On the 3rd day of December of 2017, we brought home our beautiful little girl. I’d been in the hospital for a 4 days. Prior to this I’d been through 3 days of failed induction, 56 hours of back labour and a c section. An inability to get her to latch had resulted in a tearful plea by yours truly to the nurses to get her some formula (oh, and did they ever fight me on it). I was exhausted, barely mobile, and mentally in a place I’d never been before.
“On her worst day, sometime mid-January, she cried from 10am to 10pm straight through”
And then the crying start. Everly never let out that tell-tale newborn quack-style cry, even from the first breath. She SCREAMED. I’m talking ear piercing, ‘sweet Jesus, that kid is in pain’ crying. Weeks went by and Everly cried inconsolably pretty much any time she wasn’t sleeping. Cue many, many late nights consulting Dr Google if I had a textbook case of a colicky baby. We saw several doctors with reactions varying from, “Colic isn’t a thing, it’s just gas” to “Colic is very real and there is nothing really you can do”. (that last one came from a doctor who’d had a colicky baby herself).
Apparently, most doctors that believe in colic subscribe to the 3-3-3 rule; A baby that cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for more than 3 weeks in a row, suffers from colic. Everly obliterated those timelines. On her worst day, sometime mid-January, she cried from 10am to 10pm straight through only taking breaks for bottles. In case you’re wondering, I am pretty sure I cried equally as much that day.
We tried everything. Reflux medicine, gripe water, gas drops, expensive baby swings and colic holds – heck we even took her to an Osteopath. Nothing worked. If Everly was pissed, she was pissed and we were going to ride it out. Gas drops would give us enough leeway to get her in her car seat and down to the parkade without screaming, and then if we were lucky she would pass out on a car ride. Gripe water gave us about as much time as it took her to swallow it. The reflux medicine most definitely took the edge off, resulting in a slightly less horrific witching hour (the pinnacle of Everly’s misery). One of the few things that actually did calm her significantly for short periods was the swing I posted about here. Another massive win was this bouncer that she’d often fall asleep in (can I get a hallelujah?), but in the end, Everly still cried most waking moments for the better part of 4 months. Since naps barely existed, you can imagine how exhausting this was both mentally and physically.
Which brings me to something that makes living with a colic-affected baby even worse: The unwarranted advice from absolutely everyone. I look back and even now feel exhausted by how many times we were told “All babies are fussy” “she’s just hungry, why aren’t you feeding her more” or “you just need to put her in the car and take her for a drive”. Explaining that all these well-meaning offerings of advice were things we’d already considered, was like banging my head against the wall. The absolute worst for me was all the moms who told me I just needed to comfort nurse her. Everly had never successfully managed to latch, even with the help of multiple lactation specialists, and was bottle fed a combo of breastmilk I’d painstakingly pump. This suggestion just made me feel like an awful mom because I couldn’t provide her with it.
“I rarely left the house with Everly alone for fear of her melting down in public and subsequently me melting down in public”
The early months of being a new mom were often dark times. I worried about my poor husband having to commute to work in the early hours of dark winter mornings. I wondered if he dreaded coming home to a screaming baby, and likely a desperate wife. I feared how bad my postpartum anxiety would get. I rarely left the house with Everly alone for fear of her melting down in public and subsequently me melting down in public. I panicked hearing the neighbours upstairs bang on the floor, because not everyone has the patience for a crying baby, nor cares to.
Most days we were in a haze of passing her back and forth, bouncing, rocking, strolling and anything else she would tolerate us doing. Everly wasn’t and still isn’t a snuggly baby, she didn’t like being ‘worn’ during those months and skin to skin did absolutely nothing. Our only saving grace was that while Everly barely napped, at night she slept. While I appreciate some parents would give their right arm for this, it was the only thing that didn’t completely spiral me into full-blown postpartum depression.
