Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Colic Chronicles: A glimpse into a few of the most challengingmonths as a parent

There are a few reasons why I am writing this post. One: to vent. Venting is healthy and therapeutic sometimes. I am in no way trying to gain sympathy. I am simply sharing our world as we have known it for the past few months and it has been hard. Two: because I hope that at some point, it helps some other desperate mom out there survive a similar time of exhaustion and for them to feel normal. Three: to educate. Many people have no clue what colic is, what it's about or how miserable it can be for the people who are going through it. Maybe it will serve to enlighten and spark empathy for those who may be experiencing the same thing. 

So, on to our story. Cade was born 3 weeks early. I should've known then that he would be an impatient little guy!! He just couldn't wait to experience the world. This pregnancy, labor, and delivery were nothing like what I experienced with Kylar.  It was a breeze. Naturally, I assumed the newborn phase would follow suit. The first 4 days were rough. When Cade was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he had difficulty breathing so they admitted him to the NICU. There, he was placed on CPAP (he was taken off in less than 24 hours praise The Lord!) and was started on IV antibiotics. He had a significant amount of fluid in his lungs but it thankfully cleared after 18 hours of CPAP. He still remained in the NICU due to jaundice and was on the bili blanket for a few days. Those 4 days were so foreign to me. Imagine spending every day feeling your child grow, kick and hiccup in your womb and in a matter of minutes he is whisked away upstairs with various tubes in place. I felt torn. I had a toddler at home who thought my permanent residence was now at the hospital and I had a newborn who I desperately wanted to hold and bond with and to let him know that he wasn't just a patient, he belonged to someone. Thankfully, I was able to spend a lot of time in the NICU holding and nursing him and we began to establish an immediate bond. Once we brought him home, everything went swimmingly. He was such a docile baby and was so easy to care for. I even told my best friend "I could totally do this again and have a few more babies!". Then, like clockwork, at two weeks old, I began noticing the signs of colic. Within a matter of a few days, he began screaming *not crying or fussing* with his face beat red and his little fists balled up for 3 hours from 7pm to 10 pm. I remember the first night he spent crying for 3 hours straight. After my husband finally got him to go to sleep, I began sobbing at the realization that we have *another* colicky baby. Our first born, Kylar, had colic starting at 4 weeks old and lasted 4-5 months. Being a desperate and exhausted first time mom, I quickly switched to formula at 5 weeks old thinking it was something in my diet that was hurting her tummy. We noticed slight improvement but for the most part, she too had crying spells that lasted from 7p-10p. We were so happy when our colic days were behind us (or so we thought) and she became a very happy, well rounded, baby and toddler. 

Cade, on the other hand begun crying *all day long* {no exaggeration} at the predicted peak of colic around 6 weeks old. He went from high maintenance baby to seemingly impossible baby as he required that he be held during all of his waking hours, otherwise he would scream as if something very serious was wrong. I thought Kylar's colic was bad.. I would take her version of crying during the predictable times of 7p-10p over Cade's all day long screaming marathons any day!!  This caused me so much distress as I was the one home alone with him all day.  I would {and still do} spend the days praying he would go back to sleep, and once he finally went to sleep, I didn't dare do anything that would cause the slightest noise so as to wake the screaming beast up again!! I became a prisoner to my house because for one thing, Cade hates his car seat and will scream the ENTIRE 20 minute drive to the store, and most days I didn't have the energy to endure an unpredictable screaming fit in public under the judgmental eyes of those who can't tolerate a screaming child. {seriously, where is the sympathy these days?!} I will say that sometimes, out of desperation for fresh air, I would strap Cade into his baby carrier and take him to the store and he would do surprisingly well for the first hour or so, which gave me hope! But his good days were few and far between, and sadly, the closest family we have is my parents who are two hours away. Thankfully, my mom has been able to come down frequently to give me breaks to preserve my sanity. Seriously could not have survived without those periodic breaks and to just be around someone who could hold a conversation and to laugh off all of the frustration. If you are a mommy with a toddler and a colicky newborn or just a colicky baby in general, get help!!! Seriously!! It is hard enough with a toddler and a happy newborn.. Add in countless hours of screaming newborn while trying to tend to a toddler and not have them feeling left out and that is enough to push you to your limits.  And if you know someone with a colicky baby or is having a difficult time with a newborn, offer to help!! I am so very thankful for our wonderful friends who have been there to listen to me vent {as annoying as it may be}, provide warm meals for us, and give helpful, practical advice along with a "hang in there, you are doing an excellent job!!". Those friends have made this difficult time much more bearable and I can't thank them enough or explain to them how much their love and thoughtfulness was needed and appreciated! 

