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The Neverending Scream

By Amalah

If you asked me — the pregnant me — what my single-biggest parenting fear was, I probably would have said something about making some kind of huge mistake and raising poorly-adjusted children into dysfunctional adults who never called their mother and you know, I don’t care about anything, I just want them to be HAPPY.

That would have been a big fat lie. I was mostly scared of getting a baby with colic.

We had a few bleak days with Noah, right at first, when he would go on extended nursing strikes and scream and scream and scream because he was hungry, but he wouldn’t nurse, so eventually I would cave and offer him some formula, usually in the middle of the night, while crying, feeling guilty and hurt and rejected but also thinking: oh, please please please just shut up.

It’s a weird place to be, resenting the very thing you wanted more than anything else in the world. You love your baby more than you’ve ever loved anyone…but in those dark, frustrating hours where the screams go on and on and on, you may not really like him very much.

But that was nothing — NOTHING — compared to what Jonna from Jonniker went through with her daughter Sam. We’re talking colic. REAL colic. And reflux. Basically my handful of bad nights times FOUR BAJILLION AND TWELVE. Luckily, she lived to tell the tale and has some advice and sympathy to help you live through it too:

Amalah: SO! I hear that you just had a totally fine and dandy time with your daughter. Like every moment was a magical ray of unicorn-y sunshine and soft-focus photography. Please, tell the nice people about how wonderful new motherhood can be!

Jonna: Well, part of the problem was that it WAS spectacular and magical and wondrous … for the first three or four weeks. Yes, I was one of those new mothers who was so impressed with how well her newborn slept! And how she never cried unless she was hungry! And how this was So! Much! Easier! than everyone warned me it would be! I HAD BIRTHED MIRACLE BABY, EASIEST OF THE EASY NEWBORNS. BEHOLD.

Yesssss. That was me, and I have the idiotic blog archives to prove it. And then, somewhere between weeks four and six … all hell broke loose. My daughter — my delightful, beautiful, much-wanted daughter — turned into the world’s tiniest hellbeast. I don’t remember how it started, exactly, but what I do know is that very quickly, things devolved into a life where we had a screaming, inconsolable child who did nothing but scream, scream and did I mention SCREAM? for upwards of eight to ten hours a day. Yes, really, EIGHT TO TEN HOURS A DAY, no exaggeration. And not exactly during convenient times, either. No, no — she usually got going somewhere between 10 and 11 p.m., and finished between 3 a.m. and … well, I believe the latest she went is 9 a.m. the next day, but really, does it matter? The point is, it would go, quite literally, all night long. Nothing worked, at least at first. Nothing. She just screamed. And screamed. And screamed. We tried holding her, feeding her, shushing her, walking her around in the stroller, wearing her in the Bjorn or mei tai, bathing her, putting her down, etc. I will never forget the day my husband walked into the kitchen to find me wearing a giant blanket around my shoulders and pushing our screaming child around in the stroller in never-ending circles around the island with tears streaming down my face. I think by that time I’d been at it for … two? Three hours? Of nothing but pushing the kid in circle after circle after circle. Oh, God.

For a little while, I was convinced it was a food intolerance (I was nursing), so I gave up … everything. I went cold turkey on dairy, tomatoes, caffeine and wheat. For a two-week period there (a very DARK, two-week period), I subsisted on vegan gluten-free bagels with fake peanut butter and low-acid jelly. If I so much as GLANCED at a tomato, my husband came undone.

In other words, we tried EVERYTHING. OVER AND OVER AGAIN. And still: she screamed until she didn’t feel like screaming anymore or just passed out from exhaustion — honestly, we never knew what it was that made her stop. And if she had a “good” night — meaning, anything less than five hours of screaming, and nope, I’m not kidding, that was a GOOD NIGHT — we tried to recreate the entire scene the next day, right down to what we had for dinner, what I ate, and what we watched on television. Everything. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work that way.

We were all exhausted, miserable and frankly, it was one of the darkest times of my entire life. Or, more specifically, I didn’t have a life, but it was dark nonetheless. I was merely coping. My marriage was strained, for we were both so completely consumed with the incredibly daunting task of enduring a full day’s worth of screaming, not to mention the fact that we were beyond sleep-deprived, and for a little while there, I thought we’d never recover. I considered giving away our beloved dog, because I didn’t see how we would ever be able to have the time to feed her, much less pay attention to her. I cried a lot. I blamed myself. I blamed my husband. He blamed me. He blamed himself.

This was … about as much fun as it sounds. And also, I was SHOCKED by this turn of events. Where was my easy baby? Who was this child? What had gone wrong? What had *I* done wrong? What had I DONE TO MY LIFE?

