We’ve sent humans to the moon. We’ve cured diseases. We’ve mapped the human genome. We've even put the lime in the coconut, and shook it all up.
Why can’t we cure colic?
When the doctor in the emergency room gave “colic” as the diagnosis for my first daughter’s ceaseless screaming, I wanted to scream right along with her. Why can’t there be a magic pill, or special blanket, or a tribal chant - anything - to sooth my baby? And what about my anxiety ravaged nerves?
The prescription came simply: Wait it out.
And so I did - and I learned some serious survival skills along the way, mainly about being organized for the nightly colic battle.
Fast-forward two years to when my second daughter started to show the classic signs of being a colicky baby, but this time was different; I didn’t panic, because I had a plan.
The key to surviving your baby’s colic without your own epic meltdown is simple, and it is this: Be prepared; and be organized.
This is where the “it takes a village” mantra needs to become your reality. Ask for help, and accept it. Colic is an exhausting experience for parents, so make use of the helping hands around you. Help from friends, family, neighbours, and contracted help (serious times call for serious measures) might include:
- Having someone make dinner and drop it off
- Sending your other kids for a sleepover at Grandma’s house (siblings need a break from the crying, too).
For me, even just having another person to joke and commiserate with is a real mood booster.
For most babies, the colic “witching hours” begin in the early evening. Take a moment to think about the things you typically do during that time. Make dinner? Give other kids a bath, or carry out a soothing bedtime routine? Have a shower yourself?
You’ll need to offload the pressure to accomplish those things during these evening hours – but just until the colic disappears. The pressure I placed on myself to make my toddler’s routine as normal as possible was unhelpful: giving a bath while bouncing a screaming baby isn’t pleasant for anyone. Some changes we made included:
- Changing bath and shower time to the morning
- Instead of my reading a bedtime story, having my toddler start “reading” a book to me (which had her focus on being a helper instead of a victim of her demanding, noisy, baby sister)
Take the pressure off yourself to be anything but a master of soothing during those peak colic times!
The incessant crying of colic is a trying experience for everyone. Make sure your other children have everything they need for the afternoon/evening MUCH earlier than usual. In fact, we have moved our entire afternoon/evening routine up by thirty minutes. This means dinner is at 4:30 p.m. (we're now like retirees and the elderly, enjoying our meals early), with a quick snack before bed.
My dinner-prep secret:
I make dinner at lunchtime or during naps, and pop it in the fridge already plated, for a quick microwave heat-up.
Along with making dinner at lunch and serving it early, I’ve also changed how I eat dinner: I plan for one hand. Setting out a snack or meal that can be consumed while I’m holding and rocking the wee one means I’m no longer hangry when my patience is at its thinnest. I go so far as to fill my water thermos and pop it in the fridge. Surviving colic is all about preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best.
Give yourself something to look forward to each evening. Whether its cueing up your favourite show to watch during lulls in the crying, or prepping a special tea for yourself to enjoy once you’ve calmed the wild beast-baby, having just a few minutes for yourself is a great way to keep your mood lifted. Colic and post partum depression have a strong correlation, and PPD is not an experience I want to have a second time.
One of the hardest things about surviving colic with my firstborn was hearing people say, “This too shall pass.” In those moments of endless crying, coupled with the heavy feelings about self-inflicted inadequacies as a mother who cannot seem to soothe or comfort their child make it hard to believe it will ever get better.
But it will.
I promise. I pinky-promise: It does.
So, until that moment you finally say “They were right! I survived! My baby is awesome, and I’m actually kind of in love with them now,” you should simply let go of perfection. Let go of guilt. Let go of what you imagined motherhood to be, and let it be what it is.
If you’re prepared and organized for the nightly battle, you’ll come out the other side even stronger. Because you just won the colic war, or at very least, had the tenacity to ride it out.
Image Source: WikiCommons