Guest Written By: Jess Procter
Don’t Panic! Hints to Help You Survive a Colicky Baby
Pregnancy can feel like an eternity and by the end of it we feel large, tired and impatient to meet the baby that we know will change our lives - and sleep schedules - forever. It’s so disheartening to bring home a new baby expecting sleepy cuddles and to get hours of inconsolable crying instead; but you’re not alone! So many of us are experiencing or have survived a colicky baby. There isn’t much that makes it easier but there are a few things I learned in my months as a “Colic Mama”. I hope some of them can help you survive, too.
Adjust Your Expectations
This is number one for most mamas of severely fussy babies. The hardest thing can be to separate your reality from what you thought your Fourth Trimester was going to look like - or what it looks like for your friends or the social media moms you follow. No one expects life with a newborn to be easy but not many mamas expect colic, either. Comparison is truly the thief of joy for parents of a fussy kid, so let go of what you thought would happen and deal, to the best of your ability, with what is happening. Every phase passes.
Lean On Your Village
If you’re not the type to easily accept help this can be a lot easier said than done, but if someone close to you offers help of any kind, take it! Give explicit instructions and don’t be shy - maybe you need your laundry done or a delivery of groceries picked up. Maybe you’d appreciate someone coming over just to hold your screaming child so you can shower. Maybe you want a friend to leave a pizza and a bottle of wine on your doorstep. Accept what you feel comfortable accepting and politely decline what you don’t.
Give Yourself the Grace to Try and Figure it Out
Even if you don’t have a particularly fussy baby it can take a few months to find out what a newborn likes and doesn’t like. Even veteran moms with five kids have to figure it out with every new babe. A certain type of white noise, that one movement that helps them fall asleep, a baby carrier, a stroller or car ride. It might take a long time to find the thing that works but when you find it and gain some semblance of peace for even half an hour you feel like you just might be able to get through that newborn stage after all! Then again, if you’ve experienced a truly colicky baby you know that sometimes nothing works, no matter how many well-meaning moms swear it worked for their own fussy babe. In that case, just survive. It gets better. Promise. In the meantime, try the gas drops. Try bouncing on a yoga ball. You just never know.
This is a time of survival. Don’t feel obligated to cater to others or do things you don’t want to do because you feel like you “should;” there’ll be plenty of time for that later! For now stay home, turn down invitations that make you feel overwhelmed, and don’t worry about putting your life on hold as long as you need to. Everyone will understand.
Find Like-Minded Parents
We experienced severe colic with my firstborn that lasted for four months and didn’t dissipate completely until she was about six months old. Many of my close friends and family members were having their own babies at that time and I felt so isolated seeing how easily they seemed to manage their lives. Finally I found a Facebook group for parents of spirited and high-needs children and instantly felt understood. Knowing that others were going through something similar didn’t make the days or nights any easier for us but it definitely helped me understand that my child wasn’t fussy because of anything I was doing, she was just having a (much) harder time adjusting to life outside of the womb. Having someone to text in the middle of the night can be bolstering, too.
It’s Okay to Put the Baby Down
There are times when it will be crucial for you to get a break from a screaming baby but circumstances may not permit one. Maybe your partner works long hours, you don’t have a partner, or no friends are available to help out. If your baby has been crying for a very long time and you need to take a few minutes to collect yourself and give your weary arms a break, don’t feel guilty about needing to put the baby down! If she has been fed and changed and is still crying, put her in her crib or another safe place and make yourself a coffee or a quick lunch. As mothers we often feel guilty if we don't tend to our fussing child every second of the day but she will learn to settle herself eventually and a few minutes here and there is a great start toward her own independence, especially if it saves your own sanity.
Make Time for Yourself
Obviously during the Fourth Trimester it’s hard enough to find time to sleep, let alone engaging in all of your pre-baby hobbies. But even if you only get fifteen minutes a day you can always find small ways to indulge in a little self care (sometimes very small ways). Short trips to a corner coffee shop for a latte. A few minutes writing in your journal. A phone call to someone who provides a listening ear or a little perspective. A quick bath. One episode of a favorite TV show or podcast while nursing. Invest in a super soft robe or blanket to make those middle-of-the-night feeds feel like less of an obligation and more of an opportunity for comfort.
Most importantly: It’s not you, it’s the baby! It’s nearly impossible not to internalize blame when you experience your newborn seemingly rejecting every attempt to soothe her cries, but it truly isn’t anything that you did or did not do. Colic is awful and it can feel never-ending but it really is such a short time in the scheme of you and your baby’s relationship. As every parent knows, everything is a phase and this one will pass just as all the others do. Soon you’ll find you’re enjoying parenthood a little more every day, and maybe even one day doing the unthinkable - entertaining the idea of having another one! For now, just take a deep breath and go easy on yourself. Good luck!