Colic Sucks

Welcome mom and colic survivor Jessica Code as this week’s guest blogger

All babies cry. Some cry a little, some cry a lot. And some cry so much, so intensely, and for so long that it is hard to believe that there’s really nothing wrong with them; it’s just (HA!) that mysterious but harmless (double HA!) condition known as colic.

imagesBoth my daughters were colicky infants. I don’t mean they had spells of crying in the evening, or that they were occasionally hard to soothe; they were both completely insane. Even their own grandmother admitted that she found it hard not to spin her tires on her way out after coming over to help for the day. If I had to guess, I would say they spent 98.3% of their awake time screaming their brains out, and since they only slept 15-30 minutes at a time, it was a lot of f**king crying.

Somehow, my husband and I survived. We partly did this by banding together like a couple of battle weary soldiers, and spent many sleepless nights evaluating this horrific turn that our lives had taken. Often during these chats, one of us was in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, unable to stop rocking.

Thankfully, those dark, dark days are over, but I still often think about all the moms and dads out there who are currently destroying their knees from non-stop bouncing and going deaf from the vacuum running 20 hours a day, and I want to give them all a big hug and a shot of vodka. Since that’s logistically impossible, I’ve compiled some of the conclusions that hubs and I came to regarding the state of our pathetic lives, how we coped, and the surprising benefits to coming this close to being institutionalized. 

Sad Fact #1: You will hate your friends for a while.

Dealing with a colic baby is an entirely different experience from the one your friends are having with their more typical, or “easy” babies (henceforth referred to as the Sack of Potatoes baby, or SOP). You really, really try not to resent their smooth transition to parenthood, but come on- they’re celebrating sleeping through the night at 6 weeks while you’re grateful to finally pass out in a pool of baby vomit at 6am. This is likely to cause feelings of isolation, alienation, and homicidal rage.

How to cope: Find fellow hostages. They’re out there. Join one of the bajillion mommy sites and search for other colic moms to commiserate with people on the same planet as you. It will do amazing things for your sanity, and you will likely find friends for years to come (shout out to my Rock Star Mamas!)

Silver Lining: Not only will you eventually stop hating your friends, but as the months and years pass, NOTHING in the normal course of child development will be as difficult as what you did the first few months. When your friends, whom you love again, are pulling their hair out and whining because their SOP is teething, throwing tantrums, and not sleeping well anymore, you’ll chuckle to yourself at how easy all that stuff is and feel some of that confidence that was absent the first few months.

Sad Fact #2: Everyone but you knows how to soothe your baby.

Not really, but they all think they do. And their suggestions just further enrage you because they are so telling of just how flipping easy their SOP’s must have been. Things like:

Will she take a soother?
Do you have a swing?
Gripe water works great!
Rub her back/pat her bum
Just put her in the car

These are the most common asinine suggestions that you’ll hear that pretty much NEVER work for colic babies. If it were that easy, do you really think we’d still have an inconsolable baby on our hands? Do you think we’ve just been sitting here staring at her while she cries on the floor? Of course everyone means well with their suggestions, but at the time you’re in no state to suffer foolishness and it is just further proof that everyone you will ever meet has had an easier baby than you.

How to cope: Conserve your energy. “Doesn’t work” is probably the most succinct response. “Nothing does” is an optional follow-up if they persist with the magic of strollers to put a baby to sleep. If they continue, simply stop listening. It’s not worth your mental health.

Silver Lining: You will know how to soothe pretty much every baby you encounter after your “baptism by fire” welcome to motherhood. It’s a great party trick- grab that fussy infant, swaddle him with one hand without spilling the wine in your other, and do the shush and bounce until you’re both in a trance. You will be known as the baby whisperer in your network of friends and family.

Sad Fact #3: Your neighbours will think you’ve either moved or died.

There will be days, probably weeks, possibly months on end where you do not leave the house for more than an hour, or two if you’re feeling sassy, because honestly, what’s the point. It requires changing out of your pyjamas, and while you’re out you’re still in that colic bubble- your baby’s phantom cries still ring in your ears, and the whole outing is marred by the knowledge that eventually you have to return to hell, I mean home.

How to cope: As hard as it is, you need to get out without baby whenever possible. Hopefully you have support from your partner, parents, siblings, the homeless guy down the street; whoever offers to watch the baby so you can have some ‘me’ time should be immediately taken up on the offer. You won’t want to at the time, but you’ll be glad you did. In retrospect, I really wish I would have done it more often. The world will not spin off its axis if your angel screams in someone else’s arms for a while.

Silver lining: You will eventually get to experience a rare phenomena: the euphoric buzz of freedom reclaimed. I imagine it’s similar to what a butterfly must feel after emerging from its chrysalis, or how a prisoner reacts the first time they exit into the sunlight after 20 hard years. Seriously, when the crying is over and everyone is sleeping again, you’ll feel a cool kind of culture shock as you reintegrate into society. Colours seem brighter; food is savoured now that it can be eaten at a pace that allows for you to actually taste your meal; everything is awesome because your days and nights no longer play out to the soundtrack of a relentlessly screaming infant.

Sad Fact #4Your baby will be normal long before you are.

Some colic babies are “cured” after a short time (meaning the source of their crying is discovered, usually reflux or a food allergy), some just magically stop crying one day between 3 and 5 months, and others just get gradually less fussy over a period of time. Whichever the case, once the smoke clears and the dust settles, you will probably be a little shell-shocked for a while. I still have to occasionally fight the urge to sucker punch rested-looking new moms pushing sleeping SOP’s in their strollers at the mall. After being in survival mode for so long, it’s like your mind and body kind of forgot what it’s like to live a normal life.

