Dealing with a Colicky Baby

10 May

So we’re pretty sure that Emma has colic, whatever that is. A colicky baby cries or fusses for 3 hours a day, for 3 days a week, for 3 weeks. It hasn’t been 3 weeks yet but Emma fusses every day, so I think we qualify. I’ve been reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and the author says that fussiness is more characteristic of colic and defines fussiness as “an unsettled, agitated, wakeful state that would lead to crying if ignored by parents” and that colicky babies have “long and frequents bouts of fussing” which would lead to crying if it weren’t for “intensive parental intervention.”

Story of my life.

This week has been a blur of feeding and getting Emma to go to sleep and stay asleep. Who needs to work out when you spend hours a day bouncing a fussy baby on an exercise ball? Seriously, my legs and back are TIRED.

After a little research, it appears that Emma is getting enough sleep, but most of it is in 1-2 hour chunks, with a few 2-4 hour chunks thrown in from about 6 pm to 1 am. The time of day she sleeps the worst is from about 1 am to 8 am. Last night, I just threw in the towel and stayed up watching Modern Family on my iPad instead of trying to sleep through her grunting. It was definitely our worst night by far. She was grunting within 15 minutes of when I put her in her swing.

I finally called our pediatrician’s office the other day and talked to the triage nurse. I told her about all of Emma’s symptoms:

  • Cries after feedings, sometimes during, like she’s frustrated
  • Swallows a lot of air from gulping milk
  • Gets hiccups often, spits up quite a bit, has a lot of gas
  • Wants to eat every 1-3 hours
  • Often wants pacifier after eating but has plenty of dirty and wet diapers
  • Grunts almost all night long, seems to be uncomfortable from gas
  • Yawns all the time, even when she has just woken up, but it still takes a lot of effort to make her go to sleep
  • Generally only sleeps for an hour at a time except for evening – then she’ll go 2-3 hours and every once in a while, 4-5
  • When she seems happy and alert, it lasts for maybe 10-15 minutes before she melts down
  • Goes from happy to screaming in a matter of seconds
  • Often cries for 10-20 minutes no matter what you do, calms down after that but only as long as you’re doing something very specific

The triage nurse was very helpful and gave me these tips to try:

  • Express milk before feeding Emma to minimize gulping and swallowed air.
  • Interrupt her feedings often to burp her. Burp her for several minutes before resuming.
  • Keep her upright for 30-45 minutes after eating.
  • If it’s been less than 2 hours since a good feeding (lasting 20-30 minutes), comfort her in a way other than nursing (since it takes about 2 hours for a full belly to be metabolized). If her last feeding was short, I can feed her when she seems hungry.
  • Eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine from my diet for a week.

Pumping milk before feeding Emma will take a little getting used to, especially since it’s pretty tough to predict right now when Emma will want to eat. And when I know she wants to eat, she wants to eat NOW. I can hold her off with the pacifier, but she can’t keep it in her mouth herself, so pumping is kind of a circus act while I juggle the breast pump bottles and her pacifier.

I do think pumping, combined with me reclining during breastfeeding, is making a difference – at the very least, Emma is drinking slower than before. She’s not usually a huge fan of being burped mid-feeding (or at all), unless she’s really uncomfortable. But she settles back down pretty quickly once I put her back to the breast.

Sometimes she likes being upright on my or Travis’ chest and she sleeps pretty well in the Baby Bjorn. But other times, she thinks being upright is horrible. That was the case this morning. Surprisingly, though, she was content laying on her back on the changing table. So I let her lay there for about 10 minutes while I talked to her. (This has inspired yet another idea we’re going to try – putting her on her changing pad mattress in the cradle. She seems to be able to pass gas a lot better laying flat on her back than sitting reclined like she does in her swing.)

