A Mom’s Colic Primer

10:26 am |

My daughter screamed, on average, 20 hours a day, for four months.

Forty-five minute increments were her regular stretches of sleep. My husband and I would high-five if we got an hour and a half stretch.

She had colic.

All of my friends had happy, cooing, smiling babies.

I had El Screamo.

There was no one to commiserate with, or to vent to, who could really understand. I felt so alone. What I needed was a colic primer. But there isn’t one. So here it is. My own version of one anyway. For any one who is going through the torture of colic, I offer what ever wisdom I can possibly impart. I understand. I’ve been there.

Try to go easy on misguided people who are just trying to help.

I *may* have snapped at a man at Ikea who offered up the idea that my daughter must be hungry. Perhaps, “I just ripped my boob from her face about 3 minutes ago, so I’m sure that’s not it, but thanks”, was not the most reasonable thing to say in response. In fairness, he was the sixth person to say that to me that day.

Try to ignore people who tell you horror stories they’ve heard of other colicky kids.

You know someone whose son had colic for two years? Super. How is that supposed to be helpful? And really, if it lasted for two years, it wasn’t colic.

Ignore people who tell you it peaks at six weeks, or two months, or three.

Nothing is worse than staring at that date on a calendar, only to have it come and go, while your kid remains colicky. It will get better. But no one can tell you when. Just get through today.

Release yourself of the guilt.

It wasn’t that coffee you had or that fight you and your husband had when you were pregnant, or your labour and delivery experience, that caused the colic. Your baby doesn’t hate you. You’re not doing anything wrong. They’re just having a much harder time adjusting to life outside the womb than the average kid.

Remember you and your spouse are on the same team.

He works all day and comes home to a stressed and exhausted wife and a screaming baby. Meanwhile, she’s just spent her whole day with said screaming baby. It really is equally hard on both of you.

It’s so easy to be resentful. You can’t take out your frustrations on your baby, so the natural thing is to take them out on each other. But you need to lean on each other.

Try everything.

Gripe water, Ovol, probiotics, different formulas if you’re formula feeding, or cutting out dairy if you’re breast feeding, soothers (you name a brand, we tried it), swings, swaddle, no swaddle, crib, carrier, car, co-sleep, white noise, tarot cards, try it all.

None of it may work, but at least you’ll know you tried. I’m a huge believer in eliminating all variables.

Have other people hold your baby.

I can’t count the number of times I passed off my little screamer to willing friends and family.

If you’re alone, there is nothing wrong with putting the baby in a safe place and walking away for a few minutes to regain your sanity. The baby is going to cry anyway and your ringing ears could use the break.

Do stuff for yourself.

Go for walks on your own when you have someone to watch the baby. Go to a local coffee shop or get a manicure. Do something, anything, to remind yourself that you are an entity separate from this screaming being who is ruling your life. You need to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else.

Don’t worry about creating bad habits.

You can’t spoil a newborn and anything learned can be unlearned. No one has been known to still be sleeping in a swing in kindergarten, or accept their diploma from the comfort of the Baby Bjorn.

Worry about those things later. For now, it’s all about survival.

My mother told me in those days, even though I didn’t realize it, everything I was doing and experiencing, was helping to create the person my daughter would become. I was tending to her needs, even though it felt like I was resenting her and just going through the motions.

But now, I have a secure, sweet, kind and hilariously funny two and a half year old.

I can say with all confidence that I wouldn’t give back one day of colic to change who she is now.

Leslie lives in Toronto with her husband, her 2 and a half year old daughter and 5 month old son. She is presently on maternity leave and enjoying the hectic and harried life with two young children.

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Category: Colic, Sleep

Comments (35)

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  1. Stephanie says:

    Well said! It DOES get better, though it seems at the time that it never will. You truly need to go one day at a time.

  2. Amanda E. says:

    This is absolutely spot on – could not have said it better!

  3. Melissa says:

    This part really spoke to me:
    “My mother told me in those days, even though I didn’t realize it, everything I was doing and experiencing, was helping to create the person my daughter would become. I was tending to her needs, even though it felt like I was resenting her and just going through the motions.”
    Lots of times I feel guilty for the resentment, for the loss of patience, for wishing for quiet (that’s putting it nicely).
    Thanks for this.