So... what is colic anyway?? Colic is officially diagnosed after 3 hours of inconsolable crying, at least 3 days out of the week for at least 3 weeks.  But, any of my fellow parents of colicky babies would probably agree that you don't have to suffer through at least 3 weeks of a screaming baby  to know they have colic!! It typically presents at 2 weeks of age, the worst of it is around 6-8 weeks and it usually resolves around 3-4 months old. Now, 3-4 months may seem like a cake walk to those parents fortunate with happy, smiling all of the time babies.. But to those of us who are suffering, it feels like an eternity that is potentially unsurvivable!  I know many of you are thinking "how hard is it to calm down a crying baby?! After-all, all they do is sleep!" Well, it turns out that colicky babies are EXTREMELY hard to console. Their tempers are volatile and they can scream at the drop of a hat for no particular reason.  I don't think people understand how bad the screaming is in a colicky baby.. This kind of screaming could break glass and it pierces your bones.  Did you know that they actually train navy SEALs to endure and tolerate torture by sleep depriving them and then blasting CDs of screaming colicky babies {which, by the way, their screams can reach 100 decibels.. And to give you some perspective, a lawnmower can reach 70 decibels} at them for hours?! So yeah.. To all of you mommies to colicky babies, congratulations!! We are basically the equivalent of a Navy SEAL! ;)  As a mother, these screams are even more debilitating because your maternal instincts kick in immediately once you hear your baby scream. But, what is also frustrating about colic is that often times there is nothing tangibly wrong to fix. 

So, what causes colic anyways?! Many years of research has gone into the cause of colic and there are many different theories of its cause: gas, reflux, food allergies, some ancient folks even thought it was the curse of "the evil eye". But, none of these theories can fully account for why colic happens or how to cure it. {although the evil eye theory is somewhat convincing during one of my sons scream fests!! ;) }.  Perhaps, the most sound theory of colic in my opinion is one that is postulated by Dr. Harvey Karp in his book "The Happiest Baby on the Block". If you haven't read it yet and you have a colicky child, get it ASAP!! It has helped tremendously for us in understanding why my son screams for so long and how to calm him down. Don't get me wrong, there is no magic fix to colic, only ways to deal with it and to make things go smoother for you and your baby. I won't bore you with the details of the book and his theory but I will just simply say that once babies are born, they instantaneously go from an environment that provides warmth, loud sounds that lull babies to sleep and a feeling of being cuddled 24/7 to an environment where there is hardly no continuous noise, they are only cuddled about 6 hours per day and now they have to cope with all of these new sensations: hunger, gas pains, cold, bright lights etc. Some babies are just "chill", they can cope easily without being bothered by all of these new things. While others, like my son and daughter, are a little more hypersensitive to these new sensations. And therein lies the cause of the blood curdling screams when they have gas rumbling around in their tummies. All babies are gassy and pass gas.. Some can just handle the gas pains better than others and aren't as hypersensitive to their tummy rumblings. There is a very brief glimpse into the theory.. There is much more compelling evidence and reasoning in his book. So far, his theory is the only one that has made the most sense to me out of all of my research and after experiencing two colicky babies first hand. So, if you are as desperate for answers as I was, I highly recommend reading the book!! This book was not only wonderful in explaining newborn development in relation to their new environment but also has excellent tips on soothing even the most impossible baby. I know what you're thinking.. Seriously?! Who has time to read a book with a newborn?! Well thankfully there is a DVD version of the book for all of the sleep deprived, can't hold my eyelids open for one more second, mommies out there!!

