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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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

suburbancorrespondent August 14, 2011 at 5:07 pm

I remember some years ago that infants were becoming ill from being given peppermint something or other (tea? extract?) directly – I’ll try to find the link. Have you tried digestive enzymes for yourself? In theory, they keep whole proteins from inadvertently making their way into your milk.
suburbancorrespondent recently posted..7 Quick Takes Friday: Birthday Edition

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Heather August 14, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Hi!
Just to be clear, in case I wasn’t in the post…we don’t give Elsie the catnip and fennel directly. I drink it in water. Just saying. :)
And I believe the digestive enzymes are in the probiotics? Not sure. I’ll have to look into that.
Thank you!

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Jen August 14, 2011 at 6:51 pm

This was a very informative post. My kids didn’t have colic but all three triplets did have reflux and Prilosec was a God send. Helped tremendously after about a weeks time, I had happy babies.
Jen recently posted..You Know What’s Fun in the Summer? A Pool

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Heather August 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm

Hi Jen! I’m so glad I got to finally meet you at BlogHer by the way.

Also. If you happen to remember–did the triplets HATE the taste of Prilosec and have a terrible time getting it down? Cause um…yeah, Elsie is GOOD at not swallowing it. Just wondering if you know of any tricks.

xoxo

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Tooje August 14, 2011 at 8:49 pm

The old joke that babies should come with a manual…or the fact that they don’t come with a manual….really is silly. Baby 1′s instructions would never completely work for baby 2, nor would 2′s instructions completely work for baby 3. That said, mothers sharing tips is the only way for us to keep our sanity and try new things that we may not have known about otherwise. You’re always good for that, and mothers of babies are thankful! (soooo glad that mine is over one year, now!!! LOL)

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Kim August 14, 2011 at 9:33 pm

You’re a Colic Rockstar, you know that? Sorry you have to be, but so grateful you can share the knowledge with so many others.
Love you.
Kim recently posted..Le Sigh

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Elizabeth @claritychaos August 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Hi Heather,

I have no personal experience dealing with colic, stating that right up front — but some friends had great success with craniosacral therapy for their babies. Super gentle. Thought if you’re open to chiropractic, you may be open to this too.

Best of luck, mama.

xoxo
Elizabeth @claritychaos recently posted..and i bought a new yellow dress

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Heather August 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Hi you,

I’ve heard that and then completely forgotten it. So thank you for reminding me. Now to find someone who does it in my tiny town. That’ll be my mission :)

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Amelia Sprout August 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Love this. Elsie’s little due date twin H has super bad reflux. Her sister’s was also bad, but she like Elsie didn’t spit up much. She just looked in pain and never relaxed before she was medicated.
H’s is worse in that she spits up, a lot. Constant effing laundry. Medication has helped, and I swear she is a different baby. I’m a huge advocate for medicating for it after having a coworker that had to have the top of his stomach rebuilt from a lifetime of reflux. If I can prevent her from having that, I will.
I tell every parent of a refluxy kid to just get the medication, and fight to get one that works, so they can enjoy their baby more. It makes a huge difference. Babies should be enjoyed and cooed over and called the most mellow baby ever, as H was tonight at a party. I couldn’t have taken her out to a party in the evening before we got her meds dose right.
Amelia Sprout recently posted..Thirty-Four

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Anti-Supermom August 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm

I think it’s just awesome that you shared what’s worked for you and that you are giving some support for people that need it. You go, girl! And hugs to Elsie ;)
Anti-Supermom recently posted..not on the yacht

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jen August 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

so good to hear that something is kinda sorta working. yay! (knocking on wood for you).
all 3 of my kiddos had similarish stuff.
we knocked out most dairy for me while nursing and them until at least 2 years old. mostly milk though. for some crazy reasons cheese didn’t upset them. THANK GOD because mama couldn’t really live without cheese. (aka why mommy is not superty skinny).
i remember when cora was a wee babe and i was gonna just push through the reflux thing and not medicate her … because i did that with her big sister. and then our pediatrician (love her) said, “remember. this isn’t just for you. it’s for her. and her.” as she motioned to big sister. i caved. the meds helped her immensely and i realized that i had been doing all of us a disservice by having a not-happy baby around the house.
well hello there oversharer of information – this is heather’s blog, not yours.
so yes. what i was trying to say is … been there. hugs, friend.
jen recently posted..no.

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Heather August 16, 2011 at 8:59 am

I love it when you say stuff. Long or short. This was perfect. I love that “SHE KNOWS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!” feeling. Thank you, friend.

