By now you have spent hours scouring the Internet for advice on how to calm a crying baby. You have read every article about reducing colic and repeatedly attempted the magic five S’s (swaddling, side position, swinging, shushing and sucking) like there was no tomorrow. Yet still, at this very moment, your little devil…I mean angel is screaming his head off. Happiest baby on the block my ass. What’s a sleep-deprived, going insane, ready to chuck the baby out the window mother to do?
Besides curling up in a ball only to emerge when your little one blows out that first Birthday candle, there are some practical things you can do to make dealing with a colicky or fussy baby more bearable. These won’t soothe your baby one bit, but they will help you keep your sanity and live to see another day.
1. Invest in a pair of earphones and some sort of MP3 player and listen to music or an audio book while you are trying to calm your baby. I had ear indentations from my I-pod shuffle for the first couple months of Oliver’s life because I used them so much. My reasoning—I could walk around the apartment bouncing a crying baby and slowly lose my patience from endless wailing, or I could rock out to my Disney tunes (You’ll Be In My Heart from Tarzan is a tear jerker for new moms) and remain calm until Oliver finally conked out.
2. Elicit support from anyone and everyone so that you can get a break from the baby. Okay, so it might be a bad idea to leave your newborn with the 8-year-old neighbor whose only babysitting experience is with her American Girl doll, but once that kid hits nine, it’s on. If you’re like me, it’s hard accepting help from others, but learning to say “yes” when someone extends a hand has been a lifesaver.
3. Get out of the house. Take your screaming baby and go for a walk in the park or do a few laps around the mall. Dare those strangers to glare at you with disapproving looks. I was terrified to take Oliver out in public at first because I didn’t want to risk a meltdown in front of people….because you know, babies are never supposed to cry and if they do it’s because you’re terrible mom. After finally mustering up the courage to get out, Oliver decided to start up his ear-splitting scream while I was waiting in line at Starbucks. (I personally like to think he was pissed that a coffee cost $5. “That’s my diaper money mom,” I imagined him crying.) Instead of ditching the line and retreating to my car, I waited and ordered. People may have been staring, but the only thing I saw on their faces was understanding and a bit of pity. The woman in line behind me leaned in and looked at Oliver’s crunched up, beat-red face and commented, “oh he’s so darling; it’s gets better, I promise.”
4. Stop comparing your baby to other people’s babies. This is the habit that caused me the most grief the first few months. I kid you not; EVERY baby I saw while out and about with my fussy little guy seemed like a perfect angel in comparison. I would longingly look at the baby hanging out quietly in his car seat while mom and dad enjoyed a dinner out or the baby contently laying on the grass at the park while mom read a book and think, “why can’t my baby be like that.” I had to remind myself that Oliver was a unique baby with his own personality, and one day very soon I would be celebrating his differences, happy that he isn’t like every other baby.
5. Connect with other moms who have gone through or are going through a similar situation. Whether it’s on the Internet or at a local mom’s group, finding another person to share in your struggles is a great emotional crutch. Swap phone numbers or get together for a play date so you can vent in to someone else who understands. Just be careful not to spend too much time dwelling on the negativity, as the more you focus on how difficult things are the harder it becomes to appreciate the fleeting blissful moments.
6. Give yourself permission to feel “negative” emotions. Are you frustrated? Angry? Annoyed? Ready to cry right along with your baby? It’s okay. You don’t have to be the mom that professes to always love motherhood. You can have bad days and feel “negative” emotions and still be a good parent. Taking care of a baby is a marathon feat. Taking care of a colicky baby is an ultra-marathon through Death Valley in the summer kind of feat. You’ll survive, but it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy every moment.
7. Wine…lots and lots of wine (I’m only slightly kidding)
For another great resource check out the fussy baby site.