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colicky baby affects family relationships

The Colic Outcasts

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

Hi! So I discovered your pregnancy calendar during my last pregnancy and through that found your advice column and now your columns and blog are some of the first places I go when I hit the interwebs. I have an 11 year old daughter and a 9 year old son. About a year ago my husband and I decided that now that our kids were getting old enough to do some really cool things with, it would be the perfect time to hit the reset button and have another one. So now here I am with a 3 month old son. I love him to pieces there is no doubt about that, but he’s not really a happy baby. He is really colicky and we’re not sure if he has a problem with milk protein so I’ve been on a strict no dairy diet to try and help ease his upset. He’s on Zantac, occasionally gets gripe water, and pretty much has to have gas relief drops at every feeding. Our doctor says to wait it out and around 3 or 4 months he will magically become this happy baby. Well, until then he’s a very sad baby. Lots of crying and sobbing in our house and it’s not all him!

Last night I learned that my parents and brother and sister-in-law have been meeting about once a week just to have dinner at one or the other’s house and my family never even gets a phone call. I feel like no one wants to be around us because my new one is hard to keep happy for more than 30 or so minutes at a time. I don’t know how to talk to any of them about this. I don’t want them to feel bad, but I don’t think I can do it without getting a little weepy. Having a baby that seems to be in pain for the majority of his waking hours is stressful and emotionally agonizing. I have tried so hard to fix him and I just can’t. I just have to wait it out and I could really use the support of my extended family it hurts to think they are avoiding me for the very reason I most need them right now.

I don’t know what I’m asking for here. I guess maybe how do I let them know it bothers me to be excluded like this without sounding like a petulant child?

Signed,
OMG, you guys had a TACO night?

Ugh, I’m sorry! Intentional snub or otherwise, that’s some grade A asshat behavior. I admit I tend to overreach for the benefit of the doubt — maybe they assume you guys don’t even want to get together since it’s a hassle and interruption of your routine? Maybe this is a tradition that predates the new baby that you’re just now hearing about? Maybe they drink a ton of wine and play Cards Against Humanity all night so it’s no kids allowed, especially tweens?

Or  maybe they are just being exclude-y boneheads who don’t understand how isolated and worn down you’re feeling right now. And that seekrit family taco nights are NOT HELPING.

Since you admit you aren’t sure what you’re asking for, let me ask you a question: What do you care most about here? Getting included and invited to the dinner gatherings, or expressing the fact that the exclusion thus far has bothered you?

If it’s the latter, and I were you, I would probably start with my mom, in private. And I wouldn’t worry too much about getting weepy. This is more than just the dinner nights, after all. Take a more confessional “Mom, I’m struggling here” approach to the convo rather than an accusatory “I KNOW WHAT U GUYS ATE LAST SUNDAY.” Share some of the other things you’ve shared here, especially if you have the tendency to put on a good strong Supermom face in front of others. Newborns are HARD. And your particular newborn has upped the difficulty level by a million percent. Colic is HARD. Reflux is HARD. Eliminating dairy is HARD. You understand that it sucks to be around a baby who cries all the time but dear lord, can she imagine what it’s been like for you? Tell her that you’re feeling really alone and isolated and so when you heard that they are hanging out with your sibling’s family on a regular basis you can’t help but take it super personally right now.

In a perfect world, she SHOULD feel sufficiently shamed and immediately vow to include you and/or toss in an offer to bring some earplugs over and babysit for an hour while you go get your nails done or stare into blissful space at a coffeehouse. If she gets defensive and insists that no, it wasn’t that you guys were being excluded, this is just a separate tradition/thing they do with your brother, it’ll be up to you how much you want to push back with your hurt feelings. (I personally know that tired, worn-to-a-nub emotional state you’re in right now, but sadly some people are just too far removed from the postpartum experience to have sufficient sympathy and will try to brush you off as being overly hormonal, like you’re just dealing with bad PMS.) At the very least, she should recognize that you’re desperate for time with other adults and need a social outlet. If not… well, I’d probably count my blessings to not have to hang out with a bunch of insensitive clods and stay home and watch more Netflix.

Now if you decide to forgo any confrontation over the past and simply want to re-insert yourself into the get-togethers, start with hosting one of your own. Make it a pot-luck. Or order in. Then you can be at home with all necessary baby gear and not feel like you’re obligated to leave the room every time he cries or wants to nurse. Even if the night doesn’t go perfectly, express your heartfelt gratitude to everybody for coming — God, you really needed this, you know? You’ve been going crazy feeling like a shut-in lately and are definitely ready for a change — and bring up ideas for future family togetherness. Maybe you can pump and your husband stays home while you and the other kids hang out with the grandparents. Maybe you could all try brunch or a morning farmer’s market if your baby’s crying/witching hours tend to be worse at night. Show them that you are willing and able to make the effort to not simply disappear down the new baby rabbit hole.

