Having a newborn is a huge transition. Even though it's mostly positive, it's still creates a stressful situation as parents get used to figuring out their baby's constant needs. When that newborn is colicky the stress is magnified, or at least it was for me. I had a colicky baby the first time around and I had no idea what I needed. I wish someone had told my support system what the best things you could do for a mom with a colicky baby were, as I'm almost positive it would have made all the difference.
If you're a parent I probably don't have to tell you that it is super-duper hard to advocate for what you need, especially if you're a first time parent. Self-advocacy and self-care are skills you can (and should) learn as a parent, though, even if it puts you outside your comfort zone. In the meantime, however, I truly hope you have people in your life who will try to give you what you need, even if you don't know how to ask yet.
Though logically I knew that my baby's colic was not my fault, I still felt deeply flawed to have a baby I could not soothe. It broke every daydream I had about what brand new motherhood would look like. I desperately needed someone to tell me I wasn't doