Crying Babies

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Constant Crying - 7 week old

Oct 2003

My seven-week old baby (who was born four weeks premature) cries and fusses virtually all of the time -- except when he is sleeping. Sometimes, the cries are contained whines, other times they are out-of-control shrieks, but whatever they are, they are always present unless the poor guy is so tired out that he is finally able sleep. The result is that the baby has no quiet alert time. There's no time to play or interact or gaze into each other's eyes. Literally. I cannot recall a single moment in his short life when he was awake and simply present and relaxed with me. He is either sleeping or miserable; there seems to be no other state. I have another child, and I know that this isn't ordinary ''fussy baby'' behavior. The problem is that when I seek help from my baby's pediatrician, I get the standard: ''Babies cry. He'll grow out of it.'' I'm terribly upset and concerned. It's not so much the lack of sleep and quiet (though I'd love to have a little sleep and quiet); it's more the way this is interfering with our bonding and attachment -- and the way that I fear it is interfering with his development. I hold him when he is crying, and I hold him when he is sleeping, but can he be developing normally if he spends all of his awake moments crying and upset (he does this even when he is nursing)? I've looked at the posts on colic, and even though this seems slightly different (it isn't limited to nighttime), I've tried much of the advice to no avail. Has anybody out there experienced this particular type of problem? Even if you haven't been able to resolve it, I'd love to hear from people whose babies had this problem but survived it just fine. Thanks -- Anxious Mom

I'm so sorry. I know how sad and worrisome and frustrating a colicky baby can be. Colic is not just restricted to night-time. My daughter cried, also, in every waking moment no matter how much we held her, rocked her, walked her, sung to her, pleaded with her, let other people hold her, did ''colic holds'', put her in the swing, took her out of the swing on and on world without end she cried. But it stopped eventually and she is fine now (very spirited, but a great little girl). She walked early, talked early and is very, very loving now. My husband and I are OK, too. Two things that helped me were knowing that I could set her somewhere safe and walk away for a few minutes and that wouldn't make me A Bad Mom and, for whatever reason, being out in the frsh air helped a little so we spent 2 months swinging on the porch swing. Take care of yourself and know that your wee one willsettle down soon. Molly G
Yes, yes, I know all about this one. My first kid, who was three weeks premature, cried like that, too, virtually every moment that she wasn't sleeping or eating. The good news is it will probably stop like a faucet turning off when your baby is three months old. That's also the bad news. I remember thinking that I wasn't going to make it through another week, much less two more months. But somehow it passed, and on December 10, 1996, my daughter lay on the rug awake and happy for 40 minutes for the first time in her life. And by the end of her third month she was a just plain normal baby who cried when she wanted something. I have met two babies who cried constantly in the way mine did, and one of those ceased crying like my daughter did, promptly at three months. The other, though, is the cautionary tale, because it turned out that the poor little sprout was allergic to everything, and he kept right on crying until his mom stopped eating all dairy, all wheat, etc., which was at six months. There's a good chance your kid is like mine, but you might want to test out the allergy theory, and maybe get yourself a more sympathetic pediatrician. Good luck. It will end. annie
The things that I would try are:
1) Dairy free diet (change formula or your diet if breastfeeding) completely for 10 days.
2) Consider trial of Zantac to make sure it's not reflux.
3) Read ''The Happiest Baby on the Block'' by Harvey Karp.
4) If it is colic, it will begin getting better soon and should be gone by 12 weeks--whatever you do.
5) Hang in there! Be good to yourself and take breaks.
Hi, you didn't say if you are breastfeeding or not. If you are, you may want to check and see if your baby is allergic to certain foods you are eating, . A friend of mine's baby cried constantly for the first few months until the mom finally figured out that the baby was severely allergic to a host of things, among them, wheat, various vegetable proteins- beans, tofu, etc. She altered her diet drastically, and the crying stopped. If you'd like more information, email me and I can get you in touch with my friend.
You are going through something very difficult, even devastating. Your pediatrician is right that he will grow out of it, but that is not helping you deal with him right now. My first child had atypical colic, she cried all her waking time, she had no quiet alert times. She also didn't sleep as much as babies usually sleep. It was hell. You are doing all the right things--holding her is really important. Also, trust that this will get slowly better.

Do you have anyone to take care of him so you can get away for a short time? It's not good for you to feel trapped with an inconsolable baby. Sometimes parents feel they can't leave their crying baby with someone else--the caretaker will be overwhelmed. Actually, it's easier to be a caretaker of a colicky baby than a parent. We're wired up to be very responsive to our child's cries, and a caretaker is a little less emotionally tied to the child. So get a babysitter and take a nap, go for a walk, get away from the sound of the crying.

Another thing we had some success with was a homeopathic remedy from Hyland's, ''Colic Pills''. They are instant-dissolving tablets that you put in the baby's mouth and they seemed to have a calming effect.

