Tuesday, 8 January 2008

A Day in the life of Colic

(I want to note - this entry is not about garnering sympathy from readers - it is merely an entry of information).

Our little one has colic. For those of you not familiar with the term, it is basically a five-letter word for "I don't know". Doctors use the word when a baby is in pain and it has something to do with the digestive system. In an adult, the doctor would ask a variety of questions to narrow down the diagnosis. In babies, however, they are often unable to determine the problem. Most often it is summed up as an underdeveloped digestive system that just needs to "work itself out".

So what does having colic mean in day to day life? It means your baby cries - a lot - inconsolably. It means tears stream down his face and his lips quiver, his feet wrenching up and down, back and forth, in and out. It means that he feeds irregularly and rarely sleeps. It means that he is never awake and happy, or even just sitting or lying down - if he is awake, he is crying, or about to cry if you stop rocking him or try to put him down. It means literally having to hold your baby anytime he is not sleeping, and often when he is sleeping. It means watching your precious little one in excruciating pain and knowing there is little you can do about it but try to comfort him in your arms.


Diary of a Colicky Baby:

12am-2:30 am - the one block of sleep Caleb gets
2:30-3am - feeding
3am-5am - lying in bed, grunting, squirming, sniffling, wanting to sleep but unable to
5am - feeding
5:30-8am - crying, screaming, with one or two small 10 minute naps
8am - feeding
8:30 - 11am - crying, screaming, pausing only for a minute or two to catch his breath
11am - feeding
11:30 - 2pm - crying, which is calmed to sniffling as long as I am carrying him directly upright
2pm - feeding
2:30 - 5pm - crying, screaming, with a few 10 or 20 minute naps
5pm - feeding
5:30 - 11pm - crying, screaming, feeding on demand, a few naps as long as he is being held in the sling
11pm - feeding, in our bed, followed by sleep as long as he isn't moved at all


I've heard about colic, but I never really understood it. A friend of mine experienced it with her newborn this year, and now truly sympathizes with our plight. The mother of a colicky baby does whatever she can to ease the crying, both for her baby's pain and her own sanity. We co-sleep, we feed on demand, we feed on a schedule, we let them sleep in a swing or a carseat or on our chests or anywhere that works. We forgo burping if they fall asleep feeding. We sit and cry right along with them. We make and break rules daily.

The doctor tells me prime colic time is 4-8 weeks. Caleb started right on cue at 4 weeks, and is now 8 and a half weeks. Today Caleb had two bouts of 3-4 minutes during which he was awake and not crying/whimpering. It actually scared me to see him just sitting there, eyes open, with no noise. I had to go over and interact with him, just to make sure everything was okay. We are praying (fervently!) that he is nearing the end of it, or that our two-month doctor's appointment tomorrow will provide some insight.

Now you know a little more about colic. In the words of my friend's mother (who had 8 children of her own) after 2 hours of baby-sitting her colicky grandson: "I had no idea it could be like that." I hope they are able to find a little bit more about 'colic' so that we are able to rid our vocabularies of this mysterious word and replace it with some real answers.


2017 - postscript

I noticed that this post regularly gets traffic, 8 years later. I wanted to note here that we now believe our "colicky" baby had undiagnosed food allergies. Our daughter born 4 years later had the same thing, and with new understandings of how food allergies can manifest in the body, we were able to get her body under control.  In addition to crying all the time, Caleb (and our daughter, Juliette) had eczema.  Caleb's cheeks would bleed it was so bad. Juliette's face would get a little puffy.  Because the allergies were so many, food elimination diets didn't reveal anything.  Juliette could not eat: gluten, oats, rice, beans, dairy, corn, or soy. If she stayed on strictly fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat her "colic" was gone and her skin stayed clear. Good news - she outgrew it by the age of four.  Caleb, I believe, outgrew most of his between 2-4 (the colic stopped at 2, the eczema at 4). I also had to stick to Juliette's diet while I was nursing her. And Juliette's medical allergy test (scratch test) showed negative for everything, but our doctor said those tests are inconclusive before the age of 5, and from pictures of reactions said that indeed she did have the food allergies. We used a homeopathic doctor to help us with Juliette.  We don't see that doctor for anything else, and we don't usually see a homeopathic doctor, but it did provide what we needed at the time.  Obviously not all colic is allergy related, but I know how much mother's of colicky babies need information for anything that might possibly be an answer.

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