily, none of these fears took hold. As the colic started to subside around 16 weeks, Gigi’s good-natured, happier self became more present. Today, she smiles almost any time you look towards her, or talk or sing to her. She smiles from ear to ear and her big glittering brown eyes and mile long eyelashes almost smile back.
I know it’s really hard for parents to believe this when they are dealing with infant colic, but colic does end. It does get better. You just have to dig in, bare with it, and it will eventually go away.
As a parent who just recently went through almost three months of baby colic, I am by no means an expert, but I wanted to share the things we tried and talk about what worked best for us in hopes of helping other struggling parents out there. Here are the things that worked best for us.
White noise is supposed to ease colic in some babies. We tried the SHHHing in Gigi’s ear, and that worked from time to time. The premise is that you get close to the baby’s ear while she is crying and loudly SHHH in her ear. This wasn’t a full-proof method, but it did work every now and then.
I also accidentally found a vacuum cleaner did ease her colic one time. After what felt like an eternity of Gigi crying at the top of her lungs, I got out the vacuum to clean the floors, while taking my mind off of and muffle the sound of her crying. Ironically, within minutes of turning on the vacuum, Gigi was sound asleep (vacuum still running) in her swing. It seems counter-intuitive that she could fall asleep with all that noise, but it did the trick. I wouldn’t really recommend this technique though, as the sound of a loud vacuum is almost, if not as bad as the sound of her crying.
Gigi liked her pacifier early on. If she wasn’t already too deeply in the throws of a crying fit, a pacifier would get her to stop crying. She had a very strong sucking reflex, and seemed to feel soothed when sucking on her pacifier. She also liked sucking on our fingers or knuckles. Ironically, around the time her colic ended, so did her interest in pacifiers.
Movement and motion often helps calm fussy babies. Gigi reacted best to a swing. She also liked being held, especially if we were swaying her or walking around. I would carry her in her baby bjorn and that usually kept her happy for awhile. She did not like car rides early on, although I’ve read that some babies react well to car rides. Gigi also liked to be patted on the back. Even if she didn’t burp, gently rubbing and patting her back seemed to soothe her.
After we had tried everything, there were points in time where we just had to try to ignore her. I found this nearly impossible, but my husband was much better at tuning her out than I was. I would put Gigi down (in her swing, play mat, bumbo or bouncy chair) and turn on some trashy TV, clean the house, or do something else to keep busy instead of concentrating on the crying I couldn’t stop.
After we’d tried everything and we reached the point where we were going to lose it, we would put Gigi in the furthest room away in the house. She was safe in her crib, but far enough away that her cry was very faint, instead of blaring in our ears. Although I felt guilty for leaving her alone in the room screaming, she was much safer alone than if I had lost it and done something to accidentally hurt her.
During these months of colic, I really wished I had family and friends nearby who could help with Gigi. Jade and I don’t have anyone nearby to help, so we found that taking turns worked best for us. If Jade was close to his breaking point, I would take over. When I started to feel overwhelmed, he would take over. If we both couldn’t handle it anymore, we would put her in the back room to get some space.
Talk to Your Doctor
Although most people agree there is no cure for infant colic, that babies will simply outgrow it, we did find medical intervention somewhat helpful. Some colic theories indicate that colic is related to gas and immature digestive development. We found that acid reflux medicine eased Gigi’s colic slightly. No, it didn’t suddenly disappear, but her episodes of colic weren’t quite as extreme once we started her on the medication.
Infant colic is a special kind of torture for new parents. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. As a new mom who is already sleep-deprived and extra emotional, colic is almost unbearable. I am so thankful for my patient and supportive husband who got me through it. Without him bearing the brunt of Gigi’s wrath, I don’t know what would have happened. All I can say to parents who are dealing with infant colic is, hang in there. I promise it gets better, and you aren’t alone in your struggle.