A few months ago I received an email from a new mom who was having some challenges. She had seen a post of mine on the colic forum I follow. She was at her wits end. I sent her this email with all of the tricks and education I'd learned and earned in the last five years.
I know there are new moms out there right now who are grasping at straws and seeking help. Newborns are a challenge unlike any other you will encounter in your entire life. For the first six weeks, they wake up crying. It's just developmental. But who knows that unless you meet some awesome person who educates you? Compound ignorance and inexperience with fatigue and you're one hot mess.
So, I'm tagging this entry with every key word that may help some mama out there who needs just a little support: reflux, colic, sleep, cry, arch, scream, refuses feeds, allergy, spit up, desperate and HELP! May the search engines lead you to your own salvation.
So, I've packed 5 years of experience and method into this email. It is LONG. Get a snack and put yo' feet up.
Let me say that colic is a beast. I can so clearly remember how horrible those days were. My other two (4 and 16 months) tried so hard to be troopers, but it was difficult on the whole family. It will get better, but that mantra doesn't help when you're about to gouge out your eyes at 11 p.m.
Is this your first baby? If so, you'll spend the first year totally second guessing yourself. I kept a journal with my first (NICU, reflux, colic, dysphagia and feeding aversion) and looked back on it just a few weeks ago and couldn't believe how worried I was and how frantic I was for answers. I will say this: TIME fixes a lot with babies. If you do nothing to make this better, in 6 months time everything will be better just because your baby has grown up a bit.
These first few months are so trying. Your body is wrecked, your house is wrecked, your marriage is a blur and what seems like a distant memory, you never get to shower, and you feel like life will never get better. You waited for this little gift and now you're thinking "why did I do this?" Trust me on this one: you are at the apex of misery right now. It will get better. But, what you are going through is miserable. I know. It seems like you'll never have a life again. You will. Not the same life. No, it's really best to accept the new reality. It's a better reality. I can attest to that. I've got three girls now and I'm just now, finally, settling into mother hood and really embracing it.
I have PPD with every baby. I'm on meds and so grateful for it. I take them for a whole year after every baby. I love my kids. I love my family, but hormones are serious business. Brain chemicals are serious. For heaven's sake, those hormones, all on their own can grow a person. They don't mess around.
That being said, you obviously have some medical issues going on with your little one that need to be addressed and should be. I'm going to break down my experiences and what has worked for me by subject.
- It lasted from week 1 through 15. Every night for 3-4 hours. Screaming. Hysterics. Refused the feeds during this time. For almost 5 months. Yeah, we didn't get lucky with 12 weeks. I hope you have a different experience.
- We walked and bounced and did a yoga ball and swing and did a baby carrier and drove and chanted (no, we didn't really chant. but we did pray). She napped in the swing after the first 12 weeks. In fact, she's now 11 months old and STILL naps in the swing. I know. It's awful. But she wakes up at 45 minutes otherwise. Night time she goes down without a fuss and sleeps 12 hours in her bed. Not the naps. And I need the sleep. So, we nap in the swing. Whateve. It works.
- Swaddle. Almost non stop. If your little one is breaking out, go out and buy yourself some nice, light fabric in a huge amount and cut yourself a bigger blanket. Or get a swaddle me. Those work awesome.
- What sort of worked for us was swaddling her really tight and putting her in the bouncer. We would then use our foot or hand to bounce her. RAPIDLY. She took all of her naps in there (I had to keep it bouncing the entire time or she only slept for 20 minutes. Yeah, can you say awful.) And, she was in there from 8-10 or 11 every night. I would camp out by that thing and watch DVR or movies and bounce her like crazy. The key was getting a little head bob during the bounce. It looked rough, but there is science about that movement and it calming a baby. If that head was bobbin', she was quiet.
- White noise. When she was so upset she wouldn't eat, I would sit in a dark room, swaddle her and turn up the white noise as loud as it would go. It did help. (I learned to swaddle my kids when they eat so help them stay organized. Because my first two had feeding aversions from undiagnosed reflux, feeding was awful. Swaddling helped them focus on eating. I highly recommend it. I did it for feeds until 5 months. Yours may not need it that long, but for now, I would do it.)
-The book Happiest Baby on the Block has some great information for a colic baby. I would buy it asap.
- I did Babywise with all of my kids. I never let mine cry for more than 5-15 minutes without some soothing, but the principles behind the sleep training are invaluable. I love the whole series. Of course, you can apply the ideas as much or as little as you like, but I have great sleeping kids who are making good moral choices. They are loved and cuddled and rocked and snuggled with, too.
- For my colic case, I let go of the night time routine in some ways. I didn't do cry it out until she was almost 6 months old and totally over the colic. Even then, I took it night by night. But, consistency is so very important. If you're not ready to keep at something you start, don't start it. There's no shame is knowing that the time isn't right to tackle a new issue.
- I worked on keeping her feeds consistent (a must when you have to do meds, too) and trying to survive the nights.
- Some people say that it just stops. Mine didn't. It gradually tapered off and finally mostly ended near the end of the 5th month.
- I tried chiropractic and it did help.
- The homeopathic drops made her sleep. After her colic episode. So, if I were going to do it again, I would start giving it to her at like, 3 or 4 p.m. so that it worked by 7 or 8 and would help the baby to sleep through the night more soundly. Otherwise, it was impossible to get her to have any wake time at all in the morning.
- Probiotics are supposed to be awesome. http://www.colichelp.com/shop/biogaia-probiotic-drops.html. I didn't stumble upon this soon enough. The research is compelling.
- Make sure the wake time your son is having isn't too long. Ideal for that age is 40-70 minutes. Including feeding time. Most of us keep our babies up waaaaay too long. Seriously. Try cutting back wake time to these minutes by following your baby's clues and you'll see he's much happier when he's awake. Colic will continue, but the other times will be great.
- Visit this site: http://www.babywisemom.com/. Even if you hate the idea of babywise, she has some great overall advice about newborns and other people write in with their situations. I think you'll find you want to book mark it. She reads lots of books, has all sorts of great teaching concepts, and just really smart parenting solutions. She has an index on the right hand side. I would check wake time lengths and newborn first.
- And just a side note: a baby's sleep cycle is 45 minutes. So, when they come out of deep sleep at 45 minutes they sometimes wake up and have a hard time putting themselves back down. You'll totally go, "OH!" now that you know (in case you didn't).