Did you know that things were like, NOT supposed to be like that? Did you know something was wrong, hellbent on getting someone to help you…or did you immediately go to that Bad Place of “I’m doing something wrong, I’m terrible at this and this is my life now forever and ever AMEN”?

A little of both, I think. At first, I was convinced that it was just how things were — after all, everyone spent my entire pregnancy telling me how HAAAARD babies were and how I’d NEVER SLEEP AGAIN and oh, look! They were right. I really didn’t sleep. At all. And oh yes, I assumed that this was what parenting was like, and that I just wasn’t strong enough to hack it. People kept telling me that the first three months were the hardest, but I couldn’t believe they were ever THIS hard, you know? And yet … people had more than one child, didn’t they? So what the heck was wrong with ME and MY baby? I honestly couldn’t see a way out of the tunnel.

The worst part, I think, was that conceiving her wasn’t the easiest task, and I had a rough pregnancy (think 7+ months of puking). And I just felt so GUILTY. Like, I wanted this SO BADLY, and spent so much time trying for it, and then spent so much of my pregnancy feeling guilty because I wasn’t this glowing earth mother-type and, in fact, hated every second of it. And now, here I was with this baby that I loved unconditionally — no question about that — but who, let’s be honest, I didn’t even LIKE. I HATED feeling that way. I hated myself, and I most definitely had moments of — well, not hating her, exactly, but perhaps resenting her for being the exact opposite of what I expected, and for not being able to communicate what was bothering her.

And when I admitted that — when I admitted I was wishing this very difficult part of her infanthood away — I felt guilty. Like I didn’t deserve to have a baby in the first place, if this was how I was going to feel, and thinking that one day I would look back on this time and wish I’d cherished it more. Which, today, makes me laugh so hard, because seriously? WHO WOULD CHERISH THAT? God, I just want to go back in time and SMACK myself for feeling any of that, because SERIOUSLY. IT WAS BAD. AND THOSE FEELINGS WERE OKAY. And it had absolutely no bearing on what kind of mother I was, or would be. Truly — my life today, just a few short months later, is NOTHING like it was back then. Nothing.

And then, somewhere along the line, I started noticing other symptoms beyond the epic screaming. She was throwing up a lot, and by “a lot,” I mean two or three times after every meal, though it is important to note that some kids also have “silent” reflux, which involves little to no spitting up. She couldn’t lie flat on her back without gurgling and gagging. She had a headcold that seemed to never, ever end. I noticed that the screaming almost always began after a feeding and/or after she threw up. And one day, she threw up what smelled like pure stomach acid — I remember being shocked that it didn’t burn a hole through the fabric on her bouncy seat, it was that potent. And of course, immediately afterwards, she started screaming for hours. Turning to Dr. Google, I thought maybe — MAYBE — some of this could be attributed to infant reflux. I hightailed our asses to the pediatrician, and later, to a pediatric GI specialist. And I got the tiniest glimmer of hope that maybe we didn’t have to live like this forever. If we were very, very lucky.

And were you very, very lucky? Was it reflux? Was it colic? Can you have one without the other?
Well … yes, to sort of everything. After several trips to the pediatrician and later, a specialist, some time to find the right medicine, etc., (I’m making it sound SO EASY, when really, it wasn’t, but who cares right now), we learned that it was definitely reflux. But they also determined that colic was likely a factor. Colic, as you know, is sort of this nebulous, catch-all term for Screaming of Mystery, no matter what the origin or how it really manifests itself. So on the one hand, hooray! We had a diagnosis! And a plan of action! On the other hand, oh CRAP! One of the diagnoses was something that has no cure! And ends like, ELEVENTY MILLION WEEKS FROM NOW. (Note: it’s not really eleventy million. More like at 12-14 weeks old. But try telling that to people who don’t sleep. Ever.)

Tell me about the End of the Screaming and how it happened. Because it did end. (Do you hear that, Terrified Readers? IT DID END.) Gradual? Sudden?

The medicine helped. A lot. And although it didn’t stop the screaming altogether, after a few weeks on the right medicine at the right dose (for reflux), the screaming sort of … abated a little. And that’s when it turned from VOLUME ELEVEN to … something more manageable, which turned out to be the colic portion of our show. And colic alone was a piece of cake compared to what we were used to. For starters, it was only for two to three hours a day, max, which sounds like a lot, but compared to eight to 10 hours a day, we took it happily. The tone of it was also different — yes, it was inconsolable, yes, it was frustrating, but it no longer felt like she was screaming in utter agony, the way she was with the reflux. The spitting-up also slowed down a bit, and I felt like we were getting somewhere. Eventually, a few carefully cultivated (yet still ridiculous in hindsight) soothing techniques started to work.