  4. Lyndsay says:

    Totally right…this is GREAT advice. I completely agree with “try everything” because then at least you know. And it does indeed get better, you just have to get there. I especially like “no one is still sleeping in a swing in kindergarten”…I remind myself that all the time. Eventually he’ll be in a bed like a regular person but for now (5 mos) we swing away.

  5. Gillian says:

    Thank you, Leslie. I cried when I got to the last part. I have twin girls who both have colic and I feel SO guilty all the time for just trying to get through the day by any means possible and not enjoying this time more. It’s such a huge relief to know others have gone through & are going through this too!

    • admin says:

      Gillian – I loved that part of Leslie’s post too. Such a good reminder to let go of the guilt and be gentle/gracious with ourselves!

    • Mara says:

      Twins with colic?? I can’t even imagine. From one mother of a colicky baby to another: just survive. You WILL get through. And don’t feel guilty– colic is hard, twins are hard. Twins with colic? You deserve a gold star!

  6. Cindy says:

    My pediatrician diagnosed my newborn as having colic. Nothing I did could get him to stop crying. I would rock him, put him in a swing, put his carrier on top of a dryer, and nothing seemed to work. I also have a two year old so driving him around in the car was not very convenient, especially if it interfered with the toddler’s nap schedule.

    Then a friend of mine recommended the Baby Roll Asleep. At first I was skeptical because it looked very much like a low stroller to me, and putting him the stroller didn’t work. But I was desperate so I ordered one. Much to my surprise, a few minutes after putting him in the Baby Roll Asleep, he quieted down and fell asleep very quickly. It seems that by having the baby low to the ground, the vibration from the wheels creates a soothing effect.

    I highly recommend this product for all moms (and dads) who have fussy colicky babies.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Cindy, I will have to check it out!

  7. Sm says:

    I cant tell you how much this site has helped me. My daughter is high needs and I get so much bad advice and disapproving looks from family and friends. I knew Iwasn’t coddling her or causing her to be too dependent on me (as I was told) but blamed myself until I found this site. She is 6 months and seems to only be getting worse (waking every 30 min, and only 30 min naps) but we are still trying to find ways to calm her. We are changing her formula (for the 10k time) to organic + probiotic, going to a chiro, allergy testing and pediatric gastro. I work from home but barely am able to get work done so my frustration is multiplied. I’m in therapy and trying to get out of the house. Its difficult but found a bible study for moms with free daycarw. I keep putting it off because I know she will freak when I leave her (she loves looking at people and taking it all in but the momentsomeone looks at her – forget it). We’ll see. I hope this goes away. I want to enjoy her. I love her so much but dont like her sometimes. Its nice to see that I’m not alone…

    • Joy R. says:

      “I love her so much but don’t like her sometimes.”
      Ah thank you. Same here. I love my baby boy but sometimes I can’t stand to be around him! It’s such an awful feeling because everyone tells you to enjoy these times, they will never be little again. But I know I will look back and only be glad we are past the baby stage.
      My first son was a high needs baby too and was awful for sleeping. Always crying. I was always exhausted. Looks like I got the same thing with #2 baby too. I’m never having any more kids.

  8. Stephanie says:

    I really enjoyed reading this because it sounds like my life at the moment! Sadly I am alone and its hard to pass the baby to anyone. I’ve tried just about every colic soothing method there is out there and I am especially guilty of checking the calendar for her to get to a certain age! She is now 3 months and still as colicky as ever! So, I have to learn to just be patient and deal with it one day at a time. Thanks for the read!

  9. Naomi says:

    Thank you. I needed to hear this. Thank you. One day at a time and it will get better!

  10. Andrea says:

    We suffered thru colic only to learn at 3.5 months that colic is now believed to be a result of either an intolerance to something in mother’s milk or reflux (invisible or otherwise-our baby had invisible reflux). She’s now on baby Zantac and literally from Day 1 it made all the difference and colic was gone. Please enquire about Zantac If you’re suffering thru colic. No one should have to endure this if there’s a way out!

