living the scream

August 14, 2011

I wrote this (lengthy) post to be a helpy helperton to those of you who have (or know someone who has) a colic-y baby in your life. And maybe I wrote it for me, like an article to myself…one that reminds me that I’ve tried, that I am trying, really hard. This is not the only way I’m a good mom and I forget that all too often.

(What’s that? You forget too? Well then, stop that. You’re good. You really are. Believe it.)



I don’t even know if “colic” is the word, you know?

Babies are magical puzzles for the figuring out and sometimes what’s happening just IS. I guess colic is just a word we use when there are one thousand question marks and a whole lot of crying. Just as I say “constipated” when Elsie isn’t able to get the poops out because there’s so much air holding it back. She’s isn’t actually constipated, but my brain is unable to think up a word for not-pooping-due-to-air, you know?

Anyway. I’ve said that I’d write a post about all that we’ve tried with both Asher and Elsie, to ease the colic symptoms and here I am! Finally! Of course, I don’t claim to have any answers because no one has ever been able to do that. But I do know what’s worked for us and I hope that some of the suggestions will help other people out there, struggling with fussy-crying-in-pain-sleepless babies.

When I talk with people about how Elsie is doing, they always ask if I’ve cut out dairy since I’m nursing. The answer is yes. I did that with all three of the kiddos and it does help their tummies, I’m positive of that. (I know because any time I’ve eaten something with milk or cheese or something like yummy ice cream, they became MISERABLE.)

Next, people ask if we’re giving Elsie gas drops. The answer is…they don’t help. Much. Maybe a little, sometimes? But not enough that I would want to give them to her regularly since I like to avoid medicine when I can. BUT, I do recommend Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water because it’s all natural, fights the gas and eases overall tummy symptoms.

Some other natural remedies that I believe do help Elsie came from a very knowledgeable man at our local natural foods store. I never dreamed that catnip would be something I would want to share with my child, but alas, I do. Catnip and fennel, together, seem to help as well. Catnip is apparently pretty much just mint and along with fennel, it aids in calming the nervous system and the stomach. I’ve always had my suspicions about colic having a lot to do with the nervous system, so I assume this is why this combination works. Catnip and fennel come in a liquid form. The brand I have is called Nature’s Sunshine and I add about  teaspoon to water and drink up. It tastes like liquid black licorice (EW) but as I said, it seems to help. (I don’t give it directly to Elsie. I imagine since these are natural herbs, I could? But I don’t know how much I would give her and don’t want to guess. Obviously.) (If you are not nursing, I’m sure some research could be done on how to give this to your cute lil babe.) Edited to add: A very experienced and wise mother of many left a comment stating that she remembers hearing it’s not a good idea (as in harmful) to give mint to babies directly…so I’d say let’s just drink the nasty catnip and fennel ourselves (if nursing) and let the benefits come to the baby via us. Word.

When catnip and fennel were recommended to me, so were probiotics and chamomile tea. I do drink the tea and take the probiotics, both twice a day. I’ve noticed that when I forget, Elsie’s symptoms get worse. I had been taking probiotics to try to help but had no idea about the tea. I guess it makes sense, another calming agent, if you will.

We are also taking Elsie to the chiropractor, and especially initially this really helped. Each time we go, Elsie clears out her system really well (ahem) and tooooots A LOT. At her initial visit, her back was waaay out of alignment. (I suppose babies get out of whack all bunched up in the womb, ya know?) She was a different baby for a couple of days, happy and calm and sleeping. Then what seems to happen is that pent up thing again so returning to the chiro always helps, along with all the other things above.

The chiropractor also showed me how to do some exercises on Elsie’s belly that go beyond the ol’ bicycle legs. These are difficult to describe, so if you see a chiropractor be sure to ask them to show you.  These exercises help SO much, especially right after soaking in a bath and using lotion to move my hands more smoothly. One thing I can say about these massaging exercises: the circular motion is clockwise on both sides of the stomach. Sense? Hope so.

Just recently, while at BlogHer, my friend Lee showed me another trick that Elsie LOVES. She even took a photo…and now I can’t find where I saved it to the computer…dang.

I will call this The Floating Routine. Heh. Let me try to explain. You hold the baby up in the air, face down , with one had through his/her legs on the belly. Your other hand supports the neck and shoulders. This is a version of the football hold, but you are extending your arms and moving the baby slowly through the air. This sounds crazy, I realize, but babies LOVE it. It’s a womb-like motion AND you can gently massage the belly with your hand as the baby “floats.”  Almost every time we do this, Elsie stops crying and releases whatever is paining her–BIG TIME RELEASE. (This is where I give Lee a HUGE thank you because this helps us so much.)