Like many moms, I have attempted to find a magic cure for colic. And as a true sign of my desperation, I tried literally everything. Gas drops, check. Colic calm, done. Probiotic drops, yep. Chiropractor, been there. Reflux med, twice a day. And of course, the diet overhaul... No more dairy for mommy!! {could they please make a more tasty non-dairy coffee creamer?! That would make this whole no dairy thing go much smoother} As if I didn't already have enough things to do, now I have to come up with creative food ideas sans dairy and research every piece of food that I intend to eat to make sure there is none of that dreadful ingredient: milk. Out of all of those things, the one that seemed most helpful was the probiotic drops by Gerber.  I saw an improvement in his gas pains in 3-4 days. {several studies have shown that probiotics with lactobacillus reuteri can cut down crying up to 50% when compared to placebo or simethicone} Also, as much as I hate to say, eliminating dairy has helped too {dangit!! Can a girl just get a bowl of ice cream for once?!}. I have tested the no dairy hypothesis a few times and boy did I pay the next day for sneaking some dairy in! Attempt #1 = eating pepperoni pizza with lots of cheese. The next day his eczema was horrible and he was terribly gassy. Attempt #2 = eating a few pieces of milk chocolate. The next day was horrible. Random blood curdling screams followed by gas that had such a strong stench they singed nose hairs! Yeah.. We won't be testing the dairy theory for a while... Finally, someone recommended I read the book "the happiest baby on the block" by Dr. Karp. Seriously, I wish I would have known about this book with Kylar and before we had suffered through colic for 6 weeks with Cade. I think I would probably have a lot less grey hairs and a lot more sanity still remaining if I would have read this book sooner!!  And finally, we discovered a swaddling blanket that Cade {aka super ninja} couldn't bust his arms out of!! Meet our best friend, the miracle blanket {or as mommy likes to call it, the baby straight jacket!}. 

He is now 9 weeks old and things have improved significantly. We aren't officially "over" colic yet but I do think he is starting to grow out of it. He has downgraded from a baby who screams all day to a baby who is fussy the majority of the day with occasional screaming fits and who generally detests sleeping.. {seriously, these bags and dark circles under my eyes don't lie.}  Sadly, he still wakes up every 2 hours at night.. Sometimes I think he is hungry and sometimes I think it is because he realizes he isn't being held. So, we hang out in the rocker until he or I, or both fall back asleep. He still hates his car seat but I have discovered that if I play the ambient noises by the Johnson & Johnson bedtime app and jiggle his car seat repetitively while holding his paci in his mouth, then he will stay calm! {because that isn't dangerous at all...} He still is a crappy bottle drinker.. And after trying 6 different bottles, we have finally settled on the ugliest bottle invented.. The MAM bottle.. Yeah.. My baby doesn't go for trendy new bottles of the year! But at least he will actually eat at daycare now!! He still won't smile directly at me.. He just cracks the occasional half-smile at the ceiling fan {but I'm not bitter..}. He also has what I like to call "the turtle smile".  

Yeah.. It's probably not a real smile but it gets me excited!! He is starting to coo a lot now.. Sometimes I think it's in frustration but I will take it! :) he is starting to tolerate things that he previously would not, like the bouncer or the mamaroo albeit only for 10-15 minutes but it is huge improvement!! It is just enough time for me to brush my teeth or throw in a load of laundry! I admit, I'm extremely jealous of all of my friends who have "easy" babies who smile and coo all of the time since they were 5 weeks old.. I feel a little robbed of the "honeymoon" newborn phase but to be honest I think that once we finally get past this phase, I will be more appreciative of my happy baby and we will have a stronger than ever bond because of where we came from!  I want to be able to look back on this post when my little one is a happy and thriving toddler to be proud and to remember: we survived. 

So, in summary, that has been our life for the past 9 weeks.  We are in survival mode running on very little sleep and lots if caffeine! Oh and in case you are wondering about housework, it is pretty much non existent.. Along with cooking. I'm doing good to get a load of laundry in the washer and remove it promptly to put it in the dryer. And to be quite honest, the majority of the time, the laundry in the washer is forgotten until later that night {or sometimes 3 days later} in which I am running the washer again to get the mildew smell out!! ;) So, to all of you new mommies, mommies of multiple babies, and mommies to babies with colic,  sometimes you just have to laugh at the chaos and don't stress about household chores.. They will get done eventually! You aren't alone in this always crazy, most times fun, definitely rewarding, adventure we call motherhood!! 


  1. Thank you for sharing! Korbin isn't "colicky" but we have experienced a mash up of all the stuff you talked about included the no dairy (cheese, ice cream and chocolate being some of my favorite foods and sneaking them is no option!) I definitely feel for you and hope it just gets better and better with each passing day! Both of your kids are just as beautiful as their parents!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience! Because both of my babies have been so chill, it can be hard to relate to moms who have babies screaming their heads off. If we have more kiddos, chances are one will be colicky so it's good to know what to expect and what helps. You are doing a great job!!