I remember really noticing that things had improved around 10 or 11 weeks of age. By then, we’d had at least a week or two of solid improvement, and I remember thinking that maybe life wouldn’t be so stifling forever. And by 16 weeks, the screaming was gone altogether. In fact, it was at 16 weeks that she had an EXPLOSIVE scream-fest one evening that was so sudden and so unexpected that we called the pediatrician right away — a sign that we no longer took the screaming as something she just DID, and saw it as an actual problem. And lo and behold, her medicine had to be adjusted, and all was well.

Okay, let’s circle back to your emotions. How did you cope? How did you not snap, physically, mentally? Because that situation honestly sounds like a breeding ground for PPD.

Well, as I’m retelling it, it sounds so much worse AND so much better than it actually was. The dark bits weren’t all-consuming, all the time — the days were quite lovely, and she could be a cheerful baby (provided it was DAYLIGHT), and remember, for a while there, I had no idea it wasn’t supposed to be this way. As the weeks wore on, however, things got … pretty bleak. For a few weeks, she wouldn’t (nay, COULDN’T) sleep anywhere but my chest. For every nap. For every night. For every. time. she. slept. Those weeks were the worst. I had to schedule my pee breaks for when my husband would be home, and I found myself scurrying madly away from her the second she woke up, depositing her in the bouncy seat and RUNNING FOR MY LIFE.

I’m not even sure how I got through it, to be honest. Surprisingly, I didn’t get PPD — I think I took on a weird sort of soldier’s mentality, and I’d begun preparing for each evening the way one prepares for battle. By day, I was okay — functioning, even, though I’m not sure how — but when evening rolled around, I just sort of…girded my loins for the worst, and was usually rewarded with exactly that, but at least I wasn’t disappointed, you know?

Talking to other people who’d been through it REALLY helped — The New Girl, one of my best Internet friends, had almost the exact same baby, and hearing her stories of coming out of it alive and thriving, with a baby she loved and a husband she enjoyed spending time with, made me feel like I’d get through this alive. And just having someone there to say, “I KNOW. I KNOW!” who really DID know, was encouraging.

Plus — and this is as twisted as it gets — there was this strange sense of accomplishment at the end of a rough night. I felt … strangely empowered, like I could survive anything. And you know, I think that’s true now. I think, in a creepy way, it made me a stronger, more patient person. A better parent, even. My threshold and tolerance for discomfort when it comes to parenting is higher than I ever imagined.

If you could go back and talk to that version of yourself, the one still mired in the worst of it, what would you say? How would you try to help her?

It ends. It’s impossible to believe that while you’re in it, but it does end, and it ends faster than you can imagine, even though it feels like it will go on forever. But don’t worry about when it ends: Take it one day — ONE DAY — at a time. Don’t think about the coming days/weeks/months. Focus on getting through today and today only. Before you know it, your last today will be behind you, and you’ll look down at your amazing, happy, non-screaming baby of your dreams and almost — ALMOST! — forget this ever happened. I promise.

And you know, what you’re going through IS exceptionally hard and it’s NOT normal, and all those people who tell you in a condescending tone that being a parent is hard, and that babies just cry? Feel free to roll your eyes directly in their face. You’re not a bad mom. You ARE doing a great job, and this is as hard as it gets, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

Put the baby down once in a while. Yes, even while she screams. Put her down in her crib or her bouncy seat, walk away and take five minutes to just breathe. She’ll survive unscathed, and those five minutes will recharge you like nothing else in the world. And then? Put her in the mei tai and put in earplugs or crank up your iPod and walk around the house or bounce her on the yoga ball or hell, put your laptop on the kitchen counter and check your e-mail and just … breathe.

Let your husband or partner take a turn and go take a bath without feeling the slightest bit of guilt. No, seriously. You don’t have to do this by yourself. I don’t care if he has to go to work. You have to stay out of a mental institution, and doing it alone is the quickest ticket into one.

Oh, and don’t try to solve it with products. My God. We bought every bed under the sun — the Amby! Two bassinets! A co-sleeper! A SnuggleNest! ANYTHING to get this kid to feel better and get some sleep. ANYTHING. And you know, none of them worked, and none of them were worth it. The exception: a good bouncy seat, which is a GODSEND to reflux babies, as the angle is just right for them — a tip I learned from the beloved Alexa, another reflux mom. So keep your wallet in your pants, sister.

