We were convinced our baby had colic during the first two weeks of her life. I had not even heard of the word ‘colic’ until after she was born but I was convinced she had it.
Her fussy crying spells began our first night at the hospital post-delivery. She seemed inconsolable… we checked her diaper, we fed her, burped her, tried putting her to sleep, we held her, rocked her, but nothing worked! The nurse on duty eventually paged a pediatrician because our baby wasn’t calming down. The pediatrician suggested giving her formula since it was possible she wasn’t getting enough milk right away. We thought…whew that’s over!
But the crying spells happened almost every night those first ten days or so. And my husband and I were operating on almost no sleep which didn’t help. We were worried something was wrong…that it’s not normal for a baby to cry so much.
I talked to other moms and practiced their suggestions. Some told me to do warm massages on her tummy, others told me to use gas drops, and that gripe water would do the trick once she was two weeks old. I hadn’t even heard of gripe water before but I was willing to try anything that would help my baby.
I remember it was the fourth night of her life when she seemed inconsolable for 9.5 straight hours all night long. The best thing we did was visit her pediatrician that morning. She taught us how to soothe our baby and assured us the crying was normal. In fact, the more we talked to other parents…the more we were assured. Apparently, we were not alone.
Here is what I learned: A baby is usually termed colic if he or she cries at least 3 hours a day…three days a week…three weeks in a row. Colic usually starts at 2 weeks and peaks at 6 weeks. It lasts about three months. Colic is typically worse in the evening hours.
Our baby obviously had not reached the 2-week stage when we were thinking she had colic. We also thought she might have gas or reflux but since she only cried at night we leaned more toward colic. (apparently many of us parents settle for this label when we can’t think of anything else it could be)
At the doctor’s office we learned about horror stories of babies crying for three plus hours every single day for 3 months. We thought, oh no…is that what we’re in for?
But things got better when we started practicing The 5 S’s:
Swaddling (wrapping baby tightly), Shushing (saying SHHHHHH loudly in her ear while rocking her and/or playing loud white noise), Swinging (rocking her), Side (laying her on her side), Sucking (giving her the pacifier- although they tell you to wait a month some babies are natural suckers and unless you want to breast feed all day this is a great help)
Apparently, we were swaddling baby all wrong and doing the shhhhh technique incorrectly as well. Believe it or now, unless you do these things the right way they’re not really effective. And usually a combination of these will calm a fussy or crying baby given you have already satisfied baby’s basic needs (fed her, changed her, held her, burped her, bundled her)
Other things that help calm our baby:
- putting her in a car seat and driving around (this was great the first couple of weeks)
- burping her properly and keeping her upright for about half an hour after feeding
- perhaps the best $17 investment we made was buying a bouncy exercise ball. We have been using that every day to rock her to sleep and when nothing else works, that always calms her down. We just hold her in our arms and bounce or move on the exercise ball a little (great easy way for moms to burn calories too!)
- the Ergo with the Infant Carrier also tends to usually rock our baby to sleep. Simply wearing it whether we’re indoors or outdoors does the trick
- When it comes to Pacifiers, our nurses told us not to use the Orthodontic ones we had picked up from Babies R Us. At the hospital they gave us a huge green circular pacifier. We thought it was ugly and picked up some pretty ones. But what ended up working for our baby is the big circular newborn pacifiers with a straight nipple (the same green one we got at the hospital). I’ve now bought a bunch of them and she won’t take any other kind. I’ve learned when it comes to baby…comfort matters most.
So did our baby really have colic? I’m not sure because the fussy crying spells stopped after about two weeks. She even sleep-trained herself at 5 weeks. Perhaps, she was just new to the world and we were learning the ropes as new parents. Maybe we both just needed time to learn about each other. I know my husband and I took all the classes, we’ve both been working with kids for years, but nothing prepared us for the actual experience of taking care of a newborn child 24/7 until we had to.
Here’s a book I wish I had read before my delivery: “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Harvey Karp. It reviews the 5 S’s in depth and teaches you how to better understand and take care of baby.