- Family and Parenting
Surviving the First 12 Weeks of Your Colicky Baby
Coping with the Colicky or Challenging Baby You Brought Home
Colic, gas, reflux, or just plain stubbornness. Whatever it is, your baby has it. Instead of the cooing, cheerful, diaper-box image of a perfect baby, you have a squirming, red-faced, angry mess on your hands. What is a sleep-deprived, helpless new parent to do?
This article will provide useful tips for how to survive those first 12 weeks when your baby does four things: cry, sleep, eat, and poop. After 12 weeks, many parents report that their infant calms down and the hours of crying subside. So, let's get you through it!
Re-Enter the Womb
Creating a Space Familiar to Baby
When babies are upset, sometimes the best thing to do is remind them of where they came from. That is, their mother's womb. Dimming the lights, making white noise, and creating gentle movements can re-create those warm, snuggly feelings that the baby might be missing. Some other activites to try:
-Going for a car ride
-Swaying or dancing with baby in your arms
-Bouncing on an exercise ball with baby
-Looking out the window, at lights, or at a mirror (some babies just need a change of scenery)
-Bouncing gently in the infant seat
-Bouncing (gently!) on your knee
-Letting baby lay flat on a blanket or in the crib (sometimes, babies just get sick of being held, too!)
-Hold baby against your chest (they like the heartbeat sound!)
You Don't Smell as Good as You Think You Do
Babies are Sensitive Creatures
That expensive cologne or perfume may have been great for attracting a mate, but it's less than stellar for babies, who are already bombarded with a world of new sights, sounds, and smells from the moment of birth. Try limiting the amount of perfume, or skip it altogether, for a couple days and see if your little one becomes more cuddly.
Certain fabrics may be irritating for babies as well. So, you may want to hold off wearing that wool sweater; it may not feel itchy to you, but to a baby whose used to floating in amniotic fluid, the feeling might be quite unpleasant. Or, if the baby is wearing a different outfit than usual, make sure that all the little pieces of plastic are off of it, the back tag isn't bothering him, or he doesn't have a loose piece of thread wrapped around a finger or toe.
Contrary to popular belief, newborn babies don't need total peace and quiet. When they were inside the womb, they heard blood rushing, your heart beating, and all the sounds from the environment you were in. So, a moderate amount of sound is actually comforting to newborn ears. Try using a vacuum, making "shushing" noises, the TV turned on to a static channel, or a sound machine to create some regular, comforting "white' noise. YouTube is also a great source for this.
Soothing Sounds - Using a Sound Machine to Comfort your Newborn
Early on, we used a sound machine to help our baby calm down. There are many options for sound machines, from cuddly stuffed animals, to traditional speakers, so there is bound to be one that fits the dÃ©cor, budget, and personality of your baby. Check out some sound machines below- I've included the two that I own, as they are (obviously) my top picks.
This sleep machine also has a plug-in for an MP3 player, so you can use one of their 12 options or play your own music.
It's All Relative
When you have a challenging baby, it can be very hard to ask help from others. However, if you're going to survive the upcoming months, help from others is exactly what you need. Even if it's just asking the neighbor to hold your baby for 10 minutes while you go jogging (and get out of earshot from baby's screams), those snippets of peace and quiet will be the only thing helping you regain your sanity.
Also important- don't hesitate to ask grandparents to step in to hold your screaming bundle of joy, if they are able. Hey, they raised you, and you survived. They might have different parenting styles than what you wanted for your child, but that hour of babysitting will help you recharge your batteries so you can be a better parent overall.
You'll usually find that the person who your enlisting help from will have more patience than you. This is because they'll only need to cope with the crying baby for an hour or two. A fresh pair of loving arms (that aren't exhausted from already having hours of screaming) is exactly what you and baby both need.
The Danger Zone of a Colicky Baby
Pay Attention to How You're Feeling
After hour 2...or 3....or 4... of baby crying, you probably feel like your head is going to explode. You pick up baby in (what you think) is a loving embrace. However, since you're stressed out, baby can definitely tell the difference.
When going through a crying episode, make sure you are paying attention to your body's signals. If your heart is racing, you feel tense, and you are feeling angry at the baby, please know that this is a totally normal human response. However, STOP. Take a moment to calm down.
Many babies are injured or killed each year simply because well-meaning parents became heated in the moment, shaking their babies, slamming them in their crib, or using other physical measures to relieve the stress they're feeling from babies crying.
So, if you're feeling irritable from the crying (and really, everyone gets to this point at some time), here are a couple things you can do to relieve the stress. Put the baby in the crib, bassinet, or on a blanket somewhere safe, and take 5 minutes to yourself:
-Call a friend
-Grab a drink of water
-Do some deep breathing
-Punch a pillow
-Scream into the pillow
-Basically, take all your aggression out on a pillow
-Memorize a comforting Bible verse (My favorite: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Galatians 6:9)
-Read from a book or magazine
-Check the mail
-Run around the house
-Do 20 sit ups (or jumping jacks, or push ups..you get the picture)
-Hide under the covers
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you aren't just doing this for yourself, you're also doing this for your baby. Once you feel your muscles relax and your heart rate drop, you can go back to being a wonderful parent for your sad little one.
Get Rid of the Guilt
It's Not You, It's Them
It's very common for parents to get trapped by their own thoughts of Why is MY baby like this? Why can't I keep her quiet? What's wrong with me? What did I do to deserve this type of child?
At the end of the day, it isn't anything you did or didn't do to cause a difficult baby. Your baby just is the way he is. However, this phase of life will pass (slowly, but it WILL pass), and you'll be left with a healthy, typical pre-toddler. Keep that in mind when the screaming isn't stopping: it WILL pass and you will all survive. And, hey, at least the baby won't remember it!
Also remember- when the baby cries, she or he isn't yelling at you. They aren't crying because you're a bad parent, because you are mean to them, or because they wish they were born into a different family (that doesn't come till the teenage years). They're just crying.
Doctors don't know exactly why colicky babies cry, although theories abound. One thing's for sure, though. Colicky babies are not the result of bad parents. So stop feeling guilty about it.