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June 13, 2024

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Much Ado About Colic

Sometimes you just can’t get to the root of your infant’s crying. But it's best to make trial-and-error efforts than to place any blame.

Colic. I was beside myself. My little boy, who was the sweetest and seemingly most content newborn to have ever graced the planet, developed colic at 2 months old. My mother insisted it was just “Sunset Sobs,” her term for that fussy time in the evening — usually about the same time of day — when we would walk the floor with baby Ronan because nothing we did would sooth him. Incoming was worse from my mother-in-law who pinned the blame on me: “Oh, we don’t have allergies, so he must have gotten this from your side.” Well, excuse me, I cried to myself in the bathroom. My family doesn’t have allergies and Ronan doesn’t either.

To the Doctor We Go

Naturally, as we finally moved into our room at the pediatrician’s office, Ronan was a little angel. He slept peacefully in his car seat as I questioned myself, bleary-eyed, stressed out and feeling like a failure. The doctor gently knocked then came in. She quickly assessed.
    “First of all, it’s not your fault,” she said, crouching down and peering intently at my boy. “Some babies just have a lot of gassiness and it’s uncomfortable for them. Or they get overstimulated. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done or haven’t done,” she added.
    Ronan began to stir in his seat and his eyes opened.
    I gently lifted him out and cradled him in my arms. I knew he would be ready to nurse very soon.
    “We’ll just dim the lights and let you feed him right here, OK? I’ll be back in a bit,” my doctor said.
    I didn’t want her to leave because I stressed it would be hours before she’d return. But we unwrapped ourselves and got to breastfeeding. My shoulders ached with heat. I wanted to sleep more than anything else. I was irritated by my husband that this was somehow all up to me. And irked by the older women in my life who wouldn’t stop offering solutions. Tears stung my eyes.

Purple Crying

After feeding, it started. Ronan was beside himself. Full on purple crying. I stood and moved about the room as best I could. It was hot in here, I was sweaty, we were steaming. Miraculously, the doctor reappeared with a smile on her face.
    “Oh, fussy-wussy,” she said, rubbing Ronan’s tiny back. “This has been happening daily? Several times a day?”
    “It feels like it’s constant to me and it isn’t OK for me to want him to keep sleeping so I don’t have to deal,” I whispered.
     “Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to relieve the crying; it’s so hard. The good news is it won’t last forever.”
    I had wanted her to wave a magic wand.
    Instead, she talked me through a list of things I could try. She examined Ronan as he fussed and pronounced him … perfect. Then she slipped Ronan a few Mylicon drops which didn’t seem to do anything but make him wail more. She said to give these to him after his feedings … and to try and not be too hard on myself.

The Truth About Colic

Colic is more common than I thought. It affects 20 percent of all babies and a clear cause for the condition remains unknown. Any two week or older baby who cries for three inconsolable hours in a day, in more than three days a week and for more than three weeks probably has colic. Opinions and theories about why it happens are not uniform; some babies get it, others do not. I started reading everything I could.

    Colic is not just caused by one thing alone and it has different causative factors which include sleeping disruption, immaturity of the nervous system, food allergy, sensory overload and hypersensitivity to the environment. Some psychosocial issues have also been recognized such as insufficient parent interaction, parental anxiety, maternal smoking and family tension.

    Once I accepted that Ronan was colicky, I decided to not fight it any longer but instead to try and work with my baby to ease his journey. These are some of the suggestions my doctor sent me home with. Some have helped, but of course, all babies are different.

Solutions to Colic

— Hold Baby in an upright position for feeding and directly afterwards.

— Experiment with how often and when you burp your baby.

— Offer meals in a quiet setting.

— If Baby likes a pacifier, offer him one.

— Invest in a baby sling or carrier and use it during colicky periods.

— Use your baby stroller at home, indoors and out.

— Give Baby a warm bath.

— Place a lightly warmed towel on Baby’s tummy. 

— Hold Baby with her legs curled up toward her belly.

— Massage Baby’s tummy or give a full massage.

— Swaddle Baby in a blanket.

— Lay Baby’s tummy down across your lap and pat his back.

— Hold Baby in a rocking chair or put her in a swing.

— Walk with Baby in a quiet, dark room while you hum or sing.

— Keep Baby away from highly stimulating situations.

— Lie on your back and lay your baby on top of you, tummy down, while 
   massaging his back. (Transfer Baby to his bed if he falls asleep.)

— Take Baby for a ride in the car.

— Play soothing music or turn on white noise such as a vacuum cleaner
   or running water, or play a CD of nature sounds.

— If breastfeeding, avoid foods that may cause gas in your baby.

— Eliminate one possible cause for a few days and see if it makes a dif-
   ference. The most common baby tummy offenders are dairy products,
   caffeine, cabbage, broccoli and other gassy vegetables.

— If bottle feeding, offer more frequent but smaller meals; experiment
   with different formulas with your doctor’s approval.

— If bottle feeding, try different types of bottles and nipples that prevent
   air from entering your baby as he drinks, such as those with curved
   bottles or collapsible liners.

    At 8 months old, Ronan still had colic but it was easing. I think the main and most annoying thing I can tell you is, “this too shall pass.” But it’s a lot easier on all of you who care for the baby to not place blame or scold — especially since tension is a trigger. Work on the good vibes!



About the Author

Janie Snyderman

Janie Snyderman is a mom and a freelance writer.