Finally, did I tell you that you’re doing a great job, and that this isn’t your fault? Well, you are. You are also a badass, because this is some seriously tough stuff — the stuff of torturous NIGHTMARES — and look at you! You’re doing great. And when this is over, you’re going to be able to handle anything. Oh, and your baby is going to be so, so happy and wonderful. And super-mellow! And you know what else? YOU ARE GOING TO WANT ANOTHER BABY. AND SO IS YOUR HUSBAND. BECAUSE LIFE IS JUST THAT AWESOME. I know! I never saw that one coming, either!

Photo by sawamur


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Monica

    September 29, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Great post!!! Thank you!
    I honestly never knew anyone who went through “real” colic like I did. Not fussy baby, or even cranky baby, real colic is…is… Oh, it’s just nice to know I wasn’t the only one.
    You talked about it in your post, but I just want to emphasize how important it is to walk away from the baby when you are too frustrated.
    When I was pregnant with my twins,(Yes, twins! One of which had colic! AGH!) me and my husband went to a standard prenatal class. We watched a video warning about the dangers of shaking a baby, talked about the dangers, signed some form that said we knew about the dangers of shaking a baby. All the while smirking about how WE’RE not the type of people who shake babies. WE are calm, rational, and sane… Our inside joke was me bouncing my pregnant belly up and down, and my husband would shout “Stop! Don’t shake the babies!”
    Then the babies came. Like your post said, the first few weeks were wonderful. Then my daughter developed colic. The kind of screaming you described from 8 pm to 4 am. I would be up all night with her while my son slept, then when she would sleep during the day, my son was up. I was nursing both separately (I wanted to form a bond with each individually) so you can only imagine the lack of sleep I had. Honestly, no dramatics, I cannot fathom getting by on as little sleep as I did for so long. Like 3 hours a day. Of naps. Seriously.
    So, trust me, put the baby down when you feel you’re about to snap. I am SO glad I did. Because ANYONE can get those feelings where you just want to MAKE HER STOP! When I would put my baby down and walk away I was so upset I was shaky and crying and about to explode! But all I needed was a few minutes to reset. Any baby will be fine in a crib for a few minutes. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. I shudder to think what I was capable of doing had I not watched a video, discussed, and signed a form saying I knew it was bad to shake a baby.

  • Jenny

    September 29, 2009 at 10:46 am

    So I don’t have any kids yet, but I do have twin sisters who are 12 years younger than me. Twin sisters who had colic—both of them. Not only did they have colic, neither one of them slept through the night until they were 2ish. For most of the first two years of their life, my Dad would take one baby and sleep downstairs, my mom would take another baby and sleep upstairs. The next night they would switch off. And they also just happened to be stubburn little babies too. When they were 2 1/2 months old, we drove 2 hours to my Grandma’s house. For the whole 2 hours home, the babies screamed bloody murder. As soon as the car stopped, they stopped and were as happy as clams. Surprisingly, the rest of us weren’t.
    Anyway, most of my memories of that first year with my sisters was them crying (don’t get me wrong they were cute and fun and little, but they did cry more than your average kid) and my parents crabby and tired. But to my surprise, a few years ago my parents pulled out some old home videos of the twins and the babies were smiling and babbling, my parents were happy and smiling. So my, kind of stupid advice is if you have a colicy baby, document some of the good times because due to lack of sleep, you might kind of block some of that stuff out 🙂 I remember having fun with them (but as my mom often said, those babies were the best form of birth control that money could buy for a teenager…..there was little glamor involved in those babies), but I honestly didn’t remember my parents being at all happy for most of those first couple of years.
    Now the twins are 18 and seniors in high school. It doesn’t seem that long ago that they were those colicy babies.

  • julie

    September 29, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    This is pretty much exactly my story, except that 21 months later, yes, 21 MONTHS LATER, my daughter still cries every night for 1 1/2 before settling down to sleep.
    Other difference? PPD. Throw that into the mix. My first child was an angel, sleeping 12 hours a night from 10 weeks old. And even with him I had a short bout of PPD for 5 or 6 weeks, but with my daughter? 9 months. 9 MONTHS!
    I hear you, Jonna. And I’m so thrilled that you came out the other end alive, well and madly in love with your daughter. ‘Cause I gotta tell you, I’m still struggling with that last part…

  • Jaida

    September 29, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Great topic. My little screamer is almost 5 months old now and I consider her first 3 months the darkest time of my life so far.
    My one piece of advice would be, if your baby screams like this, TALK TO THE DOCTOR ABOUT IT. I took the tack, especially as it was my second baby, that “Babies cry, this is normal, I just got a fussy one this time.” Seriously, in my postpartum fuzz I determined that since my first baby was so good-natured I somehow deserved this.
    Anyway, long story short, after about 12 weeks I finally brought it up to the ped and one quick test of her poop told us she was intolerant of milk proteins. One hypoallergenic formula and 48 hours later, a completely new baby. I felt terrible that I hadn’t brought it up sooner so she didn’t have to suffer that long. Anyway, sometimes it’s nothing, but sometimes it’s something and worth investigating either way.

