When it comes to motherhood, there are many things that I hold onto tightly. Some of my favorites are - baby snuggles after a long day, the calm and connection of middle of the night feedings, and the way your kiddo looks at you like you are their person. But, motherhood has been full of challenges as well. In our household, we’ve dealt with postpartum depression and anxiety, premature babies and the NICU, sleep apnea diagnosed after a “blue” episode (so scary!), colic, reflux, developmental delays and more. It’s been a roller coaster - and I know that no matter what your journey has been like, you can relate to that.
But today, I want to talk about colic. Both of my children were quite grumpy babies, but my daughter was the one who screamed ALL day. I was a brand new mom and had no idea what to do. Literally, none. And I had to walk away - a lot. I was desperate. But, I learned a lot from her (and continue to do so). In fact, her birth and babyhood is what led me down this path of helping new moms - and what inspired me to create Mommy-SOS. Now, I want to share it with you!
So, first. How do you know if it’s just normal crying or if it’s colic? Well, Dr. Sears says in The Baby Book, “If you wonder whether or not you have a colicky baby – you don’t!” J But it’s my experience that it’s not quite so easy. It’s very common for babies to be fussy for a few hours a day. However, normal fussiness can often be improved by holding/wearing your baby and offering the breast/bottle frequently (clusterfeeding). Alternatively, colic is defined in the 3s - at least three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks straight. It typically begins within the first few weeks after birth and lasts until ~3 months. The biggest sign of colic is that it often takes a more than just holding or feeding your baby to calm them back down.
Unfortunately, no one knows for sure exactly what causes colic. So, there isn’t a clear cut way to “fix” it. However, there are speculations that it is caused by overstimulation, tummy troubles - like reflux, food allergies or gas, or an immature digestive system. With these concerns in mind, there are definitely steps you can take to help lessen the level of crying. And perhaps more importantly, help you keep from losing your sanity. Here are some tips:
Cut yourself some slack.
When you’re baby won’t stop crying, it is SO easy to assume that you are not a good mother or that you’re doing something wrong. I have been there! But, colic is real. And you are still here, holding your screaming baby (or sitting in the next room – also totally ok!), and you are a good mom.
Try the 5Ss
Dr. Karp suggests that babies struggle with adapting to the overstimulation of the outside world during what he calls the “4th trimester”. By helping to recreate the environment of the womb, you can turn on your baby’s innate calming reflex and essentially turn off the crying. Check out my article here for more about exactly what to do and in what order. I wish I had these steps to help me when my daughter was born, but I hadn’t found it yet. However, as a Certified Happiest Baby Educator working with families just like yours – I have seen it done successfully many times!
Take a break.
One of the most important things you can do for you AND your baby is to get out of the house. Schedule time with your partner for you to be alone – or line up a babysitter, family member, or postpartum doula. Ideally, this would be at least once a week – if not more. As a new mom, it’s important that you have a chance to just be yourself and not a caretaker. You don’t just deserve a break – you need one.
Consider Feeding Issues
Although doctors don’t really agree on what causes colic, some believe it has to do with feeding discomfort or tummy troubles. There are a lot of products on the market geared toward this idea, but I never could get them to work for my daughter (though eliminating dairy did make a difference). If you are breastfeeding, work with a lactation consultant to make sure that your baby’s latch is working. They can also help you with tips for an overactive letdown and other breastfeeding issues that could lead to an upset baby. Here is a great article that may also help. If you are bottle feeding, then you may want to try switching to a dairy free formula. Work with your pediatrician to explore your options and to learn more about what a dairy sensitivity can look like.
Find your tribe.
There are tons of moms out there who are struggling with a colicky baby too. Joining an online or local mom’s group can help expose you to those moms and find support in your journey. It was life changing for me to find my “mom friends”. They validated just how bad it all was – and gave me hope that it would get better. And it did! It will for you too mama. If you're still looking for your tribe, come join our Sisterhood on Facebook. We'd love to have you! Hang in there <3
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Jennifer Howard, CLC, CHBE
As a maternal mental health and pediatric sleep expert, I am passionate about helping tired mamas thrive throughout the many seasons of motherhood. I'm a Nationally Certified Professional Life Coach and Masters Level Therapist specializing in parental mental wellness, marriage/partnership strength and pediatric sleep and soothing.
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