I remember promising myself that if I ever got C back, I would write about how I did it. I remember all those late nights full of pain, and I wanted to help someone else who was googling “how to get your ex back” in the middle of the night.
Not so long ago, I promised myself the same thing when my daughter had colic.
Night after night after night while rocking her, I googled “surviving colic,” “diet for colic,” “medicine for colic,” “massage for colic,” “how to cure colic” and “I fucking hate colic.” (Okay, not the last one, but I might as well have.) Most links were the same old BS. I promised myself if I ever figured out how to beat it (which I’m not confident that I did…but I definitely did a lot of things that helped) that I would put a blog up here.
So, when V reached 14 weeks, she suddenly, overnight, was a different baby. Did colic run its course? Yes, but there were definitely some things I did that helped. Here’s my list!
I also want to stress that colic borderline drove me insane. I didn’t experience postpartum depression, but I got damn near close with all that crying. My friend Sara, whose son was colicky, and I often joke that we have PTSD from the colic. We’re kind of joking…but not really.
If your baby has colic and you’re losing your mind, make sure you get breaks. Even if you’re the only one who can soothe the baby. Even if it makes you feel terrible to leave the house. Call your friends and your mom, hire a babysitter who has had a colicky baby, and then go to sleep and/or get the HECK out of the house. I am so, so serious about this. Even an hour can do miracles.
Colic put quite a strain on our marriage that C and I weren’t used to. We’re fine now, but looking back, I absolutely should have asked for more help! Please don’t be afraid to ask, and definitely vent here in the comments if you need to. I’m here. ❤
Alright! Here are my ten recommendations that actually worked for helping V’s colic.
- Quit dairy. And for you Paleo/Primal/ancestral health people, YES, that even means RAW DAIRY. My husband is a trainer/health food/nutrition fanatic and we read a lot of studies that showed that people with dairy sensitivity are often not sensitive to raw dairy. Well, even the proteins in raw dairy are very hard for babies with digestive issues to break down. I saw a huge improvement after cutting ALL dairy (including dairy without proteins such as butter and ghee) within a week. I would say this was the single biggest thing that helped. And make sure you’re reading lots of labels because there is hidden dairy EVERYWHERE. If the label even says “May contain trace amounts of dairy” — don’t consider it, just skip it! **I was able to add dairy back in around the 6 month mark and baby is fine! So it’s really not forever. And if you’re using formula, try Neocate or other dairy-free formulas!
- Try a low FODMAP diet. Like I mentioned in my last post, our pediatrician didn’t even know what this was. I read a couple of studies from New Zealand that said colicky babies do much better on a low FODMAP diet. So what’s a FODMAP, anyway?
From reliable ol’ Wikipedia: “FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. The term FODMAP is an acronym, derived from “Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols.” Although FODMAPs are naturally present in food and the human diet, FODMAP restriction has been found to improve symptom control in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGID). Prior to the formation of the FODMAP concept, diet was seldom used as first line therapy for management of IBS and other FGID.”
Simply put, intestinal issues often manifest as colic in young babies. A low FODMAP diet is greatly beneficial to people of all ages with intestinal/digestive issues. Here’s an image of what’s low vs high FODMAP-containing foods.
As you can see, that’s a lot of food you’d need to cut. But would you rather eat whatever you want and have a screaming baby, or try this and see if it works? Yeah, I thought so. I stayed on a low FODMAP diet for three months. I was miserable. But it was worth it, and I saw results with it.
- Colic Calm. Forget gripe water, gas drops or Gerber Soothe – someone told me about Colic Calm and it was the ONLY thing that worked for us. It’s activated charcoal + gripe water, and the charcoal makes the liquid black, which is kind of freaky. But you know what? It soothed V and had her sleeping in 10 minutes after 3 hours of straight crying. When something works like that, I don’t care what color it is. I now give it out in every single baby shower gift. Just trust me and order a bottle. (It works for adult tummy troubles too!)
- Snuggapuppy. Seriously, just bust out the $10 and buy this thing. I wish I’d had this during V’s colicky days. It’s a small puppy (they make an elephant version too) that vibrates and hums softly. It’s so soothing that I look forward to using it. I wish I could have had this when she was 8 weeks old and so miserable. She’s 6 months old now and we use it all the time!
- Exercise ball. Warning: this will solve all of your problems, so you will love it! And then you will haaaaate it. When V was super miserable, bouncing on an exercise ball (this is the one we used) was the only thing that would calm her down and get her to sleep. The problem? When she grew out of the colic, she wouldn’t sleep unless we bounced her on the ball. Ever. We ended up having to break the habit and we had a rough few days, but I can happily say that our yoga ball now gathers dust. But seriously, got a miserable baby? Try the ball. It’s magic. Just make sure you switch out from time to time because it will KILL your back.
