The first week after my older daughter, Jesse, was born, all she did was sleep. My husband and I wondered why everyone had told us that the early days of parenting would be so hard. Then, week two came and Jesse finally woke up. And boy, was she one pissed off baby. She cried. A lot.
Nothing seemed to calm Jesse’s wailing. We rocked her. We sang to her. She continued to cry. Believe it or not, one doctor told me that she was just a difficult baby and that she was destined to be a difficult toddler and a difficult teenager. Maybe she’d even end up in jail. My husband and I freaked.
Then when I took Jesse to “Baby and Me” class at the local Y, things got worse. The other babies cooed and slept. Jesse howled. What was wrong with my baby? Even worse, I feared it was all my fault. I was doing something to make her cry. I was a terrible mother.
One particularly difficult night when my husband and I had tried unsuccessfully for hours to comfort Jesse’s incolably crying, we looked at each other and wondered, “What have we gotten ourselves into?” Luckily, we had a pediatrician who calmed our fears and told us it was likely that Jesse had colic.
Jen Singer, author of “You’re a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren’t So Bad Either).” had a similar experience with both of her children. She writes on Parenting.com:
He cried for upward of 12 hours a day, morning and night, longer than an Iron Man triathlon and, to me, just as grueling. Only, no training could have prepared me for colic, that nebulous diagnosis for a newborn’s inconsolable crying that ought to be a four-letter word. In fact, when my son’s doctor gave me the diagnosis, he whispered it, as if he were delivering very disturbing news. The look on his face told me that colic was going to be harder on me than on my baby.
What is colic exactly? It’s extreme crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. Frustratingly, doctors haven’t yet determined what causes colic, but some theorize that it stems from a baby’s sensitive temperament or immature nervous system.
The rule of thumb for diagnosis is when an otherwise healthy infant cries inconsolably for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week and for at least three weeks in a row. It is usually at its worst at around 6-8 weeks and generally disappears by the fourth month. Sounds brutal? It is.
Here are some ways to cope (inspired by Parenting.com):
5 Tips for Surviving Colic
1. Don’t Beat Yourself Up. It’s not your fault that you can’t calm your baby.
2. Bond with A Fellow Sufferer: You’ll feel better knowing you’re not the only one going through this.
3. Give Yourself A Break: Get a friend or family member to take over during some of the baby’s “witching hour.”
4. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Mothers. It’s inevitable that you’ll wonder what they’re doing right and you’re doing wrong. But, remember: if their baby doesn’t have colic, they likely won’t understand exactly what you’re going through.
5. Get Help. It’s only natural to feel angry at your baby for crying so much. But don’t act on the anger. Instead, vent to friends or family members or see a therapist to help you deal with those feelings.
Most importantly, keep in mind that colic is temporary. I still occasionally look back at Jesse’s Hellish first months and am relieved that we don’t have to do it all again.
As Singer says, “Ever since my babies started to become kids, I’ve had a chance to bond with them in a way I couldn’t early on. Their hugs, smiles, and laughs have felt like redemption for a bad start, and I’m grateful. You’ll get there, too.”