Keep a colic diary
The Colic Clinic provides parents with a diary that divides
each 24-hour day into 15-minute sections, each with check boxes for if the
child is crying, sleeping, feeding, and/or awake. At the end of every week, the
four behaviors are highlighted in four different colors. "This allows a
parent to see how much a child is actually crying and when it is most likely to
A diary also can make parents aware of what they may be doing
to exacerbate the situation. "A mother may realize that, gosh, she's been
feeding the baby 20 times a day, or putting him down every night at 11:00 pm.
She might, then, try to modify these behaviors to see if the situation
In the very least, keeping a diary gives a parent a better
sense of control and a clearer perspective of a situation that may otherwise
seem to them like a shapeless, sleep-deprived abyss.
Give yourself permission not to suffer
When I decided to allow my first child to start crying himself
to sleep, I laid myself right down on the floor next to his crib until he
uttered his last pathetic whimper. "Somehow," I thought, "I wasn't
being cruel if I was miserable right along with him."
Maybe I was jaded the second time around, maybe I was just too
darned exhausted from caring for a toddler and a colicky baby. But when Noah
refused to stop screaming in the middle of the night, regardless of how I tried
to comfort him, I closed my bedroom door and went to bed.
Lester endorses the response: "Mothers must regain ego
strength and take time to care of themselves," says Lester. "That means
getting adequate sleep. It can even simply mean taking a nice long shower. If
the kid cries for 15 minutes while you're bathing, it's OK. You need the time
to cool off."
Though it's not true for all colicky babies, Noah's crankiest
periods were generally predictable. I knew that come three o'clock, the really
serious fussing would begin and it would keep going strong until bedtime. With
these parameters in mind, I used my very limited babysitting budget to pay a
neighborhood teen to simply walk, hold, and stroll with Noah from the onset of
witching hour until my husband got home from work.
I, meanwhile, used the down time to chill out with my older
son, prepare dinner, and simply enjoy having an empty pair of arms. I also
found that just having a fresh face in the house and a quasi-adult to talk to
brightened my spirits.
At the Colic Clinic, part of the marching orders for mothers is
that they must go out with their partner twice a week -- sans baby. If paying a
sitter is out of the question, recruit a close friend or family to watch the
baby. And don't consider it a luxury. "This is vital to your well-being and
to your relationship's well-being," says Lester, adding that it's perfectly
all right to leave a screaming baby behind. "The child will be all right,
and the babysitter will survive, too."