Besides comforting your baby, it’s important to comfort yourself. Here are some time-tested ways of surviving and thriving with your colicky baby:
1. Realize it’s not your fault. Oftentimes the cause of your baby’s cries cannot be found. You need not feel that it’s your fault if your baby cries a lot, nor is it your job to make your baby stop crying. Colicky cries not only pierce tender hearts; they may also push anger buttons. If baby’s escalating cries are getting to you, hand baby over to another person or put baby safely down and walk out of the room until your scary feelings subside. Don’t take your baby’s cries personally. Your job is to create a supportive environment that lessens your baby’s need to cry, to offer a set of caring and relaxing arms so that your baby does not need to cry alone, and to do as much detective work as you can to figure out why your baby is crying and how you can help. The rest is up to your baby.
2. If you resent it, change it. If you are beginning to resent your style of parenting and your constant babytending and are feeling at the mercy of your baby’s cries, take this as a signal that you need to make some changes. The key to surviving and thriving with the colicky baby is to keep working until you find a parenting style that meets the needs of your infant, but at the same time meets your needs and does not exceed your ability to give. Yes, you will have to stretch yourself, but not until you snap. Get help with household chores that drain your energy. Also, oftentimes it’s necessary to hand baby over to a caring and experienced pair of substitute arms and go out and do something just for yourself.
In the exam room that I do most of my colic counseling, hangs a sign that reads: “Each day remind yourself what your baby needs most is a happy, rested mother.”
A mother in our practice shared this story with me: “One day when my baby was one-month-old, I was talking to my mother on the phone and I said, ‘Mom, I’ve been crying for two days, I can’t stop, and I’m getting scared.’ Mom came right over. We had a talk and she said, ‘Donna, it’s okay to feel resentful that your life has been turned upside down by this precious little baby girl.’ I said, ‘That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t resent her, but I resent the fact that I have no life anymore. I feel isolated and depressed.’ Mom said, ‘I’ll take Lauren tonight and you and Michael go out for dinner.’
In our pediatric office we collect pictures of cute T-shirt sayings. One of our favorites, worn by a two-year-old, is: Mom’s having a bad day. Call 1-800- GRANDMA.
3. Job share. The person who shared in the conception must also share in the care of the colicky baby. Hand the well-fed baby over to dad and go take a SOAK.
4. Plan ahead. Mornings are usually an easier time for colicky babies and their rested parents, yet evenings take their toll.
For unknown reasons, some colicky babies seem to go to pieces in the late afternoon or early evening and, by a quirk of injustice, just when your parental reserves are already drained. If your baby is a “P.M. fusser,” plan ahead for “happy hour” before baby’s colic rears its ugly head. Prepare the evening meal in advance, so that you can devote one hundred percent of your attention to her during this time. Frozen, precooked casseroles and colicky babies mix well. Treat baby and yourself to a late afternoon nap. Upon awakening, go immediately into a relaxing ritual, such as a 20-minute massage, followed by a 40-minute walk carrying the baby in a sling or carrier (a good way for you to work in some post-baby exercise, too). With this before-colic ritual, baby is conditioned to expect an hour of pleasure rather than an hour of pain.
5. Take the long view. There is life after colic. The time in your arms is a very short period in the total life of your child, but the memories of love and availability last a lifetime.