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Sarah from The Will to See August 14, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Boy you have tried alot. Good for you.
Both of my boys had colic (whatever that actually is), reflux and a severe milk protein intolerance. My oldest actually ended up with a feeding tube because of it. For them prevacid worked. We tried Zantac for a while and they hated the taste, so we actually mixed some cherry syrup (you know the syrup they use in lattes or italian sodas) with the medicine and it helped.
Does she sleep in a wedge? It looks really strange, but helps with the reflux while sleeping. My oldest was in a full wedge and the little one was in a half one that we made ourselves. For a real wedge a OTPT person would need to make it for you.
I know how difficult it can be to have a child that is in pain and cries all the time. It takes a toll on everyone in the household, but especially the mom. Hang in there it will get better.
Sarah from The Will to See recently posted..Photo Friday

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Heather August 16, 2011 at 8:58 am

Hi there!
Elsie actually sleeps on my chest as I’m propped up on pillows a lot. And when she’s in her crib, it’s up on books at one end to elevate it. That seems to work for now. She does okay at night, once she’s finally asleep! :)

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Tracie August 15, 2011 at 12:34 am

I remember that the Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water was the ONLY thing that helped when Katarina was little. It was like miracle juice.

I’m not in this stage of parenting at this point, but I’m going to share this with a couple of moms who are.
Tracie recently posted..Veggie Tales – Princess and the Popstar

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Wendi August 15, 2011 at 7:00 am

Oh colic… It made me to a) gouge my ears out with a spoon, b) put my first through a wall, c) pull my hair out while slowly rocking in a dark room.

I may or may not have done one or two of those things. :)

GREAT post. I tried alot of stuff…. I remember standing in front of the fridge, hungry, in tears because I felt there was nothing I could eat while nursing. Of course my baby’s health and comfort was most important to me… but dang it, it was HARD to cut out pretty much everything I loved to eat.

I cut out dairy, did chiro, and probiotics. They all worked… kind of. ;) Mostly – it seemed that immature digestive systems and nervous systems were the culprits. I saw a change somewhere in the 6-8 week time frame – and then a huge change for the better around 3-4 months.
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Adventures In Babywearing August 15, 2011 at 8:39 am

I am so sorry you have to even be an expert on this. I stumbled it for others that will find solace because of your kind heart.

Steph
Adventures In Babywearing recently posted..Palms up.

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Steph @ Diapers and Divinity August 15, 2011 at 9:13 am

I don’t have much to add to the discussion on colic, but I just wanted to say that this post shows why motherhood is a refining fire that fine-tunes our attributes and makes us better people. It triggers our compassion, a sense of charitable service to the point of self-sacrificing, and a new way of loving. It also makes us tired people, but better all the same. :)
Steph @ Diapers and Divinity recently posted..Hi.

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Heather August 16, 2011 at 8:55 am

Yes. YES. Steph, you said this so well. It should be part of the post!

Thank you!

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Sarahviz August 15, 2011 at 9:23 am

Oh oh oh – this post brought back so many memories for me. My Middle had both colic and reflux and cried for the first 6 months of his life. Your advice here is as perfect as it can be, but time, simply time, is the only way out.
Sarahviz recently posted..Time, Time, Time, See What’s Become of Me

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alita August 15, 2011 at 10:05 am

Um ouch. I remember those days! I’m sorry that you are going through it. Or that poor elsie has to endure it as well. IT IS TOUGH, but it sounds as if you are all handling it marvelously… or as well as you can.

Hugs!

Alita

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Erin B. August 15, 2011 at 2:49 pm

Oh the colic! My baby girl is almost 6 months and she had colic. She also had “silent” acid reflux. We were on Zantac for a while and that really helped, but both my girls have bad ears and apparently ear infections aggravate acid reflux. So we’re on Prevacid now. The other thing that really helped us was putting her on a strict feeding schedule. I’m not nursing so I don’t know how that would work for you, but it really helped us. Good luck and I hope this new stuff helps you!

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Sherry August 15, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Well I’d say you are, in fact, as close to a colic expert as possible! Sorry you have to be though, I can only begin to imagine how tough it is. My first was a good baby, my second did cry a lot from 3-6 months old (and random people would ask if he was colicy, but he wasn’t, he just cried more than normal) and just dealing with THAT alone was frustrating so my heart goes out to you and your family and I hope that her new meds are the right combination! :) Oh and yes! the 5 S’s were a blessing to us, especially the Swaddling…we swaddled our youngest until he was nearly 6 months old and he loooooved it.

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Heidi Ashworth August 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

She is a beautiful baby and thank goodness they all grow out of colic eventually. My twin sister and I, starting at three months, cried for three hours every afternoon starting at 3 pm. This lasted for three months. I don’t know if three is some kind of magic number or the only one I could remember in association with this story. At any rate, it was very very hard even though my mother had four older daughters who helped out tons and tons (and, hey,there’s a four in there!). Hugs! P.S. Babies are hard! Thank goodness they are so cute and we went through so much to get them here or .. well, I won’t go there. : )

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Kerrie August 16, 2011 at 8:05 am

Baby’s Bliss is the bomb. Nothing compares. Under the supervision of our doctor, we gave our now 9 month old, cold, week camomile tea – about an ounce a day. We saw a marked improvement. Also, roast fennel bulbs and eat some after each meal. After any large family meal, we eat roasted fennel as a digestive. I lived on fennel when I was pregnant with my five year old.
Kerrie recently posted..Quick Takes Friday – Vol. 26

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Heather August 18, 2011 at 11:40 am

Kerrie,
Thank you for the suggestions. I truly appreciate every single one I receive and I know they’ll help people who are reading this, too! Thank you.

