I remember running into an acquaintance a couple of months after my son was born. “Are you enjoying that sweet, new baby?” she asked. I stared blankly. The weight of exhaustion made it impossible to fake my enthusiasm, so I gave a long, deep sigh. The correct answer was obvious. Doesn't every new mom enjoy their precious new baby? The truth was that I wasn't.
He nursed constantly, refused to take a bottle, would only sleep on top of me or in my arms, screamed every time he was in his car seat. Starting at around 4 pm, every single day, he would become inconsolable and cry. A LOT. I swaddled, nursed, rocked, walked, shushed, begged, and cried with him for hours. This is how I spent most of my afternoons. Was I enjoying my sweet, new baby? No. I wanted my old life back. I wanted to run away. More than anything, I wanted to sleep for days.
Having a high needs or colicky infant feels relentless. Those afternoons stretched before me, and I knew that, unlike what everyone said, this was not going to pass. Time had stopped, and this would go on for the rest of my life. I was Sisyphus, condemned to push a boulder up a hill, with a crying infant strapped to my back.
Everyone was right, though. My son is almost 2 now. He is smart, funny, healthy, and delightful. Here are some tips and techniques I learned along the way, and also some things that I will do differently if I have another child:
Rest when you can. I often found it difficult to sleep during the day, but just closing my eyes in a quiet, dark room helped me recharge. And don't worry if you can't get to sleep. It will get better, and you will sleep again. Being anxious about not sleeping only makes it less likely that you will sleep.
Take a "Mailbox Moment." If you are feeling overwhelmed, put your baby down in safe place, and walk away. Go outside, take deep breaths. I felt guilty when I did this because I wanted to be able to fix it, and I thought a good mother should know how to do that. Now I know that a good mother knows she needs to take care of herself along the way.
Ask for help, and take it when people offer! I found it helpful when my husband would take the baby for a walk. A quiet house and the bliss of aloneness were so healing for me.
Read the Happiest Baby on the Block, and use the “5 S System.” At the time, I had not read the book, but my son's pediatrician recommended the techniques in it. Swaddling and making a loud shushing sound with movement were particularly helpful. If you have a colicky baby, you should know that, while these techniques do help to take the sting out, they may not be the magic solution you're needing. They certainly help, but only time will definitely end the problem.
Hire a postpartum doula. When I became a mom, I didn't have much experience with newborns. While much of the care is instinctual and learned along the way, having a trained and experienced professional would have been so helpful in the transition. A postpartum doula will help the new family by providing emotional support and guidance in newborn care, while helping you get your bearings as a new mom and family.
The most important thing to remember is that it is just a season. It isn't forever. Even though it feels like it is. It really will get better. Now, I look at my wonderful two year old son, and those sleep deprived, colicky days feel like a lifetime ago. In many ways, they were a lifetime ago because I'm not the woman I used to be.
Colic does end. You can survive it, and come out better and stronger on the other side of it. Motherhood is a journey, and journeys aren't always easy. But they are worth it.
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