7 Tips For Coping With Colic

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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.

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In Search of “Me Time”

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It’s Saturday night at 8pm, only 30 minutes until Oliver (hypothetically) goes to bed for the night and only 31 minutes until I start fantasizing about climbing into bed myself. My husband offers to take full responsibility of Oliver so that I can have some “me time.” Without thinking twice I jump at the offer.

Now if only I could figure out how to spend my “me time.” I start in the kitchen thinking a snack might be in order. I’m in the middle of comparing the merits of kettle corn to buttered popcorn when I can’t help but notice the awful state our kitchen has fallen into. Before I know it I’ve forgotten about the popcorn and I’m loading the dishwasher, washing bottles, and tying off the overflowing bag of garbage. My husband shouts in from the living room couch, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be doing something fun.”

Fun—that’s a concept that’s changed a lot since having a baby. Sometimes when your choice is between trying to calm a screaming baby and scraping day old baked ziti off of plates, the plate scraping can seem like a trip to Disney World. But he’s right; the kitchen can wait. I reluctantly put down the dish soap and move into the bedroom. Maybe I’ll read a book.

The first things I notice upon entering are the hamper of washed clothes waiting to be put away and the dirty clothes laying all over the floor waiting to be washed. I resist the urge to tackle that chore and shuffle into the living room where my husband is sitting with the baby. I plop down on the couch next to him.

“You want a foot rub?” I ask, reaching to yank his socks off.

“I’m not going to say no, but this isn’t exactly doing something for you.”

I audibly sigh in agreement, but I’m not quite sure what else to do. I’ve grown so accustomed to filling any free time with must-dos like cleaning, cooking, and baby care that I feel a pang of guilt for doing something that I want to do. Surely having clean underwear takes precedence over any purely selfish pursuit. No?  And as a stay at home mom, handing baby care off to my husband for the rest of the night feels like I am slacking on the job. Because when am I not at work?

When raising your child is your “job” of sorts, how do you learn to clock-out when you’re always taking your work home with you…or, more aptly, you’re always at home with your work?

Learning to take “me time” in the face of other pressing obligations and errands requires some practice. I’m nowhere near perfect at taking guilt free time for myself but here are some tips that are helping me get there.

1. Give yourself permission. Taking care of kids is hard work; you don’t just WANT a break you NEED a break to be at your best.

2. Acknowledge feelings of guilt but recognize they stem from unreasonable expectations you have of yourself.

3. Talk with your partner or other care provider and agree upon a set time when you can renounce all baby responsibilities.

4. Get away from the baby during “me time.” Get out of the house or ask whoever is watching the baby to leave. It’s hard to focus on you when you can hear a crying baby the next room over.

5. Make plans with someone so that you can’t back out.

6. Ask for help getting all those lingering chores accomplished. If you don’t feel overwhelmed by a mountain of to-dos, it will be easier to focus on you.

So what did I finally decide to do with my “me time?” You’re looking at it.