As far as the dietary changes go, I’m going to eliminate dairy, chocolate and caffeine like the nurse suggested (which is so sad because those are almost all of my favorite food groups!). I have been avoiding cheese, milk, yogurt and ice cream for the past week, but I was still eating chocolate and processed foods like granola bars that contain milk. So I’m finally going to cut those out too. 😦 Then last night, I ate a Boca burger for dinner and on the off chance that the night went so poorly because I ate soy, I’m also going to cut out soy products. And since peanuts are a well-known allergen as well, I’m thinking that I might switch to eating almond butter instead of peanut butter. I’m also going to avoid eating tomatoes and any tomato-based sauces and condiments, since those have triggered acid reflux for me in the past, and while I’m at it, I might as well cut down on the gluten I eat (since a lot of products that are dairy and soy free are also gluten free). Can you tell I’m desperate to find a solution to Emma’s crying?!?!

In a way, this change will be good for me and Travis because we’ll be forced to eat a lot more whole foods and less processed crap. The only drawback is that whole foods generally require more work than processed foods, and well, time in the kitchen is not something I have a lot of right now. But we’re going to try. 😉 So what will I be eating?

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Rice and rice pasta
  • Meat, poultry and fish
  • Olive oil
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Udi’s gluten-free products
  • Larabars
  • So Delicious ice cream and yogurt
  • Amy’s Organic Foods
  • Earth Balance spreads and nut butters
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Almond milk (which is SO not the same as cow’s milk!! I miss it dearly)

The nurse said that if these changes haven’t made a difference in Emma’s fussy behavior by Monday, then they’ll have us come in to have Emma checked out and make sure there isn’t something else going on besides colic.

On a positive note, I haven’t felt as frustrated with Emma the past couple of days. My emotions have switched to just being frustrated with the situation, with an understanding that Emma isn’t being fussy on purpose – she’s just uncomfortable. Poor baby. I keep assuring her that Mommy wants to make her happy and is trying everything she can think of to do so.

But I did just about lose it on our walk this morning with the dogs. Emma had fallen asleep so I thought I’d take advantage of it and go on a longer walk. Well, just 20 minutes into it, she woke up. I turned right around, even though it was earlier than I had planned, because I just had an inkling that she wouldn’t be content very long if she was awake. Sure enough, about a minute later, she started pouting and then crying. She was content if the pacifier was in her mouth, but again, I have to hold it in there. So I ended up tying the dogs’ leash around my waist, taking Emma out of the carseat and holding her while I pushed the stroller all the way back to the house, and keeping the pacifier in her mouth. That juggling act made me feel like a real mom. And it made me vow to not take both the dogs and Emma on a walk again until she outgrows this stage, or Travis comes with.

Do you have any tasty, easy snack ideas that are dairy and soy free?

4 Responses to “Dealing with a Colicky Baby”

  1. Stephanie May 10, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I had pretty serious colic when I was a baby. My mom went back to work and stopped breast feeding me after about 4 months, so it’s possible the problems were caused by formula not agreeing with me. (It was the 80s and I have no idea how much doctors agreed on dietary issues/allergies causing all those problems, but I have 0 allergies now.) My parents told me their most successful ways to keep me happy were long car rides and setting me atop the washer or dryer during a cycle. I hope you guys find an answer for Emma soon!

  2. mborrell May 11, 2013 at 2:03 am #

    Thank you for writing about this! Its intimidating to read and makes me a little worried for what may be to come for me. But it is nice to have some insight of how another first time mommy is handling it, as well as some signs to recognize that it’s Colic. NO FUN!! Hope those adjustments help for you and Emma!

  3. monthsbeforeyou May 11, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Colic sounds terrible.I’ve read a bit about it and have prayed that we don’t experience it. Sounds like a true test of patience! For your diet…you might look into paleo style recipes….sounds like a match with what youneed to be eating other than the rice/grain part. We were eating pale/prima; style before I got pregnant and plan to return to it once we get settled (and folks stop bringing us food!).

  4. Heidi Nicole May 12, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    All I can say is good luck…and hopefully changing up your diet helps. At the very least, it will be interesting to see how the diet change affects your own body. Someday I just might get the ambitious/drive to modify my diet! And I think it is great that you’re managing a positive attitude about all this! She might be fussy because her tummy is angry but its definitely not because she’s mad at Mom!

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