Save Your Sanity And (Hopefully) Get Some Sleep Dealing With Colic

The first three months of your newborn’s life are marked with constant adjustment–both you and your baby are figuring out this new space you are now occupying, often accompanied by many a sleepless night and bout of uncontrollable crying (yes, even you).

Tears simply cannot be avoided at this early stage, as crying is the only way your little one knows how to communicate. Slowly but surely you’ll know when his cries indicate a feeding or a nap, or simply a little snuggle time, but then there are those crying jags that will probably have you in a puddle of your own tears as well.

Colic is defined as uncontrollable crying in healthy babies. This isn’t your run of the mill fussy fit, it’s flat-out wails that seem to go on forever. Consider the rule of threes: Colic most likely the culprit if If your baby cries

  • For at least three hours a day, usually beginning at the same time each day (often in the evening, right before bed)
  • At least thrice a week
  • For at least three weeks.

It usually begins when babies are around 2-3 weeks old, and resolves itself when they hit the 3-4 month mark (but it’s definitely gone by 6 months). It certainly feels like forever when you’re in the thick of it, but chalk it up to the pitfalls of parenthood–grit your teeth, bear down, and keep this guide by your side as you deal with it.

Make sure its colic.
What makes colic such a hissing and a byword among parents is the helplessness they feel in the face of it–colic has no proven or definite cause, and the same goes for remedies and coping strategies. But a process of elimination certainly helps–make sure your baby is well and isn’t suffering from another condition that could be causing his intense crying fits.

Consult your pediatrician to make sure your little one has no underlying medical conditions. Observe how he is when he cries. Make sure he isn’t stopping breathing or his fingernails aren’t turning blue, which could indicate a cardiovascular concern. Check on his eating habits and weight gain–is he thriving? Do the usual checks as well–has baby been fed? Feeling too hot or too cold? Scratchy clothes? Constipated, or dirty diapers? Missing a nap? Tick these off the list and observe the pattern of crying. If it fits the rule of threes above, it’s mostly likely colic (cold comfort, we know).

Check commonly linked conditions.
While colic doesn’t have a direct cure, anecdotal evidence reveals some possible links with other conditions. Resolving one or the other could help alleviate your baby’s colic. These include:

  • Overstimulation.Your newborn might be plain tuckered out due to the amount of stimulation he receives in a day. Simply being out and about, hearing, seeing, and smelling the world outside could overload his system. You might notice the crying is worse after particularly busy days of visitors or traveling outside–surefire sensory overload. A possible way to circumvent overstimulation is to ease into a good bedtime routine. Make sure the nursery is still and quiet, give baby a warm rub-down without the TV blaring or older siblings playing in the background, dim the lights, and try to create an environment where baby can “come down” from the thrill of, well, simply being alive in the outside world.
  • A possible lactose intolerance.Colic doesn’t discriminate–both formula-fed and breastfed babies alike fall prey to it, but some evidence suggests an allergy or intolerance to cow protein in formula milk could contribute to the condition. Gassiness is often linked to colicky babies, so doctors and mothers often try to fine-tune the babies’ diets to resolve this. Consider switching milk brands or formulations to see if it helps any.
  • Excessive gas.As previously mentioned, babies with colic often suffer from gassiness. This could be related to the fact that since their digestive systems are relatively new and still immature, food could either take too long (or too fast) to break down, resulting in gas. The discomfort brings on the crying spells, so learn different techniques to help burp your baby or aid them in expelling a few cute little toots. Massaging their tummies, holding them upright, and adjusting your diet to reduce gas-forming foods (if you’re nursing) or their milk formula can all help.

Take note though, that trying too many remedies at once could prove counterproductive. It’s easy to pile on all measures when you’re at your wits’ end, but remember that most of these remedies may take some time before you notice any effect.

Cut yourself some slack.
Colic certainly makes life with your new baby less than ideal, and it’s important to remember that it isn’t your fault. It’s easy to spiral down into self-pity and panic (especially with all those new-mama hormones surging) as you clutch your baby through yet another night of intense wails, but do try hard to remember that this shall pass. Time heals all wounds, and it appears to hold true for colic as well.

As long as you aren’t remiss in checking for deeper medical concerns, and you attempt the adjustments outlined above, there is little else you can do. It’s tempting to try everything you see or hear about colic remedies, but you could come away even more frustrated.

Instead, focus on keeping yourself strong throughout the ordeal. If you need an hour away from your baby each day to fortify yourself after a long night of shushing your hysterical infant, leave your baby with a trusted carer and give yourself that time to regroup. If you’re nursing, make sure you’re eating healthy and on time. Rest and sleep when the baby finally crashes after what feels like an eternity of tears (don’t spend the night Googling colic cures).

After all, all your baby needs is you. It may not feel like it, but holding him as he cries his little lungs out is all he needs to feel safe. And at the end of the day, he may not remember how he kept you up for months on end, but you will–and hopefully you’ll be proud of how you handled it.

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