Sometimes babies cry. Some babies cry more than others. As parents, our job is to decipher their cries and respond. Help them. Feel like good parents. When babies cry incessantly (for more than three hours at a time) and the baby is truly inconsolable, they can be labeled as having colic. This makes feeling like a good parent almost impossible. As a mother who has gone through colic twice, and now as a doula who has helped dozens of NYC families going through colic, I have realized that it is not just the baby who should be labeled colicky—the family needs the same diagnosis because everyone is deeply affected. It is soul crushing when your baby is crying hysterically in your arms for no known medical reason. You’ve fed her, held her, rocked her, changed her diaper and she still cries out in what seems like unbearable pain. More than anything, parents with colicky babies need support. Lots of support. Unfortunately, parents often feel ashamed of the crying; they blame themselves. So they tend to stay isolated and they choose to suffer through the crying. And, oh, how they suffer. Postpartum doulas are a crucial part in helping a family make it through those challenging months. As doulas, we need to tell clients that we are happy to help with a colicky baby—that we’re not afraid of the crying. How, specifically, can we help? What can we do when we walk into a home where a baby has been crying for hours at a time?
- Hold the baby.
- Take the baby for a walk outside.
- Listen to the parents. Let them tell you about their long night. Their long day.
- Let the parents sleep.
- Assure them that it will end. Show them on a calendar when the crying will start to subside. A colicky baby at six-weeks-old is usually at the peak of crying and most of the fussiness should subside by their three month birthday.
- Tell them that their baby is cute. It’s easy to forget.
- Most parents have tried all the “tricks”: the gripe water, homeopathic tablets, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, white noise. If not, fill them in. The “tricks” won’t necessarily fix the colic but parents feel better when they are being proactive.
- Have lots of resources to refer them to: local therapists (many parents of colicky babies—not surprisingly–suffer from postpartum depression), colic support groups, other doulas who specialize in colic, online support groups, and books about the subject.
Most new parents benefit from a postpartum doula’s services, but a family suffering from the relentlessness of colic will feel indebted to you for the respite from the crying.
Sarah will be attending A Multidisciplinary Approach to Infant Colic and Associated Regulatory Problems workshop at Brown University at the end of the month. She is still processing her children’s colic and has been writing a book about her own and other NYC parents’ experiences.