I’d say that most new parents are prepared for the reality of a new baby being quite challenging. Sure we all have our pregnant daydreams about gazing peacefully down into the big, loving eyes of our gorgeous new baby... and of course there are always those people with unrealistic expectations about what life with a new baby will be like. But generally, I think most parents-to-be are prepared for the mess, the smells, the broken sleep, the baby vomit and the crying…
Yet I doubt that many people are prepared for a baby that cries for hours inconsolably, that just can’t be comforted. A baby whose needs have all been met, but is still screaming that ear-piercing wail, with their little fists clenched, their knees drawn up to their chest and a terrible grimace on their little face. My guess is that next-to-nobody is prepared for that, and yet it happens to a surprisingly high number of babies.
The most commonly accepted medical definition of ‘colic’ is a baby whose needs have all been met and who is otherwise healthy, but who cries for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for more than 3 weeks. Estimates of the incidence of colic vary widely from 5% to 40% of babies being affected, but most people will accept a middle figure of around 20% of babies being affected. That’s one in five babies who are screaming inconsolably for hours at a time
If your baby is crying ‘excessively’ it is important to see your doctor or paediatrician to check for other medical problems (there are a number of serious medical conditions that have similar symptoms to colic, so it is important to get your baby properly checked out). However, if you have been to see your doctor and the verdict was ‘colic’, you are not alone. Only around 5% of those babies who see a doctor because of ‘excessive crying’ will have another underlying organic medical cause. The other 95% fall into the residual diagnosis of ‘colic’ (provided they are crying enough hours to meet the definition above).
If you are one of the unlucky parents who drew the short straw, the chances are that you are exhausted, stressed beyond anything you’ve ever experienced, worried about your baby, maybe arguing with your partner, and wondering if you’re doing something wrong, if you’re not a ‘good’ parent and/or if your baby is just ‘difficult’.
It is also very common for parents of colicky babies to feel alone – because the other babies that you see out and about in the world are almost never the colicky ones (the ones with colic are at home with their desperate parents who are trying to comfort them and struggling to hang onto their sanity). So most parents are unaware of just how common it is to have a baby that cries excessively.
However, if you’re reading this, you can be sure that you’ve found someone who understands what you’re going through. I understand it because I’ve been there myself. I know how distressing it is: for you, your partner and your baby. And I also know just how hard it is to find high quality, balanced information about how to help your baby. That’s what compelled me to write the book. I really hope it helps.
Take care out there.