This is a post about colic and the fourth trimester, but it’s also about oat milk. Oatly, to be specific.
I spied a carton of it in Asda the other day, looking fancy in its smart blue grey packaging, and was immediately transported back to this time last year. Upset and exhaustion and worry all wrapped up in that nice carton.
Ted was about eight weeks old this time last year*, and I’d stopped drinking normal milk and normal tea in case my dairy and/or caffeine consumption was affecting his stomach and was the reason he turned into a little ball of rage every night.
Because I’m a tea addict, I then became obsessed with finding a decaf teabag + dairy-free milk combo that didn’t taste like the crappest brew on earth.
It was like when you take teabags on holiday. Anything to help me feel normal, like my usual self. I definitely wasn’t my usual self. I’d been put in charge of an angry, wailing alien and I didn’t know what to do.
(Oatly was the best, FYI. And Yorkshire Tea decaf, always.)
Anyway, before I get far too emotional about tea being symbolic of life, let’s get back to the colic. And how – like a lot of things to do with newborns – it seems so trivial but can be very difficult to deal with.
I thought I’d jot down a few things that helped us, in case it helps anyone else going through the same thing.
What IS colic?
When I initially read up about colic, I was surprised to find no real definition. No exact set of symptoms. That alone makes it a bugger to deal with.
It felt like everything I read was saying: “Your baby might cry, a lot, usually after about 5pm, but no-one knows why. It might be to do with them trying to digest milk, or it could also be reflux or silent reflux or something else entirely.”
“Try these remedies. They might not work, but why not spend a load of money on them anyway and carry on trying and trying and trying until baby grows out of it.”
I realise the irony of writing that when I’m essentially providing my own list of things to try and try and try until baby grows out of it.
But I’m a lot more sympathetic, and hopefully a bit more helpful.
Colic and breastfeeding – it happens. Unfortunately.
A few days after Ted was born, a friend brought round a bag of baby stuff they didn’t need anymore – clothes but also nappies and a few toiletries.
There were some colic granules in the bag and I remember the friend saying “you’re breastfeeding so you won’t need those”. And I heard the same from various sources: breastfed babies don’t get colic.
Ted got colic.
Perhaps they don’t get it as bad, or for as long, sometimes. But yes, it happens, and it’s tough.
My survival tips
As a disclaimer for this and for any ‘advice’ type posts I write from here on in, I am not an expert. This is just what worked for us. And when I say ‘worked’, I mainly mean helped me to feel like I was doing something, anything, to stop Ted from being angry and grumbly, and helped me to stay sane. Sort of.
1. Buy a cheap mattress/fold-up bed
When Ted’s grumbly fourth trimester sleeplessness was at its worst, I took him out of our room – where he’d been in a Snuzpod attached to mine and Graham’s bed – and slept in his nursery with him; Ted in his Snuzpod crib and me on the floor next to him on a fold-up bed.
No, it wasn’t ideal, but Graham had to get up in the mornings and do a manual job and it didn’t make sense for us to both to be awake all night.
Our temporary camp meant G wasn’t a wreck when he got in from work and still had energy to make me lots of tea (decaf and dairy-free, obviously).
2. Get a white noise machine
We still have the noise machine blaring every night. I’m a bit scared to NOT use it now. As well as being a comfort, it blocks all other noise out. Graham hates it, I love it.
I didn’t put Ted in a sling until he was a few months old, and wish I’d tried it much sooner. I had the We Made Me Wuti wrap and it seemed to help soothe him, to an extent, although he hated it at first.
I’d recommend giving babywearing a go from the outset as many mums swear by them for keeping babies settled.
4. Try colic remedies – but don’t pin all your hopes on them. And don’t buy in bulk.
My parents and Google advised me to try gripe water. The health visitor advised me to try Infacol, and mum friends told me that Colief was the saviour I’d been waiting for.
For some reason, after struggling with Colief for a week, I then bought two bottles of it in one go (it’s expensive!) before realising it was having very little effect. I couldn’t get my money back.
Colief seems to work for many, but it is not easy to use if you’re breastfeeding. I used to express a bit of milk and then mix it with the Colief and use a syringe to feed it to grumbly Ted. A big faff, and it did very little for us. But worth a try.
5. Go to the doctor – for peace of mind as much as anything
I had a rubbish experience when I went to see my doctor about Ted being so unsettled. But he checked Ted over and I got some peace of mind that there wasn’t anything serious to worry about. Even if I was still clueless about why he was still so upset.
6. Know that IT WILL PASS
Oh, that old mum mantra. But it’s a good one. It’s so difficult to believe at 3am when you’ve had 10 minutes sleep all week.
I remember crying in the middle of the night, on my little camp bed, on more than one occasion, severely sleep-deprived and wondering when that particular episode might come to an end.
And in the mornings, I’d usually cry again, annoyed at myself for getting so worked up when we were SO LUCKY to have our beautiful boy.
Whatever horrible moment you find yourself in, know that it WILL pass, and things will change.
7. Try altering your diet – it will make you feel like you’re doing something
As above, I tried cutting out dairy and caffeine, as well as spicy foods. The doctor told me this was pointless, but I know other mums who have had success in doing so – so again, it’s worth a try.
8. Grab support with both hands
If relatives/friends want to babysit and let you have some time off, bloomin’ well let them. Heck, if the postman offers to babysit and let you have some time off, bloomin’ well let him. (Well perhaps don’t, but you know what I mean.)
9. Try to ignore unwanted advice
It’s likely that people will have an opinion about what you could and should be doing to prevent baby from being upset.
Once, I was out and trying to feed Ted to stop one of his daytime meltdowns, and was advised by an elderly couple that he didn’t ‘sound hungry’, and that I really ought to get him to sleep.
Oh, is that right? Thanks for that. Give me a minute, I’ll click my fingers and I’m sure he’ll be out like a light. Or not.
10. Establish a bedtime routine
From being about six weeks old, we’ve had Ted in a bedtime routine from 6pm – bath, change, feed, sleep.
This isn’t because we are superparents or sticklers for routine, but because it was the only thing we could do once the colic meltdowns began. We still stick to this now, mostly.
11. Celebrate the end of every day
Even now that Ted is a JOY and rarely cries – TOUCH WOOD – I still get a wobble whenever the CBeebies ‘goodbye sun hello moon’ song comes on. Because it reminds me of those early days when I would think, oh good I am so glad we have survived another day and we are all OK.
So to the me of a year ago, and to you, if you’re in the midst of colic hell: Well done all of us, we are champions.
Bye for now x
*Not that it matters really, but I drafted this post at the end of July (a year on from when Ted was 8 weeks old and full-on fourth trimester trouble), and am only just posting it today, ooops.
** The top image is by Bastien Jaillot on Unsplash