(This article was first published in Your Baby, Nov/Dec, 2014)
There are hundreds of books out there, with thousands of rules and rituals that promise to divulge the secret to the perfectly happy baby. But none of them worked with my first baby.
Second time around, I decided to put my foot down early and not be bullied by what we affectionately referred to in our household as a helpless little tyrant.
So I read even more books than I did in my first pregnancy, and two weeks before baby was due I was confident – nothing would stop me from being supermom this time. My bravado was sadly short lived.
A crying shame
After two weeks baby Max started to develop colic. What they don’t tell you in any of those wonderful books is that all the rules and routines go out the window at the first sign of this mysterious ailment From 3pm to 7pm every day, like clockwork, my baby would go from a pleasant, gurgling cherub to a writhing, screaming demon who would twist his face and arch his back as though tortured by a cruel, invisible force.
The more I read about this condition, the more despondent I felt. While the symptoms were clear (regular, painful gastric trauma) and widespread (up to a quarter of all babies are diagnosed with the condition), the prognosis was always the same:
not much can be done, nobody agrees on what the true causes are, and if you grit your teeth the symptoms should disappear by the time the baby is four or six months old. Then there are the chilling warnings about the effect that colic can have on your marriage.
The biggest casualty of colic, they tell you, is the relationship between the parents. The human brain abhors uncertainty. As you get increasingly desperate, so you begin to grasp at any possible explanation – even if it means blaming your partner.
Colic is also meant to peak at six weeks and then get slightly better. I tried absolutely every medicine under the sun – from probiotic drops to colic mixtures. So when, at six weeks, instead of showing any signs of abating, the symptoms just got worse and Max started crying earlier and earlier, I did not know which way to turn anymore.
With my back to the wall, I had to find easy tricks that would help a hysterically crying baby relax (and pronto). I do not propose these as a cure for colic. But during the six weeks of excruciating crying and a very unhappy little chappy, these little tricks – more often than not – managed to make our day that much more bearable.
1. Change your diet. Immediately
This was basically the cure for the root cause that we found after trying the five symptom relieving tricks listed below. I am telling you this one first, because I genuinely think it is the first one you should try.
As I was breastfeeding, I went on a strictly gluten and dairy free diet and it worked. In two days, Max’s symptoms had disappeared. It was like a minor miracle – I can’t describe the feelings of victory and relief. I am not guaranteeing that this will work for you. But in my mind, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
2. On the ball
We use them in pregnancy. We use them in the labour room while giving birth. Why do we then forget about gym balls as soon as baby is born? Gently, rhythmically bouncing on a gym ball somehow soothes a crying baby, helps to get the burps out, and even sometimes puts them to sleep. It has the added benefit of exercising your abs and quads at the same time as making baby feel better.
3. Going commando
Babies love being rid of those ever present, heavy, scratchy massive things between their legs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nappies are about as natural as, well, walking around with a maternity pad all day long. Putting the baby outside on a blanket on the lawn, taking off the nappy and just letting him enjoy the freedom of his own birthday suit has a mood enhancing effect of epic proportions.
4. Rough ride
Time and time again, I have put an inconsolably screaming baby in either a car seat or pram, and the bumpier the ride in the car (or in the pram), the faster they forgot about their troubles and sat wide-eyed and bushy tailed, enjoying the adventure. It even gets the burps out and once again, if taking a fast stroll in the pram, the added benefit of exercise for yourself should not be scoffed at. And don’t be afraid to head off road onto the park lawn.
5. Swaddle him up
Our paediatrician showed us how to swaddle Max so that he couldn’t move or spit out his dummy. After two days he started to associate swaddle time with naptime, and I could put him down and be sure he was snug and asleep in no time at all. It worked so well that I started calling this The
6. It’s a wrap
At my baby shower I was given a baby wrap (basically one long piece of cloth that you need a PhD to figure out how to wrap around yourself). This remained at the back of my cupboard until Max was four weeks old, and I was trying anything just to make him feel better. Once I mastered the technique, this was an absolute life-saving device.
For two months my baby practically lived in it, and when nothing else helped for the painful tummy cramps, I would pop him in what became my “uniform” and voilà – he would calm down and sometimes even fall peacefully, mercifully asleep. While I’m no expert, trying these tricks can do no harm for a fractious baby, especially if you’re taking strain too.
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