This is a very difficult article for me to write as my baby has just turned 4 months and is coming out a period where she experienced “colic”. I put the word colic in quotation marks as it’s a very misleading and confusing word. In general terms it is defined as a baby crying for 3 hours a day for more than 3 days a week, for 3 consecutive weeks in a child that is otherwise healthy. The usual onset is 2 weeks of age and it usually lasts until about 3-4 months. But the reasons for colic can be very different and it’s not always due to gas, as the word colic implies.
Some babies have reflux – where it’s noticeable with obvious signs of spit up and pain after eating or silent with no symptoms present at all. For other babies it’s digestive and gas is usually the culprit. For others, they are incredibly sensitive, reacting to any stimulus that is strong, loud or bright. And for others, it is developmental, meaning it is a normal phase, which is now being coined as The Period of PURPLE Crying®. For anyone who has had or known a baby to go through colic…the last word that you imagine being associated with it, is normal.
But this article will not focus on the causes and treatments of colic…that will be for another article, which I will soon publish. This article is about the stress and impact it has on those caring for the crying child and talking about options of support. This article is hard to write, as this experience of having a colicky baby has been one of the hardest I have been through and I feel very passionate about helping anyone who is or will be going through it. It’s a vulnerable place to write about one’s own experience, but I feel there will be value in sharing, as this topic is a difficult one to speak about with others. Let me tell you a bit about my past 4 months.
When my baby was born, she screamed for her first 90 minutes of life. The midwives and myself found it a bit odd, but she was deemed healthy and normal and went home soon after her birth. I had hoped her screams were just signs of her strong vitality but as the days came and went her crying increased. At 2 weeks it was bad – lasting close to 12 hours/day…at 4 weeks it was worse, lasting 12-16 hours/day and at 6-8 weeks it was horrible, lasting upwards of 18+ hours/day. She was gaining weight, peeing and pooing as expected and considered healthy with no other underlying causes for the crying.
With each week, I hoped the next would be better but my heart sunk further and further as it kept worsening. I would rock her most nights from 11 pm-4 or 5 am while she screamed in my arms. Sometimes I may have cried just as much as she did, as the screaming was what I call, ‘crazy making’ for me. Sometimes she slept in the day due to exhaustion, but there was always more crying than not and the kind of crying that breaks your heart as it seemed it did not matter what we did, it remained.
Leaving the house was awful, as the crying was worse in the car, in the stroller or in anyone else’s arms. Everytime we went grocery shopping I’d literally have 5 or 6 people come up and ask me if she was ok or worse yet, they’d tell me what I should do to make it better. I realize everyone was trying to be helpful, but it generally did the opposite. Having people over was stressful, as no one likes listening to a baby crying and I would feel the need to try to entertain or try to hold a conversation, even though it felt more like a burden than a gift of having a visitor. As the days came and went, my babe and I found no routine that we could latch onto…we just got by and I hoped the next day would be better…but it usually wasn’t.
I would feel embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn’t make my baby stop crying, especially being a Naturopath. My babies colic wasn’t due to gas or reflux which there are natural supports that can sometimes help dramatically. For her the best medicine was time which was the hardest medicine for me to swallow.
I had hoped to exercise, to eat clean, to get my former body back in shape and strength, just like I had after my first daughter was born. But with time, the weight kept staying on, eating clean foods no longer was a priority or possible and I had no desire to exercise, take supplements or do anything good for myself. I tried…I really, really tried, but I was burnt out in every aspect of my being and I had nothing left for myself. What was worse, was that I knew how to do all the “right” things but I had nothing left in my tank. My body and emotions reflected how burnt out I was.
So many women that I see in my practice who have had colicky babe, difficult babes or post partum depression often suffer in silence. Speaking for myself, I’ve felt it inappropriate to complain or share about this struggle, as I know many others struggle with their own journey’s…whether that be infertility, miscarriage or the loss of a child.
Now, I need to preface this article, with saying I am and always was grateful for my daughter and don’t take it lightly, how fortunate I am to have a babe. I know many women would love to have babes who can’t…that some women would gladly have a colicky baby. The reason I share this, is I feel it is important to keep perspective. But it’s also important to be honest about where you’re at and this article is written with the hope that if you’re suffering from exhaustion, anxiety, depression, loneliness or lack of will to look after yourself…that you’re not alone.
Whatever your journey has been, please know that if you’re wanting or needing support, you have options. Your emotions need a place where they can express what you have gone through, your mind needs a place to make sense of your experience and encouragement to shift perspectives if you’re ready for that and your body needs a place to rebuild its depleted stores and get strong again.
I lost myself in the care of my colicky daughter. I lost the drive to prepare healthy foods, I lost the drive to run and be outside which helps my body and mind, I lost the drive to connect with life and ultimately myself. I’m in the process of rebuilding myself and it’s taking work and love and care on many fronts…but I’m getting myself back and grateful that there are natural supports to do so.
The process of rebuilding takes time and needs nurturing care but is the most important thing you can do. I’m in this process myself and if you’re needing a place to help rebuild yourself, I’d be honoured to a be a part of that. Know you have options and that you’re not alone.
Amanda Cressman, ND.