Crying the Colicky Blues
It was 10:45pm a few weeks ago and I was winding down what I would call a steady evening seeing patients. I looked up from my computer and there was a tiny baby being brought into room 9 followed by 2 adult zombies who looked like they had lost their final battle. Upon closer inspection I determined that this wasn’t some sort of “Living Dead” hoax after all but that these were simply two exhausted parents. I think there must be some sort of sonar of familiarity given off by these types of parents because I immediately felt all the feels of a few years earlier when I was just so darn tired from being up constantly with a fussy baby. Definition of a “bad time.”
I went in, met the whole crew, examined the baby, and the long and short of it was that this was a baby with COLIC, who of course fell asleep during the car ride over after being awake and crying for what had felt to these poor parents as WEEKS. They described night after night of little to no sleep with an infant who cried and seemed inconsolable for no reason. They went to see their regular pediatrician who had suggested that this was likely the diagnosis, and they had now simply arrived at their wits’ end.
I just want to take a moment to talk about colic, mostly so that we can list a few tricks that might help some people JUST GET BY because it is so frustrating and painful.
FIRST, LET’S DEFINE IT.
Colic is typically defined as a healthy, well fed baby who cries for 3 or more hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks. Major drag. It usually starts somewhere around 2 weeks old, and usually is gone all by itself by age 3-4 MONTHS. Now that’s a long time, people. A long time to be going out of your mind from the constant fussiness and noise.
CAUSE NOT KNOWN.
We don’t really know what causes colic. There’s lots of theories, from gas to stomach acid-reflux, but there’s no proof. All we know is that it DOES go away, and babies grow up to be totally normal just like all the others except we parents have more ammunition in our arsenal of “baby stories” that we will tell in later years. In a moderately exasperated tone of voice.
NO MEDICINES PROVEN TO WORK.
There are plenty of different types of “colic drops” or soothing agents for sale out there. While some people might report that these are helpful for their child, I’m here to report that there is NO DATA that supports their effectiveness in reducing colic symptoms. Instead, I generally encourage parents to rely on lots of different tricks to help ease the colic. I hope you’ll chime in with what worked for you. And what didn’t.
Here’s my list,
complete with editorial comments, because you might side-eye me after reading them as some could be placed in the “a little unusual” category:
- Try to keep bright lights and sounds to a minimum as sometimes these can be overly stimulating to a sensitive baby. (Reasonable, but we can’t live our lives being petrified if the doorbell rings during naptime. I’ve been there, and it was not a treat.)
- Try to minimize gas and reflux. So do an extra good job burping after feeds and sit your baby upright for a good long while after eating to help minimize the spitting up.
- Motion can really help colicky babies. Walking around in a snuggly baby carrier often helps them to settle down. Same gig applies with taking a car ride in the car seat (see above) as long as they’re buckled in properly and you’re not too tired to pay attention and drive. (This one is the money)
- White noise. A personal favorite, just because. Many folks swear by RUNNING THE VACUUM or turning the dryer on (not making this up) or even getting a white noise machine or turning the radio to no station just static (!!!). Turning on a fan nearby without blowing the air directly on the baby is a handy trick as well. Small caveat here, don’t put your baby on top of the dryer in a car seat unless you are going to be standing there the WHOLE TIME. We don’t need any further fussiness due to trauma from a fall.
Be really mindful that YOU as a parent need breaks when you are in the weeds with colic. Work this out with your partner, your parents or friends; heck anyone you trust who will give you a few moments to rest and regroup. The strugglebus is real on this one, folks, and although it will indeed be in the rear view mirror soon enough, it feels like a never ending road when you are on it.
Remember this: you are a great parent and your baby is wonderful! Hang in there, warrior.