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Colic. I don’t love the term colic. But, for lack of a better term, this is what we dealt with for the first three months of Luca’s life. I remember dreadinggg the afternoons/evenings because I knew it was his “witching hour.” He cried from around 3-4pm until 10-11pm when he would “go to bed,” aka wake up two hours later to eat… and cry some more.
Insert friends and family telling us about how much they loved the newborn phase and how newborns should sleep 16+ hours of the day (is that even really a thing!?). As a new mom, I ended up doubting my skills and getting really frustrated with accepting the fact that a peaceful, sleepy newborn was just NOT my reality. It took a few months but I finally came to the realization that I shouldn’t be comparing my baby and I definitely shouldn’t be listening to people telling me this is what my baby should or shouldn’t be doing.
These three months were the most trying of my entire life and definitely sparked a lot of soul-searching. Below I’m discussing what colic is and some ways that worked for me in helping ease Luca’s discomfort.
What is Colic?
As I said above I’m not a huge fan of the word colic. There are no formal, medical diagnostics to go along with the term which can be extremely frustrating. This is why I didn’t accept it for months. If you were to google “baby colic” you would get something along these lines: when an otherwise healthy infant cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week for more than three weeks (the rule of 3’s). So, that’s it – crying. Crying for no apparent reason. So my friend, assuming you’ve had your baby checked out by your doctor and all is well (which is great and terrible news all at once), you are dealing with colic.
It’s important to remember that crying is a baby’s only form of communication, especially during those newborn months. But, usually, you can go through the normal “what’s wrong with baby” checklist (Is baby hungry? Does he need a diaper change? Does he have a burp? Does he have gas or have to poop? Etc.) and fixing one of those things stops the crying. With a colic baby, he continues to cry even when the checklist is completely checked off.
I’ll be real with you, I felt like I was losing my freaking mind! Patience and acceptance are key. Also, knowing yourself and your threshold is very important. Don’t be afraid to have someone else watch the baby, even for just 10 minutes, while you step away and recover.
When Does Colic Go Away?
Colic can go on for weeks or months but the good news is that it eventually stops! Colic usually subsides between three and six months. In our case, it started getting better by 2.5 months and we were totally in the clear by three months.
How to Soothe a Colic Baby
If you’re anything like we you probably scrolled right to the “how to” section hoping for some brilliant, cure-all treatment you never thought of. I see you, I was you, I might be you again one day. It’s. Freaking. ROUGH. I am so sorry I can’t offer you the cure – if there was a cure it wouldn’t be colic (remember the otherwise healthy infant thing?) – but what I can offer you are the few things I did to help make it through.
I LOVE wearing Luca. We literally lived in the wrap for months 0-4. My favorite wrap for newborns is by Solly Baby. As soon as I put him in the wrap he would instantly stop crying, INSTANTLY. There are countless reasons for baby-wearing and I am a huge supporter of it, even now at 11 months old! It feels like home for both mom and baby and honestly, it calmed me down just as much as it calmed him down.
Most babies just want to be held close to mom and smell her/feel her skin when they are having their fits of crying.
Skin to Skin
This brings me to my next tip, more skin-to-skin contact with mom. It’s as simple as that. Keep baby close and get undressed. Luca was born in the winter but I was able to convince Alex to crank up the heat so we could basically be topless together at all times. It was such an instinctual feeling, I needed to feel his skin and warmth as much as he needed to feel mine!
Singing & Dancing
Your baby was inside your body for 10 months, of course, your voice and movements will soothe him! During those early days, you could find me singing, humming or talking to Luca at any given moment – and dancing. But not traditional dancing – more like mom dancing – bouncing up and down in an exaggerated way (kind of like a modified squat, or on the birthing ball) and swaying side to side worked best for us!
The Five S’s and The Happiest Baby
If you haven’t already, you need to get this book – The Happiest Baby by Dr. Harvesy Karp. It is like the bible for colicky babies. I also highly recommend reading his blog. This article was particularly helpful!
He proposes following the five S’s:
- Side/stomach (while in your arms)
The theory is all about “Fourth Trimester” and recreating the atmosphere of the womb for the baby – cramped, loud, movement and being close to mama. Utilize that swaddle, I swear by this one, and shush or put your sound machine on LOUD. This one is super cute! Also lots of bouncing and rocking (you can use your birthing ball for this! #multipurpose!) and skin to skin contact.