I’d also recommend finding other, non-family social outlets to help ease the isolation. A La Leche League or other breastfeeding support group would be an excellent, non-judging-of-crying-babies place to start. You’ll probably meet other moms there who went through colic and allergies and who can offer advice, a killer swaddle or just a sympathetic ear. By getting “out there” and finding a new tribe, you’ll hopefully feel less bruised by the perceived rejection of the old, non-newborn-friendly one.

I know it all seems bleak and endless and grind-y right now, but your baby WILL get easier. That little crying, fussy ham will shoot up into a delightful little person in no time and your family — who maybe just aren’t that into babies? maybe they take THEIR inability to help him/you too personally and worry you think they’re incompetent or something?  — will come to love him and look forward to his presence. In the meantime, be honest with yourself about your needs and limitations and don’t feel ashamed to speak up and make those needs known.

Amazon Mom

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

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 [email protected].

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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Forrest
Guest
Forrest

I just want to put out there that you should read “The Happiest Baby On The Block” by Harvey Karp. It has done wonders for us dealing with a colicky little one and explains so many things about why some babies are colicky and others are not.
Good Luck!

Katelyn
Guest
Katelyn

Just an FYI, from a registered dietitian that’s 28 weeks preggo. . . there is a fairly new diet (not the weight loss kind/ the medical nutrition therapy kind) called FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharide, Disaccharide, and Polyols) that has seen some positive results for sufferers of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). In a small study, women that followed the diet with colicky breastfed babies, had 100% resolution of the colic. I want to stress this was a very small study, but still very positive results. The diet is quite restrictive as it is an elimination diet that gradually adds foods back in… Read more »

leslie
Guest
leslie

I know you’re going to get a ton of ‘this worked for me’ comments, but here’s my experience. On the advice my a naturopath, I eliminated both dairy & gluten in the first month. Crazy, I know, bu the colic and gassiness decreased noticably in a couple of days and was gone around two weeks later. I’m still nursing at 17 months and when I do slip in those foods, my baby gets gassy again. Another plus: I’m in better health. When I do slip up, it’s bad for me as well. So I feel better without them, which keeps… Read more »

Jen
Guest
Jen

I was going to suggest the same thing. Our crazy colicky baby (now almost 6 months old) kept us up every night consistently screaming 2 am to 5 am, from about 3 weeks until just after 2 months, and then continued to be a horrendously difficult baby in late afternoon and evenings though she started sleeping through the night thereafter. She was spitting up what seemed like everything she took in, and dropped from 95th percentile down to 5th, which convinced the pediatrician that we needed to do some sort of supplementing and I should cut out dairy. The dairy-less… Read more »

IrishCream
Guest
IrishCream

There should be an It Gets Better video series for parents of colicky babies. My second had colic–not a terrible case, by colic standards, but a good two hours of crying a night for most nights, until she hit…four months? She’s almost 18 months now and already I’ve forgotten, because she is delightful and easy-going and no longer screams like a banshee and makes me doubt my life choices. So trust: It Gets Better. Which I am sure you know intellectually, but when you’re in the middle of it, and you’re sleep-deprived and post-partum, it’s hard to believe. I agree… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

i think that’s a great idea!

Anna
Guest
Anna

I don’t need to add to the “this worked for me list” [has he been eval for a lip or posterior tongue tie?], but I would like to say that I know how it feels to be assed out of your family’s get togethers because of people not wanting your baby around. It totally sucks and I emphatically agree with Amy’s suggestion to find a new group that is sympathetic to babies who don’t just lay around and look cute. It’s like what you are telling your older kids – don’t hang around people who don’t make you feel good… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

My first was so colicky that I almost didn’t have my second.  I thought it would never end.  It didn’t feel like anything helped, except taking long walks around the block with the baby strapped in a baby carrier.  The walking lulled him to sleep, I got some fresh air, and I got to spend some time with my husband.  And then around four months…it stopped.  So it feels like you are in a never ending cycle of baby and mommy crying, but I promise you are near the end and it will get better.  And your baby will be… Read more »

Tricia
Guest
Tricia

You just wrote my experience word for word! I’m so grateful that my screaming newborn became a delightful, bright-eyed infant. 