  • lawgirl1982

    September 29, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Seriously you are a hero! The best book I have ever read on colic, (not colic plus reflux…did I mention you are a saint!), is Dr. Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block. The 5 S’s are amazing!!

  • jonniker

    September 29, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Monica, that’s a great point, and one I keep coming back to — and one that frankly, I wish I’d emphasized more. The truth is that I FULLY understood how and why people end up shaking babies. I got it more than I ever wanted to admit. I am grateful that I didn’t — grateful that I had the understanding, privilege and knowledge to know that I shouldn’t, that I wouldn’t — but I understood how it happened.
    And yes, PUT THE BABY DOWN. The baby will be fine in his or her crib. Just put the baby down and go punch a pillow or scream or do whatever it is you need to do to release that frustration. And then go pick up your baby, strap her in the carrier and do your best to relax (ha ha HA).
    I used to say — in fact, still say — that I was oddly grateful that I got the screamy baby. That if there was a quota, let the screamy baby go to me rather than another, less stable, less educated, less WHATEVER, person who wouldn’t be able to stop themselves from harming their child. Because HOO BOY, I get it. And if you and I — presumably educated, well-balanced, strong people who DESIRED to be parents more than anything in the world — who ISN’T vulnerable to that kind of thing?

  • crabbyappleseed

    September 29, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Ugggh…this brings back so many awful memories. Our now 9.5mo daughter had colic. She started screaming within five minutes of being born, and spent the entire time until we left for the postpartum doing just that. even the delivery room staff were overwhelmed by her lungs.
    from there, it only got worse, except for the hour every evening we could get her to sleep in the swing. For awhile, the car helped, and she’d sleep. Then, she became immune to the car and would scream even then. She’d only sleep for an hour at a time, and stay awake for two to four hours every time she woke in the middle of the night. She liked going for walks, but oh yeah, she was born in December in Chicago. anytime it was over 30 degrees, we would go for long walks, and my husband would just lift the stroller over the piles of snow that the non-shovelling neighbors (may they BURN IN HELL!!!!!) left on the sidewalk.
    She also had reflux, and the meds helped a tiny bit, but really, she didn’t become a happy baby until she was old enough to play. Our theory: she was bored, and it pissed her off. Once she could play, she got significantly easier, and now, at 9.5 months old, I daresay she’s actually easy. well, no. she still is a terrible sleeper, but man, she is the happiest kid in the world.
    To moms going thru it right now, the most helpful thing anyone ever told me was “colic ends.” I used to trudge up the stairs, chanting to myself, “this, too, shall pass.” it really did help when nothing else did. well, that, and also: stop beating yourself up or feeling like a horrible mother for wishing your baby were different. it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby- of COURSE you wish your baby had a different, easier temperament. you’d be crazy not to. it’s really okay to feel that way.

  • lindswing

    September 29, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Shit, shit, shit! My two week old is a dream baby. He started sleeping five hours straight five days ago and does the vast bulk of his sleeping at night. I’m rested! Am I doomed? How about stories from parents whose nice babies stayed that way? Anyone? Beuler?

  • CinD

    September 29, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Don’t forget to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! Yes, it is normal for a baby to cry, BUT if you feel like something is wrong — call the Dr.
    My girlfriend and I have little ones a few months apart(her 1st, my 2nd), and she mentioned that her child cried alot. Of course my answer was “Babies cry … you’ll get used to it!”. After a couple of weeks (when her little one was about 8 weeks old), she realized it HAD to be more than just a “baby cry” — and baby girl had a milk allergy, which made it hurt every time she ate.
    So remember, YOU know your baby — better to make sure everything is ok then to have you all suffer through it. No matter how good intentioned people are, TRUST YOURSELF.

  • Maria

    September 30, 2009 at 1:09 am

    lindswing, I hope they stay that way… myson is 12 weeks and seems pretty easy too. He had his gassy, fussy times but generally he’s been great. Only now is he starting to have the odd crying/screaming fits, and a bit of a nursing strike. I think it’s early teething though, something to look forward to! Just quietly count your blessings now, enjoy each quiet, happy day as you get them and they’ll satiate you when the bad days come.

  • Amalah

    September 30, 2009 at 6:32 am

    Oh lindswing, sorry we all collectively scared the crap out of you. Yes, there is definitely a honeymoon period with newborns — they ALL sleep a TON at first. (How many blogs by first-time parents have you read where they gush and gush and gush about how GREAT things are when they first bring the baby home from the hospital because oh! This is so not as hard as we thought it would be! We have the best and most sensible baby ever!) (Hell, I was one of those bloggers, once upon a time.)
    And then somewhere between three and six weeks they “wake up” a bit and that’s when the frequent wakings and fussings increase, even without a colic or reflux or allergies. One of my nurses at the hospital called it “quiet alert,” that early newborn stage where they just sort of…sit there and stare at things, all chill. MOST babies, at some point, stick with the “alert” part but lose the “quiet.” Their growth speeds up and so does their appetite.
    So…yeah, you should be prepared for that, though again, that does NOT mean colic or that you’re doomed to have a baby who will never sleep through the night again. It’s just normal. Both of my boys went through it — Ezra in particular — but in the No-Sleep/Crying Pain Olympics we ultimately got off really easy. They are both really, really good sleepers who I’d now characterize as really easy babies (compared to the saintly folk who are commenting on this post, my LANDS).

  • Kate

    September 30, 2009 at 6:35 am

    While there can be many reasons for colic, I would like to give a shout-out to ALLERGIES. When Eamon was born, I was breastfeeding him. I’m already mildly allergic to dairy, tomatoes, citrus, soy, and chocolate, so NONE of those were in my diet. He was still colicky, had terrible cradle cap, wouldn’t sleep at night, refluxed, and had perpetual gunk coming out of his eyes.
    Figuring that there wasn’t much more I could take out of my diet without losing all nutrients in my breastmilk, we tried Neocate formula, which is pretty much just essential amino acids–you know, what the kid needs to live. (We tried Neutramigen first, but that has a milk derivative in it, and didn’t work much better). Magically, reflux went away, cradle cap cleared up completely, eye was no longer junky, and he started sleeping through the night. It’s expensive formula, but was SO worth it.
    Now that he’s on solids, we’re gradually reintroducing foods, and finding out that he’s allergic to things I might have never considered–like apples and pears. I ate a ton of apples while I was breastfeeding (because who’s allergic to apples?). So I think it’s worth it to TRY something like Neocate, just to see. It’s very expensive, but some insurance companies will help cover it. It apparently tastes awful, though, so you might have to mix it with breastmilk or something at first to get the kid to take it.

  • Olivia

    September 30, 2009 at 8:28 am

    I want to give all the parents of colicky babies a BIG hug! I can’t imagine going thru that.
    @lindswing: for what it’s worth, my baby is 6 months old today and she has been a breeze the entire time. She’s had growth spurts that cause her to wake more frequently to nurse, but not more than 3xs in a night and she goes back to sleep. She’s also had a handful of fussy periods because of teething and a few days when she is just clingier. But the level of crying and the length of time she does it is NOTHING like what these moms have been thru. I think the longest she has cried was an hour, and that was at the tail end of a 12 hr road trip. So yeah, we were all tired of being in the car by then.
    Hugs again to all of you who have been thru hell, and I’m going to remember all the advice for the next time I have a baby.

  • jonniker

    September 30, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Kate: The only issue with switching to formula is if you’re exclusively breastfeeding and WANT to continue to exclusively breastfeed is that … you can really screw things up for yourself, breastfeeding-wise if allergies aren’t it. Now, there isn’t anything wrong with that, just that it can be hard to go back to that if the formula doesn’t work, and if you add that to a situation already fraught with (totally unnecessary) feelings of failure, HOO BOY.
    And I hasten to add, after spending FAR too much time researching this during the wee hours of the morning with a kid screaming on my chest, that in the vast majority of cases, food allergies aren’t it. The key to your case is the eye gunk, cradle cap and skin stuff — those things are hallmarks of allergic reactions, whereas straight-up colic, reflux and crying, not necessarily. Reflux in babies is usually a physiological thing — their little esophageal flaps haven’t closed yet, and the whole thing is made worse because we put our kids to sleep on their backs, and with the Back to Sleep campaign, BLAMMO! A bajillion cases of infant reflux, ahoy! (I was always advised, PS, to continue to put her on her back to sleep, and did so.)
    I only say this because — and this is something I wish I’d said, too, but lo, I went on long enough — I got a LOT of pressure to stop breastfeeding and switch to a hypoallergenic formula. A LOT. Not so much from my doctors, but from people on the street who’d been there, done that, loved Nutrimigen. And I didn’t want to — I really didn’t believe that was the problem in my case, and my daughter’s gastroenterologist backed me up on that. Colic really is sometimes … just colic.
    So if you WANT to switch to formula — and God knows, with a baby like that, no one in the world could blame any woman who decided that breastfeeding was just too damn much on top of all of this crap — don’t think twice about it, and give it a whirl. But if you don’t, talk to your doctor and explore all the other options first, and don’t let anyone pressure you otherwise.

