I’m going to be honest, this is a post I’ve avoided writing. I’ve had a lot of people ask me to write it in DMs, but the reason I’m sharing it is actually not because of the specifics of how we navigated colic but because I wanted to talk honestly about the emotional side of our first few months with two babies.
After giving birth we had the sweetest, simplest, easiest few weeks. My first labour was intense (episiotomy, tear, 3 hours of pushing, I was delirious by the end… read it HERE) so to walk out of the hospital with no pain 24 hours after delivery the second time around felt unbelievable. Roey slept and slept, I had to wake her to feed and she only woke up 2 times a night from the beginning. Clayton had no issues adjusting to a sibling, my family was in town, we had the perfect Christmas and two kids honestly felt great.
3 weeks in.
3 weeks after she was born, right as all our family left, a switch flipped. She started crying.
We did everything we knew to try and help it, but she didn’t stop. I had to dance around with her on my front constantly doing a jig, when that stopped working I moved the stoller to live 24/7 in the house so I could push her constantly through tasks in an attempt to calm her.
I kept saying, ‘Wow Clayton was easy, we got a cryer this time. I had no idea. Wow, how do people do this?’
I also just kept wishing she was asleep. I didn’t feel excited to see her face when she woke up, I braced myself and took in a deep breath as we launched into another round of crazy.
What had been dreamy newborn night sleep rapidly deteriorated. From 2 quick feeds a night to every hour. I couldn’t stay awake to feed her, I’d fall asleep sitting up, feel sick when I woke up to feed just from being tired, and cry.
Jared and I still kept turning to each other when we got a moment… ‘wow Clayton was easy.’
After about 2 months I started to admit even just firstly to myself that I was struggling. We thought about asking my cousin to fly out just to help for a few weeks, or one of my parents, anyone to nanny for a bit. We just needed someone to help and we couldn’t do it alone. I was losing it. My hormones felt pretty stable (they’d been rocky at 4 months pp with Clayton so I knew what that felt like and was watching for it) but it was just sheer lack of sleep, or so I thought.
Then I called my sister. I was cooking and facetiming her at the stove and she said
‘Is it more than three hours a day and more than three days a week?’
I was like, “erm.. it’s more than three hours a day every day. Every. Single. Day. Whenever she’s awake. Why?”
She told me that “3 weeks of more than 3 hours crying a day, more than 3 days a week” is the threshold for colic. I hadn’t even thought about it being ‘colic’ if I’m honest. Our doctor hadn’t said anything, she was growing well, eating well, and healthy and I just thought she cried a lot and that I was having the rough go that so many parents have. Colic also isn’t really diagnosable, no one really knows exactly what causes it and it shows up differently in different babies. So there isn’t a standard treatment protocol. Yet somehow for me, putting a name on it and knowing I didn’t just have a crying baby really helped me.
Note: Even if it hadn’t been colic, in hindsight that shouldn’t have mattered. I should have asked for more help. But I thought ‘if this is what most mums go through and Clayton was just easy and this is normal…. then I should be able to cope. I shouldn’t need help.’ I think this is a destructive mindset in motherhood. It’s a time of learning and growing and I don’t know that anyone goes through these years without being completely overwhelmed or out of their depth at least in one area. But just because other people can cope in that area it doesn’t mean you *should* be able to. Or worst case scenario, even if somehow you should hypothetically be able to, if we’re not, we need to be able to ask for help. Now I know.
So it’s “colic”… but what do we do?
But back to colic. Now I knew I was dealing with something a little more than just a crying but normal baby I thought there might be something we were able to do. I asked everyone. I put the question out on social media… and I got so many responses. I’ve learned when and when not to ask social media for input because you always get a full array of answers, but I really really wanted to know anyone and everyone’s experience and thoughts.
People suggested everything from chiropractic care to essential oils, tongue ties to soaking potatoes. You name it, it was the potential problem or solution. I knew I had to start by going with my gut and the thing that resonated was to cut things out of my diet. But what? I needed change, so I decided to cold turkey cut everything that could be a potential problem.
Disclaimer: This is why I was reluctant to write this post. I don’t want anyone to do what I did just cos I did it. PLEASE see your doctor, your baby’s doctor, and ask for help. I was very careful about getting enough food, and eating as balanced as I could, and I also have a very full milk supply so I’m lucky that dietary changes don’t affect that, but please… don’t make changes without your doctor. I didn’t even have a brain at this point, and I’m writing this to be open about the journey and shed light on something, not to say I did it right!
My Dietary Changes
I full involved Jared in this process, and he was on board for starting with dietary changes and we journeyed it together. We started by cutting the obvious or more known things: Gluten, dairy, soy, cruciferous and gassy vegetables, beans andpulses. Then someone said eggs can be an issue, and then nuts and peanuts … honestly I rolled my eyes, but I was so emotionally drained I NEEDED a change so I though let’s just do it all, and I cut eggs, and nut, and peanut butter. Oh and caffeine. No coffee. No decaf coffee. No chocolate. No one said alcohol though and trust me, I didn’t cut that. (Safely, and moderately but a glass of red or a small bit of whisky was a much needed treat.)
The final straw, almost, was when someone suggested oats could be a problem. Aren’t oats the golden food or breastmilk?! Bye bye oats.
So what DO I eat?
I woke up the first morning and thought, ‘Right, what the heck do I put on my plate?’ I landed at a banana and nut butter… wait no. Nuts. No nuts. Banana and seed butter. Good thing that’s what we eat anyway. That was breakfast. If you’re thinking that’s too small for a breastfeeding human, you didn’t ask how much nut butter. Here you go: I ate an entire jar by myself within 48 hours. Balanced diet? I had a way to go, but there are way worse things than organic bananas and organic sunflower seeds for a few days.
