The dreaded “C” word. Illusive, baffling, yet all too real. The witching hour of absolute insanity and mayhem when your beautiful baby whom you couldn’t wait to meet, turns into pure evil...
Like you, I’ve heard the tales of mothers having things under control all day. Then all of a sudden, the sun dips to 4pm, and it all goes down the tubes. They’re then reduced to a helpless puddle of tears along with their screaming babies, all thanks to the dreaded “C” word. Here’s what I’ve learnt about colic, and how to deal with it.
How to spot colic in babies
According to the internet.,“Colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in a healthy infant. Episodes of colic usually peak when an infant is about 6 weeks old and decline significantly after 3 to 4 months of age.” Colic is also defined as an infant crying for at least 3 hours in a row, 3 times a week – that’s according to 3 sleep experts I reached out to because my newborn, Lily, wasn’t sleeping at all. You know what else happens in 3s? All things bad. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
My colic conundrum
The first 2 weeks of Lily’s life were deceivingly easy. She slept on her own, guzzled down milk, and she didn’t fuss, even with a dirty diaper. I had given birth to an angel. By the third week, the jig was up. The first day she woke up at 7am, fussed, the boob was activated, she drank, and she settled… for 15 minutes. Then my husband left for work, and she cried a cry I wasn’t familiar with. She had turned. She was now: creature. I rocked creature in my arms for 3 hours while it sobbed intermittently. It was feeding time again so I gave the creature its feed. It took it all and once again, reverted to screeching. By now, lunch time, the creature had been awake for 5 hours, screaming for 4. After what felt like a lifetime of rocking, the creature finally fell into a short-lived slumber, awaking just 40 minutes later…
The cycle of doom repeated for the rest of the week. The brief moments of silence were filled by frantic Google searches: “Why won’t my infant sleep more than 30 minutes?”. “Can a baby die from crying?”. “What is a 1 month year-old’s sleep pattern?”. My plight was well documented on my Instagram, so many of my followers suggested a sleep expert. I reached out at once! She told me it was never too early to start sleep training; she had 4 children herself and sleep training begun the second they were born.
I told her about the creatures situation. How it would wake at 7am, eat, go down for a nap, then at 9am it would start blaring, and wouldn’t stop ’til 4 in the afternoon, with 3 short, 40 minute naps in between. She told me my situation didn’t fit colic symptoms, and it was most likely a fussy, overtired infant. She proceeded to ask me to transfer her $100 so she could send over her help videos. I paid at once! They were not useful. Two other sleep experts I called echoed her diagnosis: “it’s not colic, but an overtired infant.”
Why talking about colic is so important
My parents were first-time grandparents and would call every day asking about their grandchild. But I was always grumpy and short, because I had the creature to appease. They would occasionally come over to give me lunch just as an excuse to see their grandchild. Of course, those would be the moments the creature behaved. My mother would tell me, “Sleep when the baby sleeps”, “Leave the laundry ’til night time”, “Just cook something simple and stop ordering take out”. Where was the time or the energy for all of this? Was I a bad mother? Why could I not calm my own child, and why wasn’t I like other mothers who could keep the house running and care for a newborn? How do those mothers who go out with their newborns do it?!
I just collapsed in tears in my mother’s arms. I was defeated. The thought of waking up to a new day with my daughter terrified me. I dreaded going into her room. It was the vortex of doom, where pointless back-breaking rocking ensued. I decided I had to take her to the doctor.
When we got to the doctor, she screamed the whole time in the waiting room, and during the consult. After checking the regular things, like temperature, reflexes, and asking the regular questions (like whether or not she’s eating well or sleeping well at night) we were checked off. Then my doctor turned his attention to me.
“No, babies cant die from crying… now how are you?”
After the checks were done, my doctor quickly told me it was probably colic, AKA wind that is in the baby’s belly that they just don’t know how to get out. He prescribed some probiotics, told me how often to administer them, and I was next. “How are you doing?”. Those four words made me bawl. I told him I was stressed and tired and just felt like a failure. He assured me that no, babies could not die from crying. And no, they do not become less intelligent from prolonged periods of crying.
He asked if I had help, and if I had any time for myself. I told him we didn’t have a helper, and because the baby slept only 30-40 minutes each nap, I hardly had time for anything. He asked if there was any way I could hand the baby off to someone I trusted, even a neighbour. At that point I was ready to hand the creature off to the neighbourhood cat if the cat would have it. He stressed that I had to take care of myself, even if that meant putting the baby safely in her cot to cry, while I locked myself in a room and put on music to drown out the crying for a while. His emphasis on my wellbeing mentally and physically gave me so much more confidence in myself. No, I wasn’t a bad mother. I was just a first-time mother figuring things out.
What to do when your baby has colic.
- NEVER COMPARE! I made that fatal mistake. I’d look at new mothers going out to lunch with a sleeping newborn, going for picnics and even raising other kids! I refused to admit I needed help because, “If they can do it, so can I”.
- As with any “illness”, get it diagnosed by a professional. Had I listened to the three sleep experts and believed it was just an overtired infant, my poor baby would have been bloated, in pain and ignored.
- While Gripe water is the old school go-to for most parents, I found it did nothing to relieve the discomfort. What worked was what the doctor prescribed. Biogia probiotics, as well as Ridwind. Just a couple of drops of each daily, and within a week the creature was gone, and my daughter Lily, had returned.
- Ask for help! Everyone has different experiences. Most of my friends’ infants took 3-4 hour naps allowing them to nap, get ahead of laundry and even cook meals. My situation just did not allow it, so I had to learn to stop denying myself help.
- Lastly, give yourself grace. Babies cry, that’s what they do. There is no direct correlation between the amount of crying and your ability to be a good parent. Taking a break from your child isn’t neglect, or shunning your motherly duties. It’s putting yourself first so you can be the super human you need to be.
I spent the next few weeks at my parent’s place. I took care of the baby still, but just having them around made a world of difference. It was having someone else to talk to, and having real human contact. Before that, I was stuck at home alone while my husband went to work, leaving me to deal with a crying baby. After about a week and a half, the creature was gone for good. Colic is a rough ride, but luckily, it doesn’t last forever.