It was the Christmas season, and the nights weren’t silent or calm, and my outlook for getting some rest wasn’t bright.
My five-week-old-son was colicky. My husband and I had been dealing with our newborn’s incessant crying for most of the month of December. Every evening the wailing would begin, and it wouldn’t end until the wee hours of the morning, when, exhausted, he would finally fall asleep.
When he cried we tried everything: Mylicon infant gas drops, swaddling, burping, car rides, running the vacuum, and yes, even dancing the tango.
This last “remedy” my husband discovered by accident one night, when slap happy with exhaustion, he decided to swing through the living room with the baby in his arms. Some things would momentarily startle our boy and the crying would cease for a minute –but only a minute – and then would resume at full volume.
Bleary-eyed and overwhelmed, the first pediatrician I took him to proclaimed I was a “nervous mother.” He said my darling brown-eyed boy was “picking up on my anxiety” and “responding to it by crying.” Never a fan of misogyny, I sought out another pediatrician who recommended a special formula to help soothe any intestinal upset my baby might be experiencing.
Within a week all the inhabitants of the house were able to sleep in what finally felt like heavenly peace.
According to Wikipedia, the strict medical definition of colic is a “condition in which an otherwise healthy baby shows periods of intense, unexplained fussing/crying lasting more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for more than 3 weeks.” But what causes colic is still unknown. Some babies, like mine, might be having intestinal distress and excess gas. But this isn’t true of all colicky babies, and according to recent studies, crying is actually a normal developmental phenomenon that occurs in completely normally developing infants.
Dealing with an inconsolable infant can be grueling. The crying can cause parents and caregivers to become exhausted, angry and frustrated, all things I felt when dealing with my own crying baby over a decade ago. According to the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (NCSBS), frustration with a crying infant is the number one trigger for shaking and abusing an infant.
A website developed by the Center describes this time in a baby’s life as The Period of PURPLE Crying® Marilyn Barr, Founder and Executive Director of NCSBS, said “The Period of PURPLE Crying® is a new way to help parents understand this time in their baby's life, which is a normal part of every infant's development. It is confusing and concerning to be told your baby "has colic" because it sounds like it is an illness or a condition that is abnormal. When the baby is given medication to treat symptoms of colic, it reinforces the idea that there is something wrong with the baby, when in fact, the baby is going through a very normal developmental phase.”
The word PURPLE is an acronym for Peak of Crying; Unexpected; Resists Soothing; Pain-Like Face; Long Lasting and Evening. Parents can visit the website (www.PURPLEcrying.org) and get information about how to calm their baby and cope with the stress the crying can bring.
What parent wouldn’t want to boast that they have the happiest baby? Pediatrician Harvey Karp claims that his book The Happiest Baby On The Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Sleep Longer, will give you these bragging rights if you follow his suggestions on how to soothe your cranky newborn. Even better is meeting with someone certified in his methods, Happiest Baby Educators are in the Lehigh Valley, and are trained to teach Karp’s techniques to parents-to-be and new parents (www.thehappiestbaby.org).