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Kendra August 16, 2011 at 11:40 am

Wow! This post brought back lots of memories. SOunds almost the same as my life 7 years ago. My youngest son had colic ….bad. Same as Elsie……..colic and reflux. Colic so bad the MD could hear the storm in his tummy from across the room. Zantac helped some as did gas drops. We also propped up the head of his crib a bit (2 phone books – about 2 inches thick under each wheel on one side). Helped him not to lay as flat. Big-yellow-fishy-named-Bob (my made up bedtime story) was born at this time. I would tell him these stories before he went to bed while he stayed upright after a feeding. I stopped nursing him at about 4 months – it’s hard to nurse a colicy infant every 1 1/2 hours AND work fulltime (I ended up getting sick). Then, miracuously not long after (just like the MD predicted)……the colic “went away” along with the reflux. I remember running into his room one Saturday morning when we BOTH slept thru the night. I thought something was wrong! Nope….blissfully asleep. So – keep faith and keep on keeping on…..this will not last forever. Great post.

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Heather August 18, 2011 at 11:41 am

Hi Kendra,

Yes, we do that same thing on one end of the crib! We reflux moms know the tricks, eh? :) Thank you for taking the time to be a part of the conversation. Every word is appreciated.

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carrien (she laughs at the days) August 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm

It was lovely to meet you at blogher. I was amazed at how well you managed everything while keeping a colicky baby happy.

I’m convinced that putting babies down in a bouncy chair or car seat to sleep, or something else that can safely hold them more upright lets them sleep longer because there’s less likely to be acid when they are gassy and the burps can come out on their own without waking them up. I also discovered, by the 3rd baby, that I personally needed to feed them less often. I was nursing every time a baby cried instead of helping them to burp or fart ad so I was only adding to the problem. My last 2 were much better sleepers as a result of me figuring that out. :)

This may or may not be at all related to colic since I have no real experience with it. Hugs to you in your very sleep deprived sad for your hurting baby place. I hope it passes quickly.

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Heather August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

carrien,
Thank you! Yes, we do the upright sleeping thing, too. And I also noticed that I had a tendency to feed Miles and Asher with every squawk they made :) Notsomuch with Elsie. I’m not much for a strict feeding schedule, but I do try other things now which seems to help. Like you said, sometimes they just need their gas and burps out!

Thank you for your encouraging words. Every one of them helps. Truly.

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Jenn August 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm

You have given a great list of things to do for a colicky baby. I’ve had two of mine with colic and 3 with severe reflux. All that you have mentioned are great ways to help! This post will be a god send for many a momma with a crying babe!
Jenn recently posted..Baby Blue

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Jodi August 17, 2011 at 11:07 am

I honestly have not read through all of the comments–but one thing that worked for us was your floating thing you do with the baby in the football hold. I laughed out loud again thinking back to my husband doing the ‘funky dance’ with our middle princess. You can kind of create this feeling too if you hold baby and sit on a big physio ball–exercise ball–whatever you want to call it and bounce up and down. That was a GODSEND! HOWEVER–you do have to be careful if you are so tired you don’t even know which end is up. :0) Been there, done that. Hang in there. Geez, you could always drive to the cities and come to our house–there is never a quiet moment here–ever, it seems. We could all be crazy together! ha! Very good post….my hubby could have used it about 3 years ago! ;) (Because, you know, if I say it, it can’t possibly be true! haha!)
Jodi recently posted..Happy Birthday Jada!

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heidi August 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Heather – I tried to leave this comment twice last night but it doesn’t appear it went through. Maybe because I had links in it, so I’ll try leaving it without the links this time. :-P Have you tried giving Elsie probiotics directly? There are several infant formulations. I give my 3 mo the infant formula from custom probiotics (customprobiotics dot com) and the bio gaia infant drops (available from Amazon though they have a website as well.) The Custom Probiotics seem expensive but the 50 g bottle will last a year. The Bio Gaia drops are supposedly “clinically proven to reduce colic.” I mix them into a paste with a tiny bit of water and apply to my nipple before nursing. I know probiotics pass through breast milk but I can’t help but think it’s even more helpful for colonizing (and thus fighting the bad stuff) given directly.
heidi recently posted..about opinions (and one of mine)

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Heather August 18, 2011 at 11:37 am

Hi Heidi!
I wonder why it wouldn’t let you comment? Maybe it is the links. No idea. Sorry it was tricky and THANK YOU for trying again! This is SUCH good information and I will definitely try it. Thank you so much.

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