Nextly, I have to say that eliminating foods from my diet is most likely our own thing. I don’t think all babies (colic-y or not) are sensitive to dairy, wheat and soy. BUT, Elsie seems to be. I’m still wrestling with figuring that out. It seems that if I eat a lot of anything that has soy or wheat or dairy, she reacts. So I limit the wheat and soy and totally eliminate the dairy. I am currently experimenting with having foods with traces of soy and wheat and she seems to be doing okay with that. Again, this is simply our story, so I have no idea if eliminating these things will help other babies. I’ve just done my research and know that these three–wheat, soy and especially dairy–are often culprits, making babies very gassy and fussy. I don’t recommend completely cutting out all three at once though. I did that at first and it makes it completely impossible to know which one it is. So I humbly suggest that you start with dairy and move through the other two if cutting out dairy does not help.


Elsie also has reflux. Just recently we found out that she has a pretty severe case of it. The poor thing is both way too gassy and is also struggling with pain from acid. She does not spit up all that much and my understanding is that care-givers often assume their babies don’t have reflux if this is the case. Not true. A baby can be in a lot of pain from reflux and NOT spit up often.

We had Elsie on Zantac for the longest time and just recently “upgraded” to the generic of Prilosec. Now, I hate to say this because I do not like giving my baby medication, but OMG-cross-your-fingers-and-toes, I think it’s working. This medicine works differently than Zantac and seems to be the ticket for Elsie’s reflux.  But you know…to be continued. (To learn more about reflux medications and reflux in general, go to Pollywog.) 

Signs of reflux for Elsie included: constant tongue thrusting, grunting, clearing of her throat, crazy-loud and big belches that sound like a big COUGH, many wet burps with no spit-up, needing to be held upright most of the time and making faces as if she’d eaten a lemon–like something terribly gross and sour was in her mouth. She also becomes very agitated right after eating, arching her back and going rigid with her arms and legs and then of course, crying.

Elsie also has trouble with sleeping due to the reflux. What happens is that she’ll zonk out, exhausted and then wake up within a half an hour or less, eyes WIDE OPEN as if she’s startled by what’s happening in her throat. Then it’s as if her eyes can’t close. So even if she’s not crying, she can’t sleep. Then she’ll doze off again, only to repeat this. She’ll do this for HOURS and this has only improved with the new medication.

(Of course, sometimes her gas also keeps her awake, but thankfully, we can often work this out with lots of exercises, burping, and The Floating Routine.)

Lastly, I mentioned the nervous system earlier. Many evenings, even when Elsie doesn’t seem gassy, etc, she will still cry and cry. My heart-gut tells me that sometimes she’s simply over-stimulated and over-tired. It doesn’t take much at all for that to happen to a baby, so I do my best, throughout the day, to be sure she’s able to sleep as much as she needs. Which is a lot. Since she’s only two months old. Elsie seems to cry more intensely in the evenings if she’s been somewhere loud or over-stimulating in any way. Asher was this same way. Apparently, I make sensitive children who don’t just zonk out to block things out. They stay awake with eyes wide and then totally crash.


OHmygoodness. SO much information. And of course, I’m not claiming to have any universal answers or that I’m any kind of expert or physician (OBVIOUSLY). This is simply our experience and is not meant to be any kind of medical advice. (But you knew that.)

I’m sure there is something I’ve forgotten (OH YEAH, like Colic Calm, another homeopathic remedy that works really well for getting the gas and poop moving through by stimulating the digestive system.) (It can be found online.) OH! And of course I forgot babywearing, another magical trick. I’ll actually be sharing a post about that on Mama Manifesto this week, so…stay tuned? I’ll link to it from here.

Friends, I truly hope this helps you in some small way and that it wasn’t just more information to overwhelm you. If you have colic in your life right now, you are overwhelmed enough. I know, and I’m sorry. I’m right here with you and both of us have to remember that what works best is time. I hate that, but it’s just true. So we have to support each other and find support around us and take care of ourselves as much as we can, even if that can only mean hiding in the bathroom for five minutes.


So, if you’ve been doing this: maybe it’s gas, maybe it’s an allergy, maybe it’s reflux, maybe she’s just really tired, maybe something else hurts, maybe he’s just a grumpy person, maybe I have no idea what I’m doing, maybe something is terribly wrong….etc, infinity, I’ve been there and I am there and this post is for you. What we both need to remember is that sometimes it can be really hard for babies to adjust to living in the world. It’s hard work for them, so let’s always also remember to swaddle and soothe them with soft words and shushes and songs as much as humanly possible. Sometimes that’s all we can do. (I’m a huge fan of the 5 S’s — Dr. Harvey Karp is our friend.)

Elsie especially likes bouncing while swaying from side to side…all.the.time. I actually just got a message from Casey with a link to the perfect thing to give us a break while still bouncing. I’m totally ordering one.

Lastly (for real this time), soothing is great, but sometimes, like with Elsie, it really is something else. Finding out what that “something else” is has taken a lot of time and tears, but here we are, getting better. I hope.

Time. It can be a cruel beast, but it brings healing and answers with it.


Questions? Input? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to take part in the conversation, or feel free to email me at heatheroftheeo at gmail dot com. I don’t respond quickly these days, but I will respond. In time.


Disclaimer: I have not received compensation for mentioning any of the products above. I’m telling you out of the goodness of my colic-hating heart. I did receive Mommy’s Bliss Gripe water free of charge though, and for that, I’m grateful.





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