    • Holly says:

      Thanks for your comment Andrea! I agree, sometimes colic can be caused by reflux…our little guy was on Zantac and while it seemed to help a bit, it definitely didn’t cure him. It doesn’t hurt for parents to try it though if they can’t figure out what’s causing the fussiness!

  11. Jessica says:

    TRUE!!!!! It’s ALL so true!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. Dana says:

    My son is now going on 6 months old, and he was very colicky until the past couple of weeks. He still has his moments, but no longer has hours of inconsolable crying (screaming). I was lucky in that he generally would not cry while we were out in public; he mainly slept. I too waited for the infamous 3 month mark, however it came and went without any change. We tried reflux medicine – doctor doesn’t think he has reflux, but we tried it anyway (no change). He is on soy formula as he does seem to have a milk protein intolerance. I tried a “sensitive” milk-based formula a couple of weeks ago to see if that would work (it didn’t, he threw it all up). It is amazing all of the things you will try. I tried Gripe Water, Mylicon drops, etc. (they did not help at all). Ultimately, it has taken time. It is a very lonely experience, and I sympathize with all of you going through it. It will get better. Do your best to take it one day at a time.

  13. JENN says:

    “tarot cards” That cracked me up!
    Though this makes me laugh now, I seriously would have tried it back then! One night, ONE, we thought Grip Water was the answer. Not long after giving her a bottle with GW in it she fell asleep PEACEFULLY. We would have done backflips if we weren’t filled with such intense fear that it would wake her. Now I know it was just a coincidence (or her playing mind games with us) because that was the only time Gripe Water worked. UGH! I don’t believe there’s a true “fix” for colic other than time.

  14. F says:

    My 4.5 month old was the same. She was colic right until 2 months old. I tried everything too what helped for a few minutes or so was lights and she calmed down in the kitchen. I gave up dairy as I’m breastfeeding and caffeine and that seemed to help. I also timed her bath for when she started her fussiness. The hours she was colic began reducing overtime.

    It was the worst time and I do feel guilty I did not enjoy my baby as much as I would have loved too and no it’s not because you are stressed your baby has colic, it’s because of babies’ colic you are stressed.

    Try to stick to a routine for anyone going through it.

  15. Quinn says:

    Well as I am holding my 6 week old little girl and she screams away (for oh about 2 hours now) I have to tell you, I find this site wonderfully helpful. I too am trying everything I can to help her (got some good tips on things to try too!) and even though nothing has worked so far, I am just as advised, just taking it one day at a time. Even though the screaming and crying (both hers and mine LOL) are awful, the worst part is knowing how much pain she is in and I can’t seem to fix it! 🙁

    P.S. I love the advice to remember to lean on your spouse. It is all too easy to take out frustrations on each other, which we keep doing, but as long as we both remember why, apologize and remind ourselves as well as each other that we are in this together, it makes it so much better. 🙂

  16. Malesa says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. I love your last section on “Don’t Worry about Creating Bad Habits!” Not accepting a college degree from a baby carrier. Obviously, I’m still tired and not making much sense, but it is nice to hear from other parents who actually GET IT!

  17. tera says:

    Thank you for this post my little girl is 14 months now and I thought the colic and acid reflux would never end. Hers started at 6 weeks the only place she would sleep is on our chest or swing for 30 min max. The screaming was awful and the guilt was worse. We had wanted a baby for 10 yrs then we have one and we couldn’t enjoy her. Everyone would comment how cute she is and look at her sleeping in her car seat I would think this is the first time today and its been 2 min great. The car was even worse I thought at one point she would break glass, I quit going anywhere. We finally used gas drops, gripe water and acid reflux meds. I ended up becoming a vegetarian then went completely vegan along with my husband just to make meals faster. I lost all the baby weight which was good and she calmed down considerably. We are both dairy free still. I did find and used The Secrets of The Baby Whisper this was such a sweet book and gave us the tools to teach her how to self sooth and get to sleep, at this point she was still a feeder every hour day and night (2 months – 9 months). Nobody gets a manual with our children and its all trial and error. my daughter now sleeps 8-9 hours a night and two short naps. I take what I can get, she is an amazing little girl and I think these trial helped me to become a better mom and person. God gave me the strength to get through this and to ask for help

