The Fussy Baby Site

Cheril’s Story: Extreme Colic and Sleeplessness

Our firstborn, Adrian, was born after a long, hard labor. Latching was a difficult process that took over a month to develop; I used a shield to help him to latch for feeding time for a month.

We tried for nearly a week to put Adrian down in his cradle for naps and at night, but he would wake after 15 minutes, tops, to demand to be held. This went on until we discovered he slept best on top of my chest…any other position, any at all, and he wouldn’t stay asleep. He would sleep for an hour and a half or two hours at a time only, until he was 18 months old.

Adrian continued to sleep on my chest until he was 4 or 5 months old, when I was able to transition to sleeping next to me. For a while as a newborn, he would take 3 or 4 hour naps (only during daylight hours, mind you) in his swing at full tilt. This lasted a month or so until one day when we were away from the house and his swing. I remember clearly the day because it marked the last of his daytime naps for many months.

After that the only way to get him to sleep during the day for more than a few minutes was to have him sleep on top of me. Since I had no other children, I was able to set up an air mattress in the living room and had him take his naps on my chest; for two hours at a time. I would play video games while he napped, to kill time. The rest of the house went to hell, but at the very least it was some sanity for me.

Adrian suffered from severe colic. It was like clockwork. Starting at 7 or 8 pm and lasting until 1 am or so he would scream violently. Whether I was sitting or standing, holding him or not, swinging, swaddling, or rocking, he would scream so hard that he would get sweaty, even in the middle of winter. To preserve my sanity, I joined a movie rental service and watched movies every night. I used subtitles, since I couldn’t hear anyway, and would just rock him and watch while he screamed. Otherwise I think it would have been much more distressing and stressful.

We received many suggestions of things to try: calcium lactate, colic tablets, gripe water, catnip tea, goat milk, hiatal hernia adjustments, the five S’s, dietary restrictions, you name it. Nothing worked. We were very discouraged and extremely tired…we bought a LOT of earplugs for my husband, who had to rise very early for a very demanding job.

Adrian always kept us on our toes; what would work to get him to sleep for a month or two suddenly wouldn’t work any more. For some time the only way to get him to sleep was to hold him a very specific way and bounce on the edge of the bed for an hour or more. He would rarely fall asleep in the car.

He was never a happy baby, either; even during the day you had to run full tilt to keep him from wailing. The pediatrician was no help. We thought it would never end! We tried letting him cry it out a couple of times for a week at a time out of desperation– once at 8 months and once later than that. Our friends’ babies had such great success with it. We would give up after the week, exhausted. My husband was sleeping on an air mattress in his truck with earplugs at one point and STILL could hear him cry.
We read sooo many parenting books that promised that their method would work. They NEVER, not ONCE, said what to do if it didn’t work. It was very discouraging.

We don’t look back on my son’s babyhood with nostalgia. It was a horrible feeling to acknowledge that I didn’t like our son. Sure, I loved him, but I didn’t like him. He didn’t even hug me until he was nearly two–when I had been away for 5 days. He’s not autistic, and has no attention disorders. We were simply left without answers.

Our son is 5 now. We didn’t start seeing improvement until he was 4. It was a VERY long road. But now, he sleeps like a rock (!). He’s an extremely active and wiggly boy and is very bright, and has the will of an ox. I am glad to report that I like him.

I have since heard more suggestions, that I wish I could have tried: chiropractic adjustments, feeding for five minutes on one side, and then switching to the other for the remainder of the feeding, etc.

I’m afraid I don’t have an easy button, a simple solution for your fussy baby. I know that hearing that induces a state of dread and desperation, but I can definitely say I’ve been there and know where you are now. This too shall pass.

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