I spent my first months of motherhood pacing barefoot around my neighborhood, bleary with exhaustion. Does he have colic, people used to ask when my first son was born. It seemed like such an understatement. My baby cried all the time. Around the clock. Every minute of every day.
Who the heck knows what was going on? We certainly went to the pediatrician enough, desperate for a specific thing to be wrong so we could try to fix it. Three babies into my parenting journey, I’m now convinced colic is the word for “we don’t know why the heck your baby is crying all the time, but he sure is miserable.”
And he surely was a miserable newborn. Whether we held him or set him down. Whether we bounced him or rocked him, bathed him or massaged him. Whether we walked him around the block by the light of the moon or visited a chiropractor. What I learned was that spending 24 hours a day with a baby I was unable to soothe drained me in all possible ways. Here are a few things I did to get through that period of time:
1. Step away from the baby
Make a list of all those well-meaning friends who say, “Let me know if you need help with anything.” Then call one of them, hand over your screaming child, and leave the house. Even if you are nursing, you’ll have about a 90-minute window after a feeding. Go get your hair cut, get your lip waxed, walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store eating a chocolate bar. Let this be the one segment of your day where you are not agonizing over your wailing wee one.
2. Sleep in shifts
Even if you have to go to the basement with a sleeping bag and earplugs or a white noise machine to escape the crying, pick a four- to five-hour window each day and use it to sleep. Side-lying nursing doesn’t really gain mom more rest when a frantic baby is screaming and flailing…if you are nursing, you can make pumping a priority so there is milk to tide the baby over during your sleep shift. Then, let your partner have the next four or five hours. It is absolutely essential that your body experience some delta sleep if you want to make it through your baby’s colic period as a healthy human being.
*this particular tip was suggested by the therapist I started seeing during this time period, who helped me realize that I could take better care of my baby if I took care of my own basic, essential needs first
3. Say yes to everything
People offer new moms all kinds of things, and sometimes the hardest part of parenthood is learning to say yes to this help. When your baby spends hours upon hours screaming in your ear, you are going to need every ounce of goodwill thrown your way. If someone offers to cook you dinner, say yes. If people offer a general “Let me know if you need help,” call and ask them to do a load of laundry or wash your dishes or gather your trash for trash day. That’s five more minutes you get to spend focusing on your high needs baby.
4. Make a fantasy jar
When you play white noise around the clock, something as simple as listening to the news seems like a far-off fantasy. Don’t just sit on the floor and mourn the lost days of pooping sans Mei Tai wrap. Write down everything you wish you could do on scraps of paper (eat dinner with two hands, read a magazine, watch Heroes–the small stuff here that makes you feel like you again) and put them in a jar. Then, once a week, make one wish come true. Small reminders of “normal” life can help you keep perspective and remind you that there is an end in sight. Plus, your weekly wish time gives you something to look forward to as you are rocking away at 3:30 in the morning!
5. Hang in there
This won’t last forever. You’re doing everything you can. You’re the perfect parent for your baby and it’s ok to want to throttle all your friends from your due date club whose babies sit peacefully in a bouncy chair while mom makes actual food for supper. This doesn’t last forever. It really does pass! And forever afterward, whatever your kiddo presents you with seems dinky in comparison.
An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Rookie Moms.
Did your baby cry incessantly? Leave us a comment to share how you made it through this tough time.