Parent care with colicky baby
Caring for a colicky baby can be exhausting and stressful, and can make even the most experienced parent feel like they are at the end of their tether. Relationships within the family can suffer because of the anxiety caused by having a constantly crying, inconsolable infant. Parents of colicky babies need to pay particular attention to making sure their own needs are met, too. Here are some ways to stay sane:
- Accept any and all offers of help from family, friends, colleagues, and health professionals. It can be very hard for new mothers to ask for help, especially when society promotes an idealized version of motherhood where the baby never cries, the house is perfect, and there's a home-cooked meal on the table every night. If people ask what they can do or what you need, swallow your pride and tell them.
- Tell people what's going on. Express your feelings, whether you're frustrated or upset or just plain annoyed. It's perfectly normal to feel helpless, angry, or depressed. Confide in your midwife, GP, partner, supportive family members, and friends. Recognise and name your feelings so that you are aware of what's going on in your own mind.
- Step away from the baby. It can feel counter-intuitive to walk away from a baby who so obviously needs to be soothed and comforted, but when you've done all that you can and taken all that you can take, ask your partner, another trusted family member, or a friend who wants to help you to take over for a while so you can have a break. If friends and neighbours offer to babysit, take them up on it. Even an hour on your own can help you to feel like your strength is renewed and your attitude is refreshed. "I would get quite frustrated when Caprece had colic, and I was so tired. So I would hand her over to my partner, who was really good and would just rock her and let me get some time-out," says Rachael.
- Exercise. This may be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise releases endorphins that can improve your mood. Take a brisk walk, do mum-and-baby yoga in front of the TV, or even just make sure you get out to the letterbox every day. If you can manage it, invest in some earplugs and take your baby for a walk in their pram while the colic episode is happening. Smile widely at curious passers-by, or even hang a sign on the pram saying "Colicky baby inside - approach at your own risk!" to keep nosy strangers at bay.
- Try to stay positive. When you know that a colic episode is coming on, mentally prepare for it by remembering that you are going to get through it, and that it will end - and realize that you are doing everything you can for your baby, so the fact they are crying is not by any means an indication that you are a bad parent. "I think it is important to put a positive spin on any problems so that you don't feel too hard done by," advises Kylie. "A good mantra for all babies in those first few weeks is 'This, too, soon will pass!'" And Rachael agrees. "It was a lot easier to cope, knowing this was just something Caprece would grow out of and not because I was doing something wrong."
- Recognise your limits. If your baby's crying is exhausting you, causing you to lose control or become angry, put the baby in their cot and go into another part of the house to collect yourself. Taking a shower can help - the rushing water often drowns out the sound of the crying and can give you some much-needed time to regain control. If you are thinking of harming your baby, put them in their cot and call your midwife, Plunket nurse, or GP for help immediately.
Next: Myths about colic