Every parent has their own rough phases when it comes to parenting and the joy of parenting lies in overcoming each of these ‘obstacles’. I have heard from many parents including mine that the time when your child is an infant is the easiest period for parents. All that needs to be done is – Change, feed, burp, put them to sleep and then repeat all four again. On the contrary, much to my surprise and dismay, when I look back, our toughest was the first three months we had our first baby.
Being a first time parent is a roller-coaster ride of sorts. It is all about expecting the unexpected and adapting yourself to it. The journey we had when we knew we were expecting to the point LO was born was very easy and fun. With a wealth of information available in books, internet and friends, we knew what to expect at each stage and everything seemed very rosy and bright. And then one fine morning, our bundle of joy arrived.
Living abroad, away from loved ones and being a first time mom, it seemed like my world turned upside down in the first month. With LO taking every second of my time and hardly even giving me time to catch my breath, I felt exhausted, frustrated and depressed. LO would hardly nap during the day, wake up in the middle of the night and wail for hours together despite our umpteen attempts to calm her down and every night we were awake seemed like a nightmare.
People came up with a variety of reasons, some old wives tales, some partially valid, for this – they said it is the evil eye, the baby is hot/cold, all babies cry, her dad was like that and she inherited it, she needs more bath time/water at hotter temperature/longer bath time/traditional bath, mom’s diet needs to change/baby needs sugar water/gripe water/water to drink and what not. Though new, my mom-instincts did set after all and I felt that my baby is uncomfortable and seemed to be in pain, due to some reason. I took a doctor appointment and meanwhile started to read and research on how to calm a crying baby. But it wasn’t long before I realized it is all about learning by doing, there is no scope for practice and books can only give you an idea, after all.
From all of what I learnt during those initial days, some through books and some through my own experiences, here are a few pointers:
- The four golden checklist – Does the baby need a diaper change? Is the baby hungry? Does the baby need a burp? Is the baby sleepy? Try to identify which one it is.
- The temperature – Needless to say, it is important to maintain the right temperature – neither too hot nor too cold. We love to dress our babies in super cute knit caps and make her look like a model-baby all set to pose for a professional photo shoot, all the time. But the best bet is to put the baby in what they are comfortable in, like a onesie – light, loose and airy clothing depending on the temperature. The general rule is to dress them one layer extra than what we usually wear.
- Now, if it is neither of the above two – I have a term, I have heard only after having a baby – Colic. The Wiki describes infant colic as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. As fancy as the definition sounds, the reason for colic is disappointingly unknown. Though my baby’s crying spells did not follow any pattern like the above, it pretty much matched because the crying was for no valid reason and also, my baby is otherwise, very normal and healthy.
- So, on more research on Colic through books and internet, I have found some very valuable insights, the best one been described in ‘The Happiest baby on the block‘ by Dr. Harvey Karp. To put in simple words, the reason why babies seem all lost during the first three months of their age is attributed to the lack of ‘fourth trimester’ in humans. Interestingly, all animals or atleast most animals that give birth to their young ones have the newborns almost ready to stand following birth and very quickly do things on their own unlike human babies who take close to one year after birth to take their first steps. So the best way to calm the overwhelmed human babies who are not yet ready to be in the world, is to provide them with an environment, as close to that in the womb and hence create what we call a ‘fourth trimester’ environment.
- Another effective formula to soothe babies in the first few months described in the same book is – The 5 S – swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking. The five S done correctly in combination can actually calm a crying baby. Swaddle the baby in a blanket to help her out of the Moro reflex. (The reflex of jolt when falling from a height, seen in infants). Putting the babies to sleep sideways instead on back does help. My baby actually did very well with the side position. Shushing or loud rhythmic sounds like vacuum cleaner, white noise or just saying Shhh would help a great deal. Swinging/ Bouncing/ Vibration such as the one felt in a car seat when the car is in motion would also help. The last S is sucking a pacifier/ their own thumb. Essentially, all 5 S mimic the familiar womb atmosphere for the baby.
- Another reason agreed by a few and disagreed by a few others for the unreasonable crying is GERD- Gastroesophageal reflux disease. All babies have under-developed digestive systems, for some a little more and for some a little less. The systems mature with age and as babies continue to use their abdomen muscles and roll over, crawl, sit and stand. The opening and closing of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which is basically like a valve that keeps your stomach contents down from being backed to the esophagus is not completely developed for young babies and does cause a little acid reflux along with trapped gas in stomach. The trapped gas and reflux does cause discomfort to the baby. For my baby’s case, this reason seemed spot on. Though nothing serious, the doctor did mention this for us and put her on acid reflux medicine and that finally seemed to stop all the crying.
- So, finally if it is gas and reflux. Light abdomen massage in clock-wise motion to push the gas trapped in the intestines would comfort the baby. Feeding small amounts multiple times, burping once/twice during/after the feed, putting them at an inclination like in a bouncer for naps would help a great deal. If the doctor suggests a medication based on other symptoms/severity, it would be also of good help.
And a final word- Hang on there! Like everybody says, this too shall pass and very soon you would have other fun stuff to worry about with your kid. With a good amount of cuddles and love, very soon your baby would develop abdominal muscle strength as they discover to roll over, sit, crawl and stand and slowly all the symptoms and crying would disappear like magic. Usually, most babies outgrow colic by 3 months of age.
So, next time you hear a new born cry, I hope you have some check list to identify and narrow down your options. Happy parenting! 🙂
P.S: By no means, this article can be used as a medical advice. It is just another tale of a new- mom sharing her experience. Please consult your pediatrician for specific advice.
Tejaswini is a mom to a lovely one and half year old girl, from Hyderabad, presently living in the US. She is an engineer in IT, by profession. A newbie blogger, photography and painting enthusiast, internet junkie, she enjoys reading and discovering nature when she is not running after her now naughty toddler. She is a dreamer and dreams of being a super-woman excelling at both work and home fronts, doing equal justice to both, someday. She has a personal blog at http://acacaphonyofmiscellany.blogspot.com/