JD
Guest
JD

I disagree.  I think OP’s family ought to be free to meet without telling her, and enjoy scream-free family dinners and conversation.  As she mentioned, perhaps sarcastically, but still, she and her husband decided to have this child.  Her brother and parents did not, and if they want to get together without her I don’t think they are being “asshats” just people who do not enjoy screaming baby as dinner music.   The fact that OP doesn’t feel supported by her family seems to be her real issue, and to that I say that for many of us, this is… Read more »

Beth
Guest
Beth

Ok, well, I am the OP and I’m sorry if you feel that I’m annoying and whiney. My family is casual. We’re a tacos and football kind of family, not red wine and dinner music and it hurt to be suddenly excluded. What I was and still am going through is difficult. Maybe not as difficult as what others go through but a baby in pain is not easy for a mother to go through.  I’m not really here to try and see who has the worst story to tell, just to tell mine and ask for advice. I recently… Read more »

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Dear Beth, for whatever it is worth, I didn’t read your letter as either whiney or annoying. You clearly feel things have changed with your family and are hurt and your hurt feelings are valid. Wishing you strength during the intense crying spells. ~Isabel

Anna
Guest
Anna

Just wanted to say it’s not being needy to be hurt by this, and your feelings are/were totally normal. Family is *supposed* to support each other in the hard times, and just because everyone’s family doesn’t do that, it doesn’t make it hurt any less when you feel abandoned during a hard time. My second didn’t have colic, but she WOULD NOT nap for me, or have a reasonable bedtime until she was about a year old (and I was going back to work anyway. There was lots of crying, and only some of it was hers. I signed on… Read more »

JD
Guest
JD

Ok, Beth, maybe I am wrong; wouldn’t be the first or last time.  I just can’t imagine expecting anyone, friend or family, to help me with anything and the only peace I have found is in learning that lesson and not expecting anything ever.  But maybe you have better people and are fortunate enough to live in a world where that is a reasonable expectation.  I am glad that the baby is doing better, and I hope you find what you are looking for, from your family or whoever can help.

-k-
Guest
-k-

It sounds like you have had it rough, JD. There’s a lot of pain in your responses. I’m sorry.

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

Beth, I didn’t think you were whiny at all. And I do think you can expect some support from your parents and siblings. JD seems to have a very every man for himself attitude, but I don’t think it has to be that way with parenting or with anything else in life. It’s not like you’re dragging your screaming infant to a restaurant and expecting other patrons or strangers to deal with it. You just want some company from your own immediate family. Seems totally normal to me.

Liz
Guest
Liz

That sounds like a really crappy situation, Beth, and I hope you have resolved it by now. I must agree with JD. You are feeling alone and that sucks, and it is your responsibility to explain your feelings. My perspective is a child-free one. My siblings have children and I don’t. I don’t dislike babies and children, they can be cute and funny, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be around a screaming one. I have learned, since becoming an aunt, it’s not possible to peaceably watch a movie with a kid around. And while them meeting together without colicky… Read more »

Ali
Guest
Ali

Beth, Just wondering how your baby is now? I’m a FTM and I basically could have written you post word for word. My baby is 3 months old, might have a milk protein intolerance, is on Zantac & gas drops and isn’t happy for more than 30 minutes at a time. I know everybody says by 4 months it basically goes away, but I don’t even know if this is described as colic because it’s not “3 hours in a row for 3 days or more” it’s random crying throughout the day…just what seems like an unhappy baby! So, I’m… Read more »

aew
Guest
aew

I’m going to side a little with JD. It is perfectly reasonable to feel left out of the family gatherings AND it is perfectly reasonable for the family to get together without the crying baby (or because they enjoy one-on-one time). It does not make them “asshats”. Talk to your family. Acknowledge you feel left out and are struggling. Acknowledge those issues are by products of a crappy situation. Ask for some help. Ask them for some family time. Let them have their taco night.

Chloe
Guest

Oh my goodness, I just want to give you a big (non-creepy) hug!

My little guy was pretty sensitive to food as well. We did much better after cutting out all dairy, gluten and tomatoes.

I hope things smooth out soon!

MR
Guest
MR

Crying during all waking hours? OMG, sending you the biggest ((HUGS)) ever!! If you were my friend, I’d be offering to take your baby for an hour each week just so you could have a break. Holy crap. I’m so sorry! I am also so sorry that your dr is just brushing this off as unfixable. Have you considered trying a chiropractor who treats infants? And a baltic amber teething necklace? I honestly don’t know if that would help with gassiness, but… worth a shot maybe? Accupuncture? I’m sure you are already besides yourself and have tried a ton of… Read more »

Bethany West
Guest
Bethany West

Oh, that is hard! I had to cut out dairy. My now 2 yo would get fussy if I ate a piece of cornbread that had a cup of milk in the batter. At 3 months, just to see if he was still sensitive, I shared a mushroom & swiss burger with my husband on a date. It was just a little cheese, right? Ugh, it caused us 3 days of misery. But then, at 3.5 months, he just magically got better. So weird. If you need dairy-free ideas, I really liked whipping up 2 slices of french toast for… Read more »

Kimm
Guest
Kimm

Hi, I had that kid,our pediatrician thought he would outgrow it but i insisted on a referral, then we switched his pediatric gastroent. Dr, and his second one really helped him, diagnosed him with GERD and failure to thrive, and switched him from zantac to omeprazole, also told us to put(at 4 months) cereal in formula even tho he was breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion. I was a 1st time mom and if I had listened to advice from everyone, my sad baby would have been really ill.