  • Lawyerish

    September 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

    This is going to sound geeky as hell, but Jonna, as your friend I am so proud of you for handling the colic and the reflux and the total nightmare of The Endless Screaming as well as you did. Many, if not most, people would have had a complete and utter breakdown, but you were so strong throughout, and I have no doubt that, as you say, you’re even stronger now for having experienced that. I remember at the time wishing so much that there was something that I could do — something that ANYone could do — to give you some relief, but you soldiered through without much help at all. Of course, you just HAVE to in that situation, but it doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment.
    Needless to say, even though I KNOW it’s survivable and you do what you have to do, I am abjectly terrified of having a similar experience. Am sending mah unborn baby calm, soothing, non-refluxy, non-colicky vibes all the time.

  • Sarah in Huntsville

    September 30, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Mine didn’t have reflux, he wasn’t allergic to anything, and there was no real cause for it. He just screamed. All day long.
    It started at around 4 weeks, and magically disappeared a little after 3 months. It was hell and then suddenly, it was over. But those weeks in between, those were some of the most trying times of my life.
    My biggest piece of advice: when it gets unbearable, call someone to come and take over for you, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Get out, clear your head, take a break, have a good scream yourself, whatever. Just get someone to help you.

  • Leah

    September 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    A brave, brilliant post from a brave, brilliant mama. I don’t know if I could have handled it as well.

  • Jaime

    October 1, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    YES! This describes my first baby! He had a milk allergy which we found out at around a month old, but he also had colic! Ugh.
    I remember saying to the pediatrician, I timed the amount of minutes I could see his pupils per day and it amounted to 22 minutes total. He was screaming or sleeping all but 22 minutes per day. There was no cute baby in our house for 5 (!) months.
    So when we thought we wanted another baby I wanted to run screaming too! Could I go through it again?
    Well apparently, yes I could. And yes I did. My second baby also had a milk allergy and colic. Not as bad as my son (normal colic of the 3-4 hour a day crying, not the 8 hour crying!) And gosh it was difficult with a 2 year old and her.
    But! Now she is 4 months old. A happy adorable cute baby.
    Of course, needless to say, WE ARE DONE HAVING CHILDREN. (but the two I have are wonderful now!)

  • GM

    October 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Great post!! As someone who is just emerging on the other side of the colic/reflux battle, it was good to read someone else’s experience and feel validated about just how hard dealing with such a baby can be. I don’t know about Jonna, but one of the most annoying bits of advice I’d get from people when they found out my son had “issues” were 1) “All babies cry” and 2) “Treasure this time; it’s so precious and you’ll never get it back.” Yeah….
    I’d like to emphasize that if you think something is wrong, pursue it with the doctor and DON’T try to minimize it or be stoical with them. I am not the type to go to the doctor unless I’m practically dying, so my first instinct wasn’t to run to the ped when my babe turned full-on Hellmonster at 4 weeks and quit sleeping for 12-15 hours a day. I thought it was just normal-ish behavior. He cried the entire part of the day that he wasn’t breastfeeding, which was literally probably 8 hours of that time. Feeding marathons are one of the possible symptoms of reflux–yes, all breastfed newborns have to eat often, but 45 minutes of every hour of the day all day, EVERY day is not normal. My son was eating to soothe his throat. When we finally got him on meds for his reflux, he went to a much more do-able eating pattern every 15-30 minutes every 2-3 hours. But, it was very easy for others and the ped to chalk his crying, spitting up, extended-overeating, no sleeping to normal baby behaviors. It wasn’t till I took it upon myself to keep a diary for most of a day recording his crying spells/eating/attempts at sleeping/spit ups that I finally got the ped’s attention, and they did something for him.
    Once he got started on meds, he was 100 times better; now that he’s taking semiregular naps and able to scoot around on his own, he’s a thousand times better. He’s actually a really happy, smiling little guy now who pretty much only cries when he’s ready to sleep or is starving. So, it’s true. It will pass!
    I totally agree with Jonna about the products (I laughing so hard reading the product list–I bought several of the items on her list and stalked the Amby bed on Craigslist for a while). However, we did find a product that worked wonders for napping–the papasan cradle swing. My son won’t have anything to do with his regular swing–awake or asleep–but he naps better in the cradle swing than in anything else. I highly recommend trying it. Since my babe is tiny, he’s still able to use it at 6 months; I’m dreading when he gets too heavy for it.