Sucking is another calming sensation for babies. You can offer a pacifier (or finger or breast for non-nutritive sucking) to comfort your little one in conjunction with the other S’s. We tried these with Luca and, for a time, he also loved the Wubbanub. But he never quite fully took to the binky, he has always preferred the boob!
I also took Taking Cara Babies infant sleep course and highly recommend it for the same reasons as above! She approaches the Fourth Trimester in a very similar way to Dr. Karp and the course is super easy to follow and understand! Her blog is another AMAZING resource as well!
Colic Carry & Exercises
Try holding your baby differently!
Here are some ideas:
- Football Hold: Dad’s love this one. Lay baby down on their tummy along your forearm. Put their head towards the elbow and have their legs dangle near the wrist.
- Nestling at the Neck: Cuddle baby’s head between your chin and chest and sway back and forth. For extra comfort, hum a sweet lullaby. Keep your movements rhythmic.
- The Fetal Hold: Curl baby up like they were when they were in the womb. You can face them in toward your chest or outward, whatever is comfortable. Put your arms around their bottom and keep their little feet tucked in.
- Pedaling/Bicycling: Lay baby down and pump their legs up and down like they are riding a bicycle. This can help get some gas to pass quickly.
Control Breastmilk Oversupply
There are so many struggles that go along with breastfeeding your baby, one of mine was having an oversupply. Think uncontrollable leaking and forceful spraying as he latched. Poor Luca was getting overwhelmed by the force of the milk during let down and he also wasn’t staying on long enough to get the hindmilk (the good fatty stuff). He was getting too much too fast and it was hurting his tummy (or at least this is what I think) so I did a few things to help.
Here are some things that helped with getting my oversupply under control:
- Number one, I consulted multiple lactation consultants to get their opinions and advice. I highly, highly recommend having one or two on speed dial. Hospitals have LC’s, some pediatricians are LC’s and some doulas are also LC’s. The best thing I ever did was have my LC doula do an in-home lactation consult – it was so beneficial because she observed us in our natural habitat and made recommendations based off that.
- Feed slower and more often.
- I tried block feed. This is when you feed on just one breast for every feeding for a set amount of time (we did 3-4 hours) in hopes that you will empty that breast and baby will get the hindmilk.
- I stopped pumping because I was told to pump at night after Luca went to sleep if I wanted to start storing milk so that it was I did. Essentially this emptied my breasts after his last feeding of the day. BUT this was actually telling my body to produce more milk, more than just what Luca needed, aka oversupply.
- I would hand express or use the Haakaa before I nursed so he could get more hindmilk. The Haakaa was a godsend, you can read more about it here on my New Mama Must-Haves post!
When all else fails, take a deep breathe and go outside! Even just right outside the front door. Get some fresh air for both you and baby. Or take a quick stroll around the block. It blew my mind but Luca could be hysterical crying (and us at our wit’s end) but we would walk outside and it would all stop. Taking a quick ride in the car also helped a lot because it would put him to sleep. I think he liked the vibration and the humming noise.
Tips For Mama
Self Care and Acceptance
You’ve heard it before, you cannot, I repeat, you CANNOT, care for your baby or your family if you don’t care for yourself first. It does not make you a bad mom to need to take a break. To go out and get your nails done or go shopping alone. Or to hide in the bathroom for an extra 10 minutes. Do what you have to do to take care of your mental state. For me, that was asking for help from my support system – Alex, my mom, my dad, my MIL, and my sisters.
The other thing that helped me was ACCEPTING my reality. Accepting that my baby just needed me, that there was no “cure” for what we were going through and that, not unlike other things in life, it was a season. We took it day by day and sometimes hour by hour because it was straight up survival mode.
I tried to keep in my mind this quote I heard somewhere – “Your baby will never need you again as much as they do right now.” As Luca grows older he will stop nursing, he will stop wanting to play with me, he will feed and dress and bathe himself. So even though some days are hard, I try to take them for what they are and cherish them.
That being said it took me a long time to accept that it was colic, for most of this phase I was in the denial stage. But getting to that place of acceptance is so freeing and will bring you much peace.
Other Tips for Mama
- Trust your gut – A mother’s intuition is usually right. If you feel there is something else wrong with your baby get in touch with your pediatrician. Get second and third opinions. Dig and dig until you figure it out! You have no idea if it’s something more serious which makes it scary.
