The newborn stage is tough for all moms. You’re sleep deprived and exhausted, healing from giving birth, adjusting to nursing or waiting for your milk to dry up, and overwhelmed by the major life change you just experienced. If your baby has reflux or colic, you’re dealing with all that while the soundtrack of constant screaming plays in the background for months.
Having a baby with reflux or colic is not something I would wish on anyone. It is extremely hard! If your baby has colic or reflux, I am so sorry! Please know that other mothers have been there and though this time can be terrible, it will pass.
When you have an easy first baby, you get way too confident. My daughter was a very content baby. When she was fussy, if I sang or rocked her she would immediately stop fussing and stare at me. I could easily comfort her, she nursed like a champ, and she slept through the night by four months old.
My son is a totally different type of baby. From the minute he was born, he cried constantly.
In the early days. I assumed something was wrong with him or something was wrong with me. I had so many questions. Was I making enough milk? Was my son one of the rare babies that is allergic to their mother’s milk? Did he have a dairy intolerance? Why was he spitting up so much? Why was his breathing so loud? Why did he grimace and arch?
Looking for solutions, and not feeling confident in my milk producing abilities, I briefly tried formula, but he cried even harder and had more reflux symptoms so I went back to exclusively breastfeeding.
No matter what I did my newborn cried.
He showed no recognition that I was holding him or comforting him. I tried everything to get him to stop crying. I put him down in a Rock N Play, in the crib, swaddled tight, swaddled loosely, and not swaddled at all. I tried different brands of swaddles. I put nightlights in the room then tried no light in the room. I ran the ceiling fan. I bought a tabletop fan and ran that too. I ran the vacuum cleaner and hair dryer near him. I tried white noise. I paced the room holding him. I put him a swing, I wore him in a carrier. I put him in his car seat and drove around town. I held him while bouncing on an exercise ball. I tried everything I could think of to soothe him, but every night it took hours to get him calm and sleeping.
His worst period of crying, also known as purple crying, was every night from approximately 9-11 pm. It went on for months.
It was a living hell. There is really no other way to describe it. I also spent a lot of time crying. Sometimes my son’s breathing was so loud, and his crying so intense, I thought he was dying. After numerous pediatrician visits and a GI specialist, we found out that he had reflux. He went on medication that helped the spit-up quantities and his gagging but did not help the crying.
I did not leave the house much during this time period. My son’s crying was so intense and endless that I thought people would think I was hurting him. I holed up inside my house, with my three-year-old, and tried to make life bearable while we waited for him to grow out of it.
Eventually, he did grow out of it. By 13-14 weeks old, he was noticeably better. After a few more weeks, the periods of purple crying were over and we started to see some smiles and signs of personality.
My son is now nine months old. He is still a much more vocal baby than my daughter was. He cries more than what I’m used to, but now it has identifiable causes. His greatest meltdowns are always when it’s time for bed and he’s ready to nurse. If he gets overtired, he is still inconsolable. He still has nights where he wakes up 4-5 times and cries for a half hour, but he also randomly sleeps through the night for a few days in a row. Sometimes it’s difficult to get him to go to sleep at bedtime and he refuses a second nap most days.
Around seven months old, he was able to get off the reflux medication. He doesn’t show many signs of reflux anymore but sometimes spits up a little after eating.
If my son were my first child, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to try for a second.
Having a baby with colic, reflux, or both is extremely tough. Here is some advice that I wish someone had given me when I was in the thick of it.
Be honest with yourself and others.
Having a baby with colic or reflux is really, really hard. You don’t have to sugarcoat especially not to your pediatrician or loved ones. Let people know what you are going through and be honest with your baby’s doctor and your own. If something is wrong, your pediatrician needs all of the details to figure out a plan. I took several videos of my son crying, and breathing loudly, to show the doctor before he was diagnosed with reflux.
Be honest with your partner too. It’s exhausting, heartbreaking, and sometimes rage-inducing to listen to your baby cry all day. I was honest with my feelings and told my husband when I was overwhelmed and needed a break. He did the same with me.
Don’t be afraid to tell a trusted person, or professional, how you are feeling.
It’s hard on you, your partner, and your other kids.
One of the worst parts of my son’s constant crying was that it frequently woke up my three-year-old. She would have rough days and meltdowns because she wasn’t getting enough sleep. She told me many times that she didn’t like having a brother, she wanted him to go away, and she wished he would stop crying.
When she told me these things, I felt like I was failing BOTH of my kids. I couldn’t give my son the comfort he needed and I couldn’t stop my daughter from feeling bad either. It was a tough time for our whole family.
Though I had to wake up with my son to nurse him, my husband would also get up and take turns rocking him and sitting up with him after he ate. He also let me sleep in on the weekends and we took naps when we could. We tried to take our daughter out of the house every weekend. In the summer, we did things outside like take walks and go to parks. We were all able to get some fresh air and have fun.
When you’re going through this time period, try to find ways that you can take small breaks, get out of the house, and find enjoyment.
You need breaks.
No one can handle hours of screaming each night for weeks on end. Even with my meditation practice, I found myself growing frustrated and hopeless during the long night stretches. When I felt angry, or sad, I would leave the room and take a few minutes for myself. If you feel yourself losing patience, place your baby safely in their crib and leave the room or even step outside of the house and take a few minutes to breathe and calm yourself before going back in.
Another way to cope is by using earplugs. Even with earplugs in, you can still hear your baby crying, but it takes the volume down which can help lower your stress response.
You need help.
If you have a spouse, ask for help. If you don’t have a partner, ask family, friends, or hire someone. You need to be able to leave the house without your child. You need time to relax without worrying about the crying.
I took walks around the neighborhood during some of the rough nights. I also passed off my son to my husband who often had more patience than I did because he had been at work during the day. I would go to Target or Walmart and wander around for an hour just to feel like a normal person again.
Ask others for help when you need it.
It will end.
It seems like it may never happen, but it does end. For most babies, colic improves by 4 months and reflux by 6-9 months.
My son turned a corner around six months old and is now a happy ball of energy. He smiles constantly, gives kisses and hugs, and is mostly delightful…except when he’s tired. He seems to have a much lower tolerance for discomfort than my daughter does.
Another thing that’s different about him versus my daughter is that he is very mobile. He was crawling by six months and pulling up at seven months. He is now cruising at nine months and standing unassisted for a few seconds at a time. I’m sure he will be walking before one. My daughter didn’t walk until 15 months and never crawled on all fours.
This is just a season in your baby’s life. Things will improve and change. Just hold on. Each day you get through is one closer to things improving.