Other things to try are windup swings (take the baby to the store and try different models before buying), car rides, putting the baby on the dryer (in his seat) while you run it, soothing music... keep trying things because you never know what will work.

No one knows why babies have colic. I think colic is a response to a variety of causes. There may be a connection between your son's premature birth and his colic. However, it doesn't seem to be connected to anything worrisome about a baby's health. It also doesn't seem to interfere with development. It's natural for you to feel very anxious and even upset because he cries a lot, but try to hang on to the knowledge that he's basically fine and he will get over it. I know this is a really hard thing for you to go through. Please feel free to contact me if you have more questions: Louise

Your post has brought back very unpleasant memories -- as a colic nightmare survivor, I want to say your baby will be fine and will love you. I would focus on surviving it and don't worry about bonding (which you are doing just by taking care of your baby -- this bonding and attaching business is made way too mysterious and elusive so ''experts'' can write books about it.) The issue is that your baby gives you so little positive feedback, those cute little sighs and smiles that make parents say ''it's all worth it''. I had an extremely colicly baby who is still an incredibly negative, grumpy seven year old. Parenting these kinds of children is extremely challenging, worrying, and even depressing. Mothers by default blame themselve for problems with their children. However, I've come to accept I can't change his challenging temperment package. I can only provide guidance to help him learn to manage it. What will make you a better parent is to recharge those quickly drained batteries (e.g. nights off, dates with friends, babysitters). You may feel quilty about leaving your very demanding, very young baby but I recommend you find a sitter you feel confident it, pay them well, and take a break. Regular breaks that you can look forward to. Good luck. It will get better but I also know that's little comfort now. (P.s. Don't be crushed if the colic continues after the standard three month period. Some kids cry longer. My cried for four months, that last month being longer than the previous 3.) Brenda
Oh, boy. I've been there. It's really hard, and the hardest part, as you are discovering, is not letting it interfere with your relationship with your baby.

This is what you need to do: stick up for yourself with your doctor. Your baby very likely has GES - Gastro Encephalic Reflux (some people just call it reflux). We were unlucky in that our doctor had not really encountered reflux before, and his only help was to suggest that we go to the hospital to have a barium swallow, to see if there was a physical anomoly. This wouldn't solve the reflux, either.

My first child was like your baby. We went crazy, it was a nightmare, and we had no basis of comparison, so we didn't know what was wrong - her or us. She cried continuously, even in her sleep, for six months, then began to get a whole lot better. Then she had a few little bits of problems here and there with throwing up (but the pain was mostly over) for the next six months to a year. Then she was someone who threw up easily, like when she coughed a lot or cried too hard, and that lasted another two years. Now she is four and a half and pretty much never throws up, in the real sense of it. We just did the barium swallow recently (last week) and she is normal, structurally. We did it because she still (painlessly) brings up a chunk of food occasionally (we find her chewing phantom food sometimes that she says came from her throat), and we just wanted to be sure. So we would have done it for naught if we had done it in infancy.

Now they have drugs which inhibit the biliousness and calm the other symptoms. Ask your doctor if you can try them for awhile, because this is such an important time for bonding and being together, and as you say awake alert time! Some doctors will prescribe these drugs for a year or more, and I know some people who have done that - but the problem is the child builds up a resistance to the drugs, and you have to keep increasing the dosage; and also, though I have no evidence for this, it seems like the child has little chance of getting over it themselves, so the reflux lasts longer. So if you can use it for a few months and then gradually grit your teeth and ease off on the drugs, that might be the best route, depending how you feel about long-term drug use.

The most soothing things are breast milk and, when your child gets old enough, solid food. This is I think what started the turnaround for our daughter. We did not have much luck with the old idea of putting a little cereal in the breastmilk, it really didn't seem to make much difference.

I feel for you, I really do. All I can say is it will pass. Try to minimize intervention and be there for your child, and use the drugs if you need to. One of the best things in my life was when my daughter finally began to get better (and it happened pretty quickly), she was SO HAPPY to no longer be in pain that she was a joy to be with - smiley, happy, joyful - and has continued to be that way to this day, a very special child who seems to light up everyone elses' lives. Good luck to you! anonymous

