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Surviving Colic: Thoughts From One Year Later
It’s hard to believe with my smiling, giggling, babbling toddler that this time a year ago, Judah seemed like a completely different person – more than just the usual myriad of changes you would expect between a 2-month old and a 14-month-old. Last July, we were in the beginning stages of what felt like an endless 10 weeks of colic. It happened so randomly, too: Judah was perfectly fine and dandy one Sunday and then come that following Monday morning, it was like someone had switched out my serene little angel with a miserable crying baby who could barely be consoled.
Apart from Judah’s month-long NICU stay, dealing with colic has been one of the most difficult parts of our parenting journey thus far. I had a lot of practical surviving colic advice to give last year. Now, looking back a year later, I have some more inspirational thoughts on the whole matter.
If you’re going through colic with your little one or know someone who is, know that yes, you will get through this. It’s not going to be easy, but I promise you will.
Surviving baby colic is a lot like remembering labor and delivery – everything starts to get fuzzy around the edges a year later. Both are full of emotional and physical extremes that in the moment you think that you’ll never be able to forget the experience. I certainly haven’t forgotten what colic is like, but I look at it now with the wisdom that time and distance afford.
I wish there was a way I could travel back in time to tell myself all of these things, now with a year’s distance under my belt. But since I can’t, here’s the advice I’ll share with anyone going through colic themselves, right now.
» You are not a bad parent because your baby won’t stop crying. It’s not you – it’s the colic.
I think that was the hardest part of dealing with Judah’s colic: we knew there was something wrong, but without any words to communicate his specific pains or discomforts, we were always playing a guessing game as to how we could soothe him. We tried everything. Sometimes we guessed correctly and other days it was an endless game of trying and failing and settling to simply do the best we could.
Larry and I were reluctant to leave the house with Judah while he had colic, fearful of the stares and well-intentioned comments and advice (“Ooooh, someone must be cranky!”) if Judah had a colicky meltdown while out in public. But as his colic stretched on, we knew we couldn’t live like prisoners in our own home, so it meant a lot of adapting to our new (and thankfully temporary) norm. We quickly learned to work through the anxiety and sense of guilt we felt as new parents, like we were doing something wrong. We got a lot of reassurance from our pediatrician, too and in time, we realized that colic is not a reflection of poor new parenting skills – it’s simply a biological, perhaps even emotional and sensory overload with not-very-well-understood origins and solutions.
» Colic will not last forever.
True, it might feel like it’s never going to end, especially when it’s been the second week in a row where nothing will console your baby, no matter how hard you try. Colic is exhausting – not just for you, but for your baby, too. After the first couple of weeks of constantly wondering if today would be the day if his colic stops and goes away, I shifted my gears and approached each day simply as its own unique day. If that meant today was another colicky day, we’d all adapt. If that meant that today was the day it stopped, we’d treat it just as new and unique of a day as any other.
It might be hard to conceptualize when you’re in the thick of it, but no child crosses their high school graduation stage crying with colic. In fact, no child starts their first day of kindergarten with colic. To bring it even more into perspective, colic usually disappears just as mysteriously as it appeared by the time your baby is four months old. And if you’re worried about the lasting effects – there really are none. Studies have shown that babies with colic compare developmentally on par with non-colicky peers. Judah is proof perfect of a very colicky baby who is now super happy and easy-going on a daily basis.
» Don’t try to go through colic alone.
If I had to do one thing over again, I would have asked for more help sooner. Let me be clear: my husband was a huge help and I don’t know how I could have done it without him on the really bad days where Judah would cry for the entire eight hours my husband was at work. But I think that because Larry and I were new parents, because of how much time Judah spent in the NICU, we were very much of the “we can fix this ourselves” mindset that ultimately led to us being even more exhausted and worn out than we needed to be. We don’t have any family closer than five hours away from us, and at the time, the idea of hiring a babysitter for our newborn was just completely beyond us.
In retrospect, we should have asked for help sooner, if only to give ourselves a break from the onslaught of exhaustion that comes with colic, in addition to the regular exhausting state-of-being with any newborn, colic or otherwise. While we may not have had extra physical help, I did take advantage of some new mom’s groups during the day and message boards at night, just to be able to talk to and relate to other moms who had similar experiences.
Just remember: you will get through this and your baby will be okay. Just take it one day at a time and don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.