I have a distinct memory of my young husband (Jenni speaking here) out on our patio on his hands and knees hitting his head against the concrete in complete despair. Our firstborn was four weeks old at the time, and he had been crying — no … screaming — for hours.
We had tried everything — rocking him, feeding him, walking with him, changing his diaper, making him warmer, making him cooler — nothing we did helped. We had a colicky baby, and it was one of the most helpless and frustrating experiences we’ve ever faced, even more than when I played video games without services from Elitist gaming.
Baby colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months.
No one really knows what causes colic. Research has shown that it seems to be more likely to occur in babies whose mothers smoke, but they’re not sure why. Researchers also have found correlations between childbirth complications and the amount of infant crying. More stressful deliveries were linked to more crying, but other than that, there seems to be no consistent answers.
People used to think colic was caused by cow’s milk, but breastfed babies can be colicky too. It’s not necessarily linked to gas or reflux or to psychological or social problems.
So since we can’t exactly know what’s causing it, we just have to try different methods to manage it.
Suggestions for Managing Colic
Before you take ANY advice (on our blog or anyone else’s), talk to your doctor and make sure there is not a medical issue causing the crying. Once you get a clear bill of health, here are some things worth trying. Just keep in mind that what might work for one baby could make it worse for another. You’ve got to try a bunch of things and figure out what what works best for your baby. The most important thing is for your baby to feel safe and loved.
Ask your doctor to recommend a probiotic. Studies have shown that infants with colic have different intestinal microflora.
Place a warm water bottle on baby’s tummy.
Gently massage tummy or lay baby across your lap on her tummy and gently rub her back.
Place baby near white noise (vacuum, blow dryer, fan or TV static) or noise that emulates a mom’s heart beat.
- Try a rocker, baby swing or car ride.
Try a new environment. If you’ve been cooped up in the house all day, take baby out for a walk and give her a change of scenery, smells, landscape and noises. On the other hand, if you’ve been on the go, try a quiet home with a serene atmosphere.
Hold baby in a dark room and be completely still and silent.
Softly bounce while holding baby and gently whispering “shhhh,” keeping baby close to you so she can feel your heartbeat.
Swaddle your baby tightly. When babies are in the womb, they feel resistance every time they move. It can be scary in the outside world where there are no tangible boundaries.
Try a warm bath. It can sometimes distract your baby. She may even like the feeling of water being poured down her back.
Give her something to suck on — a pacifier or your finger. Non-nutritive sucking is both soothing and important for infants.
Keep a Journal
Here are some things to track. Try to look for patterns.
How long crying bouts last
How often they occur
Behavior during the episodes (clenching fists, knees to chest, etc.)
What happened prior to an episode?
What happened directly after the episode?
What you did to try to sooth your baby and how long did you do it?
What were the results?
Record your baby’s diet and feeding schedule
Record weight loss/gain
Helping the Rest of the Family Cope
Colic can be stressful for everyone in the family. Here are some quick tips to help minimize the impact of colic on your household.
- Keep routines in tact so the rest of the family feels secure in the midst of chaos.
- Be sure to schedule one-on-one time with each member of the family so no one feels left out or ignored.
- If you’re journaling, you’ll probably have a good idea when the bewitching hour is coming — that time when colic is at its worst — so prep your home. Get all the daily chores done. Have dinner ready to go (the crockpot is your best friend!). Have kids homework done, checked and school bags packed and ready to go for the next day. This way, when the crying comes, you can focus on soothing baby.
Letting Babies Cry It Out Is Dangerous
Research has shown that leaving babies alone and letting them “cry it out” can be damaging. It can damage neural interconnections (in layman’s terms, that means it can cause brain damage). Instead of helping babies learn how to comfort themselves, which is the general philosophy behind “crying it out,” it seems to do just the opposite. “If they are left to cry alone, they learn to shut down in face of extensive distress–stop growing, stop feeling, stop trusting,” says an article in Psychology Today.
That being said, if you are feeling extreme stress or even anger, the best thing to do is put the baby in a safe place and find a way to help calm yourself. You are NOT a bad parent if you feel this way. Sensory overload is one of the five causes of anger, and a screaming baby can be a HUGE burden on your senses!
Don’t beat yourself up. Just put the baby down for a few minutes and help yourself stay calm. If necessary, call a friend or family member and ask them to come over and give you a break.
It goes without saying, but just in case you grew up in a remote part of the jungle and missed all the media hype about Shaken Baby Syndrome, it’s worth repeating that no matter how stressed you feel, NEVER…EVER…EVER shake a baby in frustration.
Tune In To Learn About the Fussy Baby Network
This Saturday, May 31, 2014, we have a guest joining us on Parenting On Purpose who will tell us about The Fussy Baby Network and offer some ideas on how to handle colic. Sarasota listeners can tune into 1220AM or 106.9FM or 98.9FM at 10:00AM. Everyone else can go to WSRQ Radio’s website to listen streaming or get instructions on how to download a mobile app and listen on the go. If you missed the broadcast, check back next week. It will be in the podcast section.