- Ask for help – I honestly don’t know what I would have done without the help of my husband, parents, and sisters. I am so lucky they live close by and came over to HELP. It is not ok for guests to come over during the newborn phase and expect to be entertained. In my opinion, they either need to help with baby (give mom a break) or help with the endless household chores!
- Utilize built-in breaks – THIS. I looked forward to a certain time each day that I knew Alex would be able to watch Luca, even just for 10 minutes so I could get a break! Taking time away from baby is healthy for all parties.
- Celebrate small milestones and focus on the future – I honestly just took it day by day and looked forward to a time when Luca wasn’t crying nonstop. Everyone always told me it gets better at three months (and in all honesty IT DID, it was like a switch flipped! I am SO grateful for that but I know it’s not like that for everyone). So I looked forward to that day but also did not get my hopes up. I accepted that this was my child but was also optimistic for better days. And every day that went by, every week was a one step closer.
- Don’t blame yourself – Placing blame does not accomplish anything, give yourself patience and grace and just be there for your baby the best you can.
- WINE – Drink the wine, trust me.
- Be grateful – I know it’s hard to hear when you’re in the thick of it but your baby is in your arms and healthy. And it is imperative to be grateful. During the really hard times, I kept those families in mind that were going through hardships. Families struggling to conceive or going through a miscarriage or looking at their baby through a glass wall in the NICU or even more unthinkable, unfathomable situations. Your baby is a blessing – a colicky, crying blessing – but a blessing nonetheless. Perspective is everything.
There are also several colic support groups you can join! You can search fo in-person groups local to your area but also Facebook has a wealth of groups and there is always someone around to listen.
Other Ways to Soothe a Colicky Baby
We gave Luca gripe water almost nightly. It helps soothe baby’s tummy, and I really liked that the ingredients were all natural and safe – ginger and fennel are the main two. He even enjoyed the taste so that was a big bonus – check out the “Gas Help” section of my Newborn Essentials post for all the info on our favorite brands!
The main ingredient in gas drops is Simethicone which is considered safe for newborns by the FDA. It works by combining lots of small gas bubble into one large one which makes it easier to pass. We used these on Luca when the gripe water wasn’t enough.
Gerber Soothe Probiotic Drops
I am a huge supporter of gut health and probiotics so when our pediatrician recommended these Gerber Soothe probiotic drops I was immediately on board. You have to give it a couple weeks but I think getting Luca on these probiotics really did help his tummy calm down. Ask your doctor first but I would definitely keep this tiny jar in your arsenal.
Fridababy Windi Gaspasser
We used these on Luca when we knew he had to poop and just couldn’t get it out. It was SO SAD watching him writhe and scream in pain and I just knew it was because he couldn’t pass his gas or poop. You might be grossed out by these but, believe me, when your baby screams like that you will do ANYTHING to help him, including sticking a tiny tube into his butt!
Take a Bath
Everyone loves a bath, right? It’s no different for babies – most relax immediately upon being placed in the warm water!
Diffuse Calming Essential Oils
We run the diffuser 24/7 but change up the oils depending on what is needed. I get my oils from Young Living and my favorite oils for calming are lavender, and the blends Stress Away and Peace & Calming. At night we diffuse Sleepyze from the Kidscents line.
Grab some baby lotion and give your baby a nice back rub, especially right after a nice warm bath. So soothing and relaxing!
Maybe baby has a few little things out of place, just like you and me! Going to the chiropractor is a great way to help baby get realigned. There are many who actually specialize in adjusting babies. We are lucky that a couple of our good friends are chiropractors so Luca got a few adjustments when he was just weeks old!
Cut Out Dairy
This is more of a recommendation to try to see if your baby does have colic or if it’s a digestive issue. Some babies do have a sensitivity to dairy proteins that pass through in your breastmilk. And giving it up isn’t as hard as you might think, especially when you’re motivated by helping your uncomfortable baby.
If you have a colicky baby (and are breastfeeding), you can try to cut all dairy and see if it makes a difference. We tried this because our pediatrician recommended it, it did not work for us but maybe it will for you!
And if all else fails, TAKE A BREAK. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – call your mom over or a trusted friend and let them watch the baby while you get some much-needed rest or alone time.
Do you have any tried and true tips for calmy a colicky baby? I would love to hear them in the comments!