  18. Tineke says:


    I wished I’d read this when I was in the mire of colick for the first six months of my son’s life. He’s three now and I love him more than I could have ever imagined but I was sure he was a trained assassin for a long time. He cried in my face for 18 hours a day and I was lucky if Ryan slept more than 20 minutes at a time. I would cry and wipe my tears with his sleepered feet. Convenient. diagnose colick and send you out the door, seeming not to realize you are in a living hell. Like you said, I was angry, defeated and frustrated with people’s “help”. Everyone thinks colick is just crying but living it is a different story. When I meet someone who says they had 2 kids, the first one was colicky and the kids are less than 2 years apart, I’m suspicious. I was ready to book a hysterectomy!
    We had our second child, a girl, four months ago and I had quite a job convincing my husband we could do it all again. Because Ryan is so worth it. Sydney is not colicky. She cries, but she also smiles, sleeps and is content. I must admit that when she cries just a bit too long or intensely I am transported back to that dark and hopeless place where we lived for 6 months very quickly. I am convinced I have done degree of post traumatic stress disorder, no kidding.
    I’ve considered writing a book for parenting the colicky child. It would only be one sentence long. It would say, “Stay alive by whatever mean necessary and know this will end.”
    Thank you for your article and all the comments. It is good to feel there are those who truly understand.

  19. Reb says:

    ” I would cry and wipe my tears with his sleepered feet. ”

    This made me laugh and cry! After an ER visit, where I was told my 5 week old baby who screamed 6 hours at a time had colic, I was a crying miserable mess. Turns out she had reflux. Prilosec changed our lives. It was so gratifying to have her barf all over the pediatrician and his office, as if to prove I wasn’t an anxious first time mom, my kid really did barf constantly and was in pain. Now I have a content 4 month old baby, who only screams when I try to put her down while sleeping, but that’s a whole different problem! I was in tears reading this post and responses. I felt so crazy and helpless spending days on end listening to the screaming. It’s very isolating and hard. I wish I could hug each mom going through it, someday it does get better. They outgrow GERD, colic, whatever is causing it. Protect your sanity in the interim.

  20. Brit says:

    Thank you for this post. My baby came into this world screaming and hasn’t stopped since. We are currently experiencing the simultaneous joy of colic + teething. I often feel resentful toward my baby, and feel like I am just going through the motions. I then add to my misery the burden of crushing guilt for feeling that way.

    I really appreciate the candid way that you described the emotions involved with caring for a baby with colic. People don’t have colicky babies can’t understand how someone could feel like that about their baby, and it is nice to feel vindicated rather than like a monster for once. I will just add that I love my baby more than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being, I just don’t like him very much sometimes.

  21. Astrid says:

    Leslie, thank you for this! You speak from my heart! Had to go through same and people judge you condtantly (which is the worst part..if everyone would just mind their own business)!!! Loved your article! Every word is true!!!

  22. Emily says:

    Ha! I laughed out loud because I had the same exact experience at Ikea! I was in the elevator with my colicky baby in meltdown mode, and I had some guy say, “I think she’s hungry. Didn’t you bring any milk for her?” No, I’m intentionally withholding the boob because the only thing better than trying to navigate Ikea on a busy Sunday is doing it with a screaming, hungry baby. Please! The only reason I even attempted Ikea was their awesome nursing room.

  23. Angie says:

    Agree totally with trying everything. My son was gassie and coliced for 3.5 months and then we finally found the culprit. After exhausting myself with doctors and GI specialists for answers, changing my diet, and a last ditch effort to continue breastfeeding him, I made an appointment to see a lactation consultant. She found the problem right away. He was lip and tongue tied. 1 week later he had a 30second surgery and has been a completely different baby. The ties were causing him to suck in air. Sharing my experience in hopes it helps others.

  24. Christina says:

    I get so upset when people say “you just fed her. She can’t be hungry.” bc sometimes nursing her is these only way to calm her down. Or when they say “I follow the Baby Wise schedule. You should try putting her on a feeding schedule. That’s probably what it is.” right. Colicky/reflux babies can not be on a strict feeding schedule. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t work for me. I feel liker saying to them “don’t you think I would love to be on a schedule? I really don’t have a choice. “

  25. Parthenia says:

    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your website by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book-marked it for later!