Sometime around the 4.5 month mark everything changed. Instead of waking up crying, Everly would wake up ‘talking’. She started crying only when she needed a change, was hungry or tired. It was around this time I was finally able to start working towards getting her on a nap and sleep schedule, which ultimately has saved my mental state.
“Feeling like you should be enjoying a terrible time in your life is detrimental to your mental health.”
Now at 8 months old, Everly is a happy, giggly, inquisitive little girl, but I can’t help but feel a bit robbed for those first few months. You see there is this weird phenomenon that happens when you have a baby. People feel the need to tell you that you should enjoy every minute because “it goes so fast”. I get and appreciate the concept of time moving faster than any of us are ready for. Feeling like you should be enjoying a terrible time in your life, however, is detrimental to your mental health. I felt like a bad mother every single time someone told me I should be enjoying each moment when my kid was screaming bloody murder. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it because I would be met with stupid comments like “All babies cry sometimes”. I felt horribly guilty every time I was told I needed to feed her more (for the record, Everly has gained weight and height consistently her entire 8 months thus far and most definitely isn’t starving).
Looking back, we enjoyed all the moments we could, but that doesn’t negate that it was the toughest time in my life to date. Everly survived colic, and so did we… kind of. For months I heard phantom crying or would jolt out of bed thinking she was crying only to find her asleep in her crib. I get anxiety about making any changes to her routine for fear of the wake they most likely won’t, but might, leave. I feel sad when I think about things we missed out on in the early days, like a newborn photo shoot that never could happen because Everly never napped and never stopped crying. There are next to no pictures of me with Everly for those first few months. Had they existed they would have shown a new mom stricken with anxiety, depression and grief of what should be a happy, exciting (even if tiring) time in a person’s life.
How to Survive Colic
- My number 1 rule of surviving a colicky baby is to cry if you need to. Its ok. Some will understand, some wont. Regardless if you have an entire village backing you, or you’re all on your own, cry if you need to.
- Rule out medical causes such as gas, reflux, milk protein and soy allergies. Talk to your doctors about what to look for when it comes to these and how to address it. In our case, Everly had no issues with dairy in breastmilk or formula, and I eliminated gassy foods from my diet (sadly, most veggies which most definitely was one cause for my weight gain postpartum) with no change.
- Now that you’ve cried, and ruled out medical reasons for colic, have a good chat with your partner and make sure you are working with each other and not against each other. I would have been lost if Dan hadn’t been right there next to me on our journey through colic. We took turns doing the night shift so that each of us got some sleep. He would get up early for the first bottle of the morning while I pumped so we both could get back in bed for another hour before he had to go to work. He listened while I cried and called from work daily to check in.
- Don’t take it personally. Try not to torment yourself for things beyond your control and know that your baby doesn’t hate you! I couldn’t nurse Everly to comfort her, and often she could be soothed by anyone BUT myself. I felt terribly guilty about that, but it wasn’t my fault. According to studies, 1 in 5 babies suffers from colic and it is just one of those medically unexplained things. It’s hard to believe it is so common, yet there isn’t a lot out there in terms of support for parents of a colicky baby. Just know that you will get through it, and anyone who’s ever been in your shoes completely understands. You will never get someone who’s been through colic try and tell you “it’s just a bit of gas”.
- Do what you have to do to survive. If that means you vacuum 3 times a day because baby soothes to the sound, or you run the dryer so she’ll settle for a nap, then you do it. Sometime around the 2.5 month mark I discovered Pink Fong Baby Shark on Youtube and our world changed. Everly LOVES it and would happily lay on her play mat and watch or sit in her bouncer and watch. I’ve had the odd person make me feel guilty for exposing her to screen time, to which I ask them what they would prefer: a screaming baby, or a happy, engaged baby. Oh yeah, and I tell them to mind their own business…perhaps I should make that unofficial rule #6…
If you have or are suffering from a colicky baby, leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you are currently suffering as a parent of a colicky baby and need someone to talk to or commiserate, you can reach me on any of my socials shown below!