Friday, June 7, 2013

Colicky Babies and the Mamas Who Love Them

"Yep, she's got colic-face." My friend, Mama to 11, would know.  I glanced down at Rosie's face, all screwed up into a scowl as she let out a peal of anger right there in the middle of the restaurant.  "It's just a look on their face that they get.  It's hard to see in your own baby, but I can tell with her."

I know that look.  To me, it says "Mama, help me!"  It breaks my heart.  I ask my husband "Why does she hate me?" and he assures me she doesn't - it's just that Mommy guilt that rears it's ugly head, even when something truly is not your fault.

I don't like the term colic.  It's like the term "SIDS," a moniker assigned when there really is no other explanation why a healthy baby dies randomly.  Colic means "We don't know why she cries.  She just does."

So I have the same toolbox every Mama of an unexplained crier has - we try the swing, swaddling, nursing, burping, driving, wearing, walking, singing.  Sometimes it works.   Sometimes it doesn't.  Some days she's happy, cooing, sleeping and laughing, happy to be held by a sibling, or to sleep on her own.  Some days she cries all day, only naps in my arms and furious when I try my various techniques, hoping for a shower, or to make dinner, or just a moment holding one of my other kids.

It's enough to make a Mama crazy.  To love someone so much, to want to help them and make them feel happy and secure, but to feel so inadequate in doing so.  My kids ask why I walk outside during dinner time now - the answer is that I can't take another moment in a house where she is shrieking, and I need to get out, with her, to a place where we both can breathe.

I've noticed that singing helps.  She loves looking into my face and almost always smiles at first when I pick her up, or talk to her.  My husband laughs at my selections of songs, but when it is working, I must keep going at all costs.  "Is that song from Lady and the Tramp?" he teased me last night.  "Do you have any requests?" I retorted, 20 minutes into an unplanned concert for a grumpy baby.  I hastily went back to singing when her little smile began to turn upside down..."...and they call it Belle Notte...."

My desperate hope to calm her fears reminds me of God - and how it must appear to Him when His beloved children become so mired down in hopelessness and anger - when just knowing Him should bring them (us!) joy.  I coax a smile from her when she listens to my singing and I wonder if He feels this way when we look up for just a moment and notice that the whole world is His love song to us.

 She begins to whimper and then scream and I gather her back up in my arms, assume my humming and rocking and whispering comfort and in this moment, I am the most Mama I will ever be - setting aside exhaustion and heartache in the constant pursuit of comfort for my baby.

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  1. Thank you for this. I too think that colic is often just another way of saying 'I don't know what she needs'. As a Mama to four and a little one lost I have many times heard this plaintive cry that seems unsoothable. My first screamed nightly for hours and my husband and I would take turns pacing the living room with her until the rhythm soothed her gently an she fell finally asleep. I wish I had known then what she needed. On those nights when the screaming was to much to bear we would trade off and feel helpless. But on good nights we felt strong and determined to do whatever she needed.

    Good luck to you, and her. Keep perspective as best you can, these are the chances to really test our resolve and to show our children just how far we'd go to help them.

  2. Oh, colic is hard! Praying these days move swiftly for you, and will soon be a faint memory.

  3. Little Rosie sounds so much like my first baby. You may have already thought of this, but do you think she may be sensitive to any foods you're eating? My Elsie was so much better when I didn't eat any dairy products. There is a product called gripe water made with ginger, fennel and camomile that calms their tummies and helps to settle them. We've used it for all three of our girls and it does seem to work!

  4. We had this problem with my fourth. He was. Terrible sleeper and cried whenever he was anywhere but over my shoulder. The Carseat was the worst. Constant screaming- enough to break a mamas heart :( I ended up taking him to a chiropractor thinking something surely was wrong that the doctors could not pinpoint. (we also go the catch all "colic") she worked on him here and worked on him there twisting and pushing. It tookabout 6 visits for me to see a difference- even if it was a small one. He could finally sit in his Carseat or playmat while I made dinner. When he was 5 months old I weaned my toddler (then 2.5 years old) and almost overnight he turned into a different baby. Maybe I wasn't making enough milk? Not sure, but now he is 9 months and the best baby in the world! So sweet and happy. Sleeps all night and loves to be on the floor and playing with siblings.

  5. Hugs mama, been there, as you know. Hang in there.

  6. Oh, hang in there, Mama! That is SO hard, and I know exactly that feeling of desperation to make it stop!! It is hard to see your little one so upset and it is also hard to continue functioning with shrieking (on top of the noise from all your other littles!)

    I don't like to offer unasked for advice, but if you'll forgive me, I second Emily's suggestion about food sensitivities - my first was like you are describing and I cut out dairy for a few months until her little digestive system was more mature and that really did help. You are way more experienced with babies, as I am only on my third but I am a speech and feeding therapist (in my past life) and I am pretty convinced that many (although not all) times colic is actually "silent" reflux in babies. Some babies actually have acid reflux without spitting up. That would explain "colic face" - they are having reflux up their esophagus and then it burns or stings from the stomach acid. The issue usually resolves on its own as they mature but in the meantime experimenting a little with the common things that bother babies (dairy, chocolate, etc) might help, as well as making sure she doesn't get laid down flat too soon after eating or when she does sleep using a little foam wedge or something so she is sleeping on an incline. We broke all the rules and actually slept our baby nestled in my boppy pillow wedged into her bassinet after she moved out of our bed.

    Oh I hope things settle down soon for your sweet Rosie. I still think it is so funny that I stumbled on your blog right after MY Rosemary Joy was born! :) Does your Rosemary have a middle name?

  7. Oh man, this was my Isabelle. From birth past 6 months. As a new Mom I was so desperate to do it on my own, "fix" what was bothering her. She lived on my breast and person. I totally get this. Hang in there Mama. Isabelle is one of my best friends and her "colic" is what led me to attachment style parenting (which Fiona is happily reaping the benefits). We're all happier for it ;-)

  8. I sang a lot of Christmas Carols and rounds I'd learned at Girl Scout camp to my babies. The rounds were good because I was used to automatically starting them again. I've sung them to many babies, actually - not just my own :) And now my 9 year old likes to sing rounds with a large group.

  9. Diary. Stop eating dairy in all forms. And maybe soy, too. My first 4 were content babies, but my last one, Whois 9 months now, screamed nonstop. I cut dairy from my diet (sniff sniff) and sh became a different kiddo. Crazy. Good luck!


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