- Hold baby upright for 30 minutes after each feed. Colicky babies very often have reflux. When you lay them on their backs, stomach acid leaks back up their throats and causes them an enormous amount of pain. I started holding V upright after every feeding until she was finally diagnosed with reflux and put on Zantac. And even with the Zantac, laying her down too quickly after a feed can still make her really uncomfortable. So even now that she’s six months, I still hold her upright. Even in the middle of the night. Even when she wakes up every two hours at night. It makes me exhausted, but it keeps her pain manageable. Colicky babies have tummy troubles. Even if they don’t have reflux, holding them upright will assist in their digestion and make them more comfortable. I noticed a big difference when I started doing this!
- On that note, ignore all “expert” advice and hold your baby as much as possible. A colicky baby is in pain. I don’t care what anyone says — you can see it. Buy a carrier you like and wear your baby during the day. At night, you can put a mattress on the floor and co-sleep with your baby. (I only recommend that mothers do this, since we’re built in with a don’t-roll-over-baby instinct that dads and other caretakers are not.) I didn’t co-sleep with Violet (too scared) but I held her through every nap and for most of the night until she was 14 weeks. As a result, even now, she totally trusts me and we have an unshakeable bond. I can soothe her in a matter of seconds.
- Add probiotics. We started giving V one bottle a day from the time she was a week old in preparation for me going back to work. We added probiotics to that bottle. For a while, she started preferring the bottle and rejecting the breast (that’s a whole other post, how we got through that), so I stopped all bottles and so there were no probiotics for a while. Mistake. Around the four month mark, we brought the bottle and probiotics back. Her digestion went from troubled to amazing. I don’t think probiotics will cure colic by themselves, but along with the other points in this list, it’ll definitely help. This probiotic came highly recommended by Paleo people and is what we use. Her mucousy, green poops disappeared within a week. And if you don’t use bottles (and I don’t blame you) you can try probiotic drops like Gerber Soothe.
- Check for lip/tongue ties. And for the MTHFR gene while you’re at it. And for overactive letdown. Babies with lip and/or tongue ties (if one is there, the other usually is) can create a bad latch (on either the bottle or the breast) that can wreak havoc on baby. Luckily, getting these reversed isn’t too difficult these days. We had V’s tongue tie cut when she was two days old, but her pediatrician didn’t think she needed her lip tie cut. In retrospect, I wish we’d just done it.
- Did you take folic acid during pregnancy rather than folate? Go check your pre-natal. I’ll wait.
- Folic acid, right? Get SO + yourself tested for the MTHFR gene. This mutation, which either mama or papa can pass to baby, might have a connection to tongue/lip ties, reflux + colic. And people who have this mutation don’t absorb folic acid…they can only take folate. This is a huge rabbit hole, so I won’t go into it too much. But go have fun on the internet reading about this for 1,000 hours. My lactation consultant told me about it. Very curious to see if by taking folate, baby #2 (if there is a baby #2) doesn’t have tongue or lip ties or reflux.
- Breastfeeding? Good supply? Spraying your baby in the face sometimes? Does your letdown reflex hurt? You may be flooding your baby with so much milk that they take in a bunch of air to keep up. Try hand expressing or pumping for a couple of minutes before feeding to get a slower flow going. Your baby will eventually be able to handle your fire hydrant ta-tas without having digestive distress, don’t worry.
- When all else fails, go outside. It could be vitamin D. It could be fresh air. It could be that we board our babies up in the house for six months when they should be outside for 10-15 minutes a couple of times a day. But whenever things were really bad with V, my husband took her outside and it always calmed her down. Usually in a matter of seconds! There is something magical about going outside, even when babies can barely see a few feet in front of them. Ever seen how babies in Stockholm nap outside in freezing temperatures? They’re not as fragile as you think. Take them outside — it works! V hated being pushed in her stroller but loved to be held outside. Actually, she still does that, and my husband will often take her outside if she’s having a rough time, even now. If you can’t go outside, try super loud white noise. We blared white noise in every room of the house to get V to sleep. I have a friend who physically ran the vacuum for her daughter several hours a day, and lots of moms swear by turning the hair dryer on!
In the end, every article you read will tell you that the colic will pass eventually. And it will. It passed for V around 14 weeks. She was still a pretty irritable girl until much recently, when she turned six months and just became happy and delightful. But the hell that was colic definitely abated around 3 months. Some people have theories that the onset of teething around the 3-4 month mark changes baby’s saliva, making them break down milk/formula better. Other people think some babies just have more trouble with the “fourth trimester” than others.
I really hope some of these tips help. Let me know in the comments if they do. Or if you have tips that helped with your baby, let me know!