  • Quinn

    October 6, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    My cousin was colicky, and my aunt used to put her in her bouncer and take a shower when she needed a break. The noise of the water drowned out the crying and gave her a little peace for 5 or 10 minutes. It really is ok to do that. Your sanity is important too, and a little unattended crying won’t hurt them.
    Lindswing and Maria, if it helps, my son (8 months old) never really had a fussy stage. He’s a good sleeper and a happy kid. I mean, he certainly screams and makes me want to bang my head into the wall sometimes. But compared to a kid with colic, he’s a dream. It does happen.

  • Della

    October 7, 2009 at 1:24 am

    WHOO-ee. Thank freaking goodness. This is so timely.
    My first baby was perfect. He was the perfect baby that people make up in their daydreams. He spit up twice in the first four weeks of his life. He would instantly stop crying as soon as you fixed what was bothering him.
    I am 27 days into life with my second baby. I am not an uneducated putz, but we did end up going to the ER last week after she screamed in pain for about 3 hours. (good thing too because she had a fever but that’s a side issue; that “colicky” crying stopped right when we arrived at the hospital. I felt so dumb. I made sure EVERYBODY knew this was my second kid, so they wouldn’t think I was some ignorant first time mom that didn’t realize that babies cry.)
    She was fine for 2 days, then did it again. For about 6 hours. Luckily for me, my husband was home that second night. I think I would have lost it.
    We were lucky enough to have some friends that pointed us to reflux websites, and due to the ER visit got a followup with our doctor, and got a diagnosis and a prescription. Crossing my fingers. She has had a couple little episodes – 45-60 minutes – but nothing like what we had those couple times.
    I am mainly posting, though, to help some others who may be in my situation, to point out that there were some warning signs that we jumped on.
    First of all, the crying was obviously pain crying. She also cries for hunger, a mad cry for wet diaper, and so on, but this was a desperate sounding, squealing, back-arching, kicking the legs in discomfort kind of cry. Trust your instincts. If you are convinced your baby is miserable, see if you can see a doctor about it, and don’t let anyone talk you out of it because “all babies cry.” Of course they do, but sometimes it is for a reason that the parent alone can’t fix – that’s what the doctor is there for.
    Moving on to other signs: when my son was gassy and needed to burp, he would be like this for the couple minutes it would take us to produce a burp, but then he would settle down. My daughter usually does not burp audibly, and even when she does, it doesn’t fix her problem. (or, she may eat and then burp okay, and then cry later. the point is that it’s not a gas problem, not a burp trying to get out.)
    She also “spits up” after every feeding – not necessarily spitting anything out, maybe a little dribble – sometimes just gagging with a “ew” face to tell us she had an acidy burp. She also ALWAYS, always has a little spit up/drool out milk when she is laid down flat. After a baby that never spit up, I ignored this at first because I assumed this was just normal.
    She gets EXTREME hiccups, lasting 15 minutes or more, whole body hiccups, often when we lay her flat.
    Plus, all this started at exactly 3 weeks – classic time for it to show up. And when it’s about to happen, she cluster feeds – “asks” for the breast every hour or sometimes as fast as every half hour.
    So, I’m no expert, only having done this for a week, but I’d definitely say jump on it, keep track of every little thing you’re suspicious of, look at people’s lists of symptoms and make a checklist, then take it with you to the doctor. If it’s probably not reflux, the doctor will (should) be able to tell from what you’ve told them, and if it IS, you’ll have something you can do to try making it better.
    Like GM, I’m pretty stoic for myself. I have to have some RAGING infection to go to the doc. But if there’s the possibility of fixing this… take it. JUMP ON IT. It feels so good to have some action to take, after feeling so helpless knowing that the baby is miserable, and is going to continue feeling that way and crying for only she knows how long, and all you can do is wait and be there for her while it’s happening. UGH.
    And let me chime in that OMG. What a brave thing, for those of you who have lived through the true colic hell instead of my little piece of it. *hugs*

  • Cheri

    February 9, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Can I throw in my 2 cents? My son had the awful crying from 3-6 months, he would cry , I would nurse him, he’d sleep for 20 minutes and cry some more. Sometimes it would take 35-45 minutes of soothing to get a 20 minute nap. He started preferring the bottle to me, and that was the end of nursing….But on soy formula , he was a different baby- here we find out later, at 14 months when we try to switch him to cow’s milk, he’s lactose intolerant. I didn’t know when I was nursing him, and I wish I’d tried cutting out dairy……. anyway, he’s 2 now and on lactose free milk, and thriving…… just a thought- if you’re nursing and the baby is sooooo miserable, it could be lactose intolerance.