How to cope: Those moms you found when you were hating your friends? Talk with them. Talk with your partner, your extended family, your friends, random strangers. I still drive everyone nuts with references to how horrible my babies’ colic was, but it’s great when it results in a connection with another mom or dad who’s been there. Also helpful, but probably not healthy: visit some mom friends who have had a colic baby after their SOP and try not to be too smug.

Silver Lining: Normal is overrated. In all seriousness, being the primary caregiver to a colic baby can push a person beyond desperate and into dangerous territory, and I’m a firm believer in anything being manageable if its confronted head on. Despite my attempts to put a humourous spin on a miserable experience, the fact is that colic babies are at higher risk of being victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome, and for obvious reasons. I like to think that my self-indulgent chatter about colic at the grocery store check-out might just once be overheard by a mom or dad that needed to hear it that day and know that they’re not the only one who’s ever google-mapped local churches to see which has the most welcoming-looking doorstep.

Jessica Code 

Jessica CodeJessica Code lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and two daughters.  When she’s not having kitchen dance parties with little people, she teaches high school English.  

You can follow her on twitter @ColicSucks

Reflux 101 – What is Colic?

Welcome Robynne Elkin MOT, OTR/L, CKT, Pediatric Occupational Therapist and Co-inventor of the RES-Q Infant Wedge, as this week’s guest blogger

The instructor of your “Baby Basics” class probably left out the information about caring for infants with reflux and focused more on diaper changing, how to trim your baby’s nails, and what kinds of bottles to buy. She also likely forgot to mention that your newborn might not let you sleep, could be difficult to feed, and could spew formula across the room like Linda Blair’s pea soup in The Exorcist.

What Is Colic?

Crying infantWhen our moms refer back to our infancy, and if we were irritable babies, we had “colic.” The term colic derives from the Greek word kolikos or kolon, suggesting a disturbance in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Colic is a poorly understood phenomenon; researchers have postulated nervous system, behavioral, and psychologic etiologies. We do know, however, that it is most likely to occur during the evening hours without any identifiable cause. We also know that during episodes of colic, otherwise healthy neonates aged two weeks to four months are very difficult to console. They often stiffen, draw up their legs, and pass gas. Colic is equally likely to occur in both breast fed and formula fed infants. The frustrating fact remains that although one in four babies has colic and much research has been done on the topic, there is not one proven cause. The crying or fussing most frequently begins suddenly, often after a feeding. It can last for 1 to 4 hours. Recent research indicates that use of Probiotics may help to soothe inflammation of the GI tract. GI inflammation may be a factor in colicky babies, which makes a compassionate healthcare provider so important for guidance and direction.

Here are some helpful suggestions to deter colicky symptoms:

  1. Over feeding is futile as a means of lessening crying.
  2. Feeding certain foods, especially those with high sugar content, for example, undiluted juices may increase the amount of gas in the intestine and worsen the situation;
  3. The presence of excessive anger, anxiety, fear, or excitement in the household.

Here are some suggestions to help colicky symptoms:

  1. Do not overfeed! Stick to your baby’s regular feeding schedule of timing and amount of milk taken, as measured in ounces in the bottle-fed baby or in minutes on the breast in the breastfed baby.
  2. Breastfeeding mothers should avoid milk products (“you don’t have to drink milk to make milk”), caffeine, onions, cabbage, beans, broccoli, and other gas-producing, irritating foods.
  3. Avoid juices (young infants should not be drinking juice anyway).
  4. In the formula-fed baby, try changing to a formula containing whey hydrolysate (such as Good Start) or try a low-allergy formula (such as Nutramigen, Alimentum, or Pregestimil). Some research suggests that making these changes can result in a decrease in the number of episodes and duration of symptoms in some infants. It is worth the expense of a week’s trial to see if the formula is at all contributing to the colic.
  5. Take a break! When the anxiety, fear, and tension get to be too much (or perhaps an hour before!), try to have someone else watch the baby, even for an hour, and leave the house. Try to keep a positive attitude.
  6. Try walking the baby in a front-pouch-style carrier with his legs drawn up and pressure off of his belly.
  7. Though there is no clear evidence that physical stimulation helps, many parents swear by it. Some babies seem to be soothed by rhythmic, steady movements, like rocking gently (recommended for term babies) or by sounds, like running the vacuum, or having the clothes dryer within earshot. (Never leave a baby unattended near the dryer, as there is a serious risk of injury.) White noise can be a God send.
  8. Wrap the baby firmly in a comfortable blanket (“swaddling”).
  9. Medications, such as simethicone (Phazyme, Flatulex, Mylicon, Gas-X, Mylanta Gas), and other homeopathic treatments have not conclusively proven to be more effective than placebo (sugar pill) and should be avoided unless prescribed by your infant’s medical provider. Hyoscyamine (Levsin), an antispasmodic medication used to treat adults with various intestinal ailments, has been associated with serious side effects in young infants.
  10. Recently, there have been some interesting results using certain Probiotics (dietary supplements containing live bacteria or yeast and used to aid digestion). It is important to discuss these options with your provider prior to using them.

Robynne Elkin, MOT, OTR/L, CKT
Pediatric Occupational Therapist/Co-inventor RES-Q Infant Wedge. The RES-Q Infant Wedge is the first reversible orthopedic FDA class 1 device for babies with reflux (colic) which promotes musculoskeletal alignment in both tummy and back-lying positions. The device is designed for infants from birth to 12 months of age. It was developmentally designed by a pediatric occupational therapist, physician, and dietitian to meet the needs of premature and term infants. 

Next week read the second part of Robynne’s guest post GER: A Hidden Cause of Colic and if your baby has been diagnosed with reflux, see how you can enter to win a RES-Q Wedge.

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