Mona
Guest
Mona

Hugs to you, OP. Everyone deserves a space to vent some hurt feelings and frustrations. Especially when you have a new baby, with colic, and all the crazy mixed emotions that go with that. I second The Happiest Baby on the Block, and whatever else has been said here (in the spirit of love and positive thoughts), and it will get better. Mine were both evening fussers, and eventually outgrew it (though the have very different dispositions, that they had in common). I think about four-five months was the magic time. Best to you and baby!

Lindsey
Guest
Lindsey

I just felt like I had to respond and just let you know that even if your family members have been blessed to never have had a colicky child and might not relate, there are so many moms out there that understand exactly what you are going through. I’m not going to tell you anything that worked for me (because nothing did) or all the different things you have probably already tried (and aren’t working). Because, to be honest, I don’t think anything helps. I think colic is just terrible and crappy and something I wouldn’t wish on even my… Read more »

Rosanna
Guest
Rosanna

Please tell this mom that several of us have been there. For my son it took a functional medicine approach to get him off zantac and help his reflux. We started using digestive enzymes (1/4 off an adult capsule in a bottle of breast milk) and probiotics and it really helped. In addition, gluten in my diet was the culprit in the breast milk. It may not just be dairy. Hang in there!

SarahB
Guest
SarahB

Beth, I’ve never had a colicky baby, but I know something about military life and being far from family.  I wonder if that’s what this is about…I am guessing you were in the military when you had your first two kids?  And, as you said, you know something about self-reliance, right?  I wonder if your family is used to treating you as self-reilant and is still figuring out what kind of help and involvement to offer now that you’re close by.   I’ve learned over time that I am really good at giving the impression that I have everything under… Read more »

Sally S.
Guest
Sally S.

Beth – I feel for you! My first was colicky and it was HARD! Reading your post brings me right back, and it has been over 5 years since. It make me shiver to think back to those times, even though it was only 4 months long, it seemed like an eternity. I hope that it starts to get better! HUGS!!

Anna
Guest
Anna

My niece was a very colicky baby right from the start. And not just “4 hours in the evening” and “cut out dairy” variety. Non stop screaming. Looking back it actually affected my ability to bond with her for a couple years although she is now a very sweet 3 year old and we are very close. I was just totally lost as to how to be around her (and I already had kids!). Your family may be experiencing something similar or they may just not want to be around a screaming baby or whatever combo of things that people… Read more »

Whozat
Guest

My daughter wasn’t colicky like this, but did have a dairy sensitivity, and it certainly is tricky to deal with – especially for a cheese-a-holic like myself. I found great comfort in the fact that Oreos are, oddly enough, dairy-free 🙂 

As to the support / isolation issue, I would highly recommended checking out MOMS Club International (http://www.momsclub.org), especially if you are a stay-at-home-mom. If there’s a local chapter, you’ll find lots of opportunities to get out of the house and socialize with other moms who are or have been in the same boat.

KelleyD
Guest
KelleyD

I totally second the MOMS club recommendation. I don’t get to activities much anymore, but my local group was a sanity saver for a few years.

Christina
Guest
Christina

Beth, my son is about the same age as your baby. He has had awful feeding issues that I considered emailing Amalah about myself. We had a good long period recently where he was constantly hungry but just couldn’t get it together. The only thing that has really helped him has been probiotics. They’ve been more helpful than his tongue tie surgery was! There are some dairy and soy free ones out there. Good luck! You aren’t alone! I’m probably up in the middle of the night with you (from far away/in spirit).

Britt
Guest
Britt

Your little one sounds just like mine (who, at 15 months is so easy that all my friends are jealous, for what that’s worth!). There is some waiting involved, but I wholeheartedly second the recommendation that you a see a specialist. I would see both a GI specialist AND an ENT. My daughter needed both. We got her on the right dosage of the right medication (omeprazole for the win!), and life became bearable again. Still pukey, but way less screamy. Also, and you may know this from having other kids, your baby’s screaming sounds an order of magnitude louder… Read more »

mary
Guest
mary

My first baby had colic. I convinced my husband to have her, telling him how wonderful babies are (I have a bunch of silblings – one born when I was 17, and loved it!). And then she arrived and cried A LOT. Unless she was nursing 24/7 or at least touching me at all times. We don’t live close to family & I don’t think anyone understood how much we struggled. They gave us a pep talk occasionally but no one visited or helped out even though we really REALLY could have used that. I think it’s because grumpy, crying… Read more »

mary
Guest
mary

Btw, I thought I would add that although my husband has recently suggested we try for another, so…yeah. It does get THAT much better 😉