Colic is the term often used to refer to a fussy, crying baby that seems to be crying for no reason.
I cannot count the number of times I was asked if my baby was a “good baby”. (I would always laugh inside at the question, because a baby is a baby – she can’t be good or bad since that implies that there is a deliberate decision that is made.) I was tempted to answer with something silly like “she is such a bad baby – always pulling the cat’s tail, not following any instructions, won’t change her own diapers”, but instead I’d just smile and say that yes, my baby was a good baby, answering the real question that people wanted to know – was my baby fussy and crying all the time?
I remember this one lady who had asked me that question. After I had replied that E was a happy baby, her response was that I was SO lucky. Her son had been such a crying baby and it nearly drove her crazy!
The great thing about having friends and family who have had babies before you, is that you have the chance to watch and learn and pick up lots of helpful tips. My sister, the mother of two boys with another baby due in July, introduced me to the first book: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Dr. Harvey Carp.
What is fascinating is that in his book, Dr. Carp mentions that colic is a first world problem. It doesn’t happen in third world countries. I hadn’t really thought about it until I read the book, but I grew up in Indonesia and I only remember happy babies.
Dr. Carp figures that babies are born 3 months too soon. They really should be in the womb for those months, but because of head size, they can’t wait that long to be born or they’d never get out! Colic stops around the 3 month mark. Hmm. Interesting.
He has five techniques (he calls them the 5 S’s) that he suggests to calm a baby.
1. Swaddling – tight wrapping
2. Side/stomach – laying a baby on her side or stomach (While supervised! NOT WHILE SLEEPING!)
3. Shushing – loud white noise
4. Swinging – rhythmic, jiggly motion
5. Sucking – sucking on a nipple, finger, soother, etc.
There were many times when E would be fussy. She was fed, clean, good temperature, etc, but was still crying. We’d then swaddle her in a blanket, hold her on her side, bounce her gently up and down (the natural movement that one does when holding a baby), give her her soother, and then make a loud shushing noise close to her ear. It wouldn’t take long before she would calm down. It was like magic! 🙂
If you are dealing with a baby who cries for no apparent reason, definitely pick up this book and read up on the techniques!
The second book that has been fantastic for dealing with fussiness is The 90 Minute Baby Sleep Program by Polly Moore, Ph. D. This book isn’t about colic, it’s about sleeping, particularly naps, but it was a real eye opener.
The main concept of the book is that all babies go through a 90 minute alertness cycle. That means that after about 90 minutes from the time she wakes up, she will be ready to go back to sleep again. It seems obvious now, but I honestly didn’t realize that E wasn’t able to stay awake for longer stretches of time without getting fussy. Before I read the book, I was noticing that E would get cranky about 60 – 90 minutes after she had woken up. I was so confused because she had just woken up it seemed. After reading the book, we started putting her down for her naps an hour and a half after she woke up and the fussiness disappeared!!!
As she has gotten older, E is able to stay up for longer amounts of time, but we try to put her down to sleep in increments of 90 minutes. For example, at the 3 hour mark or the 4 1/2 hour mark. We have found that if we try to put her down for a nap in the middle of an alertness cycle, she is much more resistant to going to sleep, even if she is exhausted.
The only issue I had with following this 90 minute cycle is that E started taking 30 minute naps and that has been a huge habit to break! If/when we have another baby, we are definitely going to follow the 90 minute cycles, but at the same time work at taking longer naps right from the beginning!