I might be addicted to chocolate. But the pain of colic was worth anything disappearing from my diet. I raced out to buy carob and made a modified version of the Kezia’s Whole Bowl Smoothie with no cauliflower, carob instead of cocoa, and only seed butter. I ate it once a day. I also started to eat a lot of brown rice with veggies (carrots and kale mostly) with coconut aminos and seed butter – a version of Vegan Rice on the blog . I also ate a lot of sweet potatoes and squash with our go to dressing, and nut butter too. My diet was simple but I was determined to do this. Detemined.
People told me I was noble or selfless or amazing… Trust me, none of that. I did this for me. I did this for my sanity, this wasn’t sacrifice because I was in pain seeing my girl suffer. I was in pain feeling me suffer. Maybe that sounds heartless, but that’s the truth. My driving force was the toll this was taking on me, my husband, and Clayton more than how she was feeling. My thoughts about her were really just: PLEASE go to sleep. PLEASE.
I semi started on a Wednesday, I was all in with everyone’s extra suggestions on Friday, and by Monday we had a completely different baby. Completely. Jared was at work and we texted, I didn’t really want to believe it was different so I said maybe it was fluke. Then the next day, she didn’t need rocking all day. I lay her down while I did dishes and she didn’t wail. Could this be real. I checked in with Jared a thousand times when he was home, ‘Is this different to you? Am Iimagining it? Is she more calm?’
We both noticed a complete turn around. She was calm.
It was only once the crying stopped than I began to realize the full extent of how it had been. Both Jared and I hadn’t admitted to each other how we were feeling. We didn’t want to admit we were struggling with our daughter. That’s awful to struggle with your child, right? No, I think it’s normal at some point for a LOT of parents. But I didn’t then. So I didn’t admit to him, and he didn’t to me. But once we knew we were dealing with something extreme, and it started to subside we could admit how hard we’d been finding it. How it was emotional breaking us down. How we were frustrated, and struggling. Getting to share that with each other, which we should have done in the middle of it, really gave us strength.
But the day I realised just how deeply I’d been affected was after a few days of calm. Roey was sitting in her mamaroo after breakfast while I cleaned up, and she cried. I looked over to her and went over to pick her up. As I lifted her out of the rocker I realized, I haven’t wanted to pick you up until now. I’ve felt no love, no maternal instinct, no connection,
nothing. In that moment, at 4 months old I finally felt love for her and wanted to pick up my daughter.
I sat down on the rug with her and for the first time Clayton and her and I played together, she lay under her baby gym and we all played, quietly, happily, calmly. It was the first time it had happened.
A few months on.
We’re now about 5 months post colic. Roey is doing great, I reintroduced everything** with no problems and she’s starting to eat food herself too. We don’t do many grains or pulses before a year old so she hasn’t yet had oats or chickpeas but I’m thinking she’ll be fine when she does. Clayton found the whole few months hard. He started just shutting down whenever she cried, which was all the time. He’d zone out, so it didn’t look like he was affected – he wasn’t seeming jealous or acting out but once it was more rare for her to cry I could begin to see how it had affected him. I tried to just talk to him about it, tell him I understood. Tell him it’s ok that it’s not fun when she cried and help him deal with his feelings. We’re now 9 months in, and 5 months past colic, but still occasionally he’ll retreat in the same way if she cries a lot. And occasionally now if she really cries in a moment that’s already stressful or busy it still affects me, I feel like a deer in the headlights like I can’t think and it all comes back… but I’m being open with how I feel, telling people around me, telling Jared, and asking for help in those little moments.
**After a serious sleep regression, I cut a few things back out of my diet just so we knew it wasn’t food that was the problem. After a week of cutting things out, and some simple sleep training she’s back sleeping through the night again. So I’ll reintroduce those foods to my diet in the next few days and see if it’s what was affecting her sleep!
So what caused the colic?
I did start to reintroduce foods to test them, but emotionally I needed a break. After the colic stopping I didn’t try reintroducing anything (bar one time) for a full two weeks. I needed to recover before I was ready to potentially go backwards again! One day about a week in, I ate my favorite dish at a local restaurant full of cabbage and beans and then oatmeal for breakfast, and we had a bad 48 hours again, but bar that the two weeks was clear.
I started with introducing the things I (a) wanted back the most, but (b) also didn’t think were a problem. That was coffee and chocolate. I successfully got those back in my diet with no change. HOORAY. Then I reintroduced nuts, and peanuts, some soy sauce, and I had a few bites of dairy. All fine. I added some eggs back in pancakes or baked items but I wasn’t craving them whole so I didn’t add in as many of those as before but they came back fine. I was left with all the base vegetables, and oats. I left those out until we crossed the three month mark when a lot of sources say colicky symptoms can go away of their own accord. Then I started trying them out in small amounts. The day I welcomed cabbage back into my life I had a PARTY! Then black beans, it was amazing. Chickpeas… nope, we got a reaction so I stayed off those. And oats still were a bad idea.
I could’t believe that oats were one of the main problems. Then I looked back over my diet early on. For those first weeks when our family was here I’d made myself special chocolate protein pancakes every morning. Once our family left I thought I should start eating the same thing as my boys and stop being indulgent! I started eating simple bowls of … oatmeal … with them and just eating the same oat based pancakes as them when we made pancakes. That was exactly when the symptoms started! I’d never have suspected oats. So whoever on instagram suggested that to me…. THANK YOU! I owe you big time!