I have not been through life with a colicky newborn, but I have friends who have, and in your place I would be pressing the doctor for more help. You know this isn't normal, even for ''fussy'' or colicky babies, so start searching for the cause. Consult another pediatrician if necessary. Your baby could have an undetected infection or illness of some kind, or could be severely intolerant of dairy or something else in your diet. If you're lucky, it will turn out to be ''just'' really bad colic and will disappear in another month or two, but you don't want to wait that long if it turns out to be something you could solve with earlier treatment! Holly
You have described my son almost exactly. He would cry for hours on end, at different times of the day and night and didn't smile for the first 3 months. Car rides and the tummy football hold seemed to help comfort him at times, but nothing was foolproof. I too was concerned that he was not spending any time soaking in his environment and learning, and that all his crying was interfering with our bonding. I finally bonded with my son when he was about 6 months old, after we had several months of good quality time together and I was over the trauma of having a colicy baby. Now, my son is 2 years old and he's great. Super sweet and fun to be with, he laughs all the time and is a very happy kid. I love him more than words can describe and there is no doubt in my mind that the feeling is mutual. And although he hit some developemental milestones late, I doubt it had anything to do with his colic. He's very observant, learns things quickly and is a normal little kid. In the meantime, I encourage you to take time away from your baby because it can be very draining to be around a constantly crying baby. When you can't comfort him, put him in the crib and sit on your front porch. Don't feel bad about doing this, you are not neglecting him- you are saving your sanity. My son cried just as much whether we held him or not. And don't bother talking to parents who have never had a colicy baby because they will just make you feel bad by saying, ''all babies cry'' - they just don't understand the extent of it. My son's crying disappeard within a week at a about 3 1/2 months of age. I have no idea what caused it or what made it stop, but he also started sleeping through the night around the same time. Could lack of good quality sleep cause colic? or visa versa? Good luck and hang in there, it will pass. Beatrice
I am Postpartum Doula with extensive experience with newborns. One aspect of my practice that has been especially beneficial is infant massage. I have taught parents this special way to soothe and communicate with their infants for 20 years. Dr Harvy Karp's book and DVD, The Happiest Baby on the Block, also has many helpful ideas. I would enjoy speaking with you about ways that I might help you settle your baby. You call me at 510-847-9743 or email. Ann
It's important to keep in mind that a baby that's four weeks early, is much younger than his chronological age -- probably by more than four weeks. My premie did the same thing, and the doctor kept being reassuring until one day the baby(at 8 weeks) did the screaming in the office, at which point the doc prescribed some medicine that we used for about two months. By then her digestive track had matured and she calmed down. Still, it wasn't until 7 or 8 months that she was like other babies (or at least the high-need ones) in terms of crying. The good side is, now as a school age kid, she's smart and healthy and doesn't seem to be showing any after effects of those early troubles. I remember feeling so flustered at my mother's group meetings when she was always crying. There is medication the doctor can give you to calm down the pains a baby with an immature digestive system has, but they probably won't unless they hear the baby scream themselves. You could try pressing the doctor to check the baby out further. This will pass, but it's really hard to have an inconsolable baby. anon
Your child may have reflux (GERD), which can exist without projectile vomiting and is very painful even when moderate. Plus, it can damage the esophagus. You should get in to see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. Some pediatricians are not very experienced with or knowledgeable about GERD and dismiss the symptoms as \x93merely colic.\x94 Maybe all colic is GERD, and colicky kids are needlessly left to suffer, along with their parents. There are good pediatric gastroenterologists at UCSF and Children's Hospital in Oakland, where we went. The drugs they use to treat GERD, especially Reglan, helped a lot. (Prilosec did not help as much.)

Also keep baby upright at least 1/2 hour after feeding (swings are useful for this, and later an exersaucer). Use the football hold when they are small - their head in crook of your elbow, your hand in their crotch with the heel putting pressure on their stomach, bouncing a little if it helps. When older you can hold them facing out in front of you against your stomach with your hand again in their crotch putting pressure on the stomach, and also try sitting them on your leg while you are seated, bouncing them up and down gently. Another thing that helps is to put the child in the front pack right after a feeding and walk around with him/her, that way there is the jiggling of movement and being upright. Try giving them a bottle of weak chamomile tea before naps. If you are nursing, it also helps to drink a lot of chamomile tea yourself. Let the baby sleep as much as possible, and feed when they wake up not right before they would go to sleep.

I found gripe water helped, but only the Indian kind made by Woodward\x92s (different formula from the Mother's brand). You can get Woodward\x92s at Indian grocers such as Vik\x92s in Berkeley. Mylanta helped a lot too, or we would grind Tums into a fine powder and mix it with water. There used to be a Children's Mylanta but it was taken off market - there may be a medical reason so I would check with an MD. The kind marketed for kids now has a different formula from the adult version, and doesn\x92t seem to work as well.

We also tried Nutramigen, soy formula and another special, expensive formula, as well as thickening the formula with rice cereal. The only formula that seemed to help was Carnation Good Times. If you\x92re breastfeeding, avoid kale foods that produce gas (cabbage, broccoli etc.), and beans/lentils etc. I am lactose intolerant myself and only drank Lactaid milk/didn't have cheese or much other dairy in my diet, so lactose was not the issue for us, but it might be for you. It can take 2 weeks to rid your body of dairy if that's the problem, so you won't see complete relief for a while. You might also experiment with other foods that could be a problem (gluten [wheat, barley, rye, oats], nuts, caffeine, spicy, high fiber foods). Milk protein allergy is another possibility that should be checked out, though it is rare. You have my sympathies - this is very difficult and can go on a long time. It abated for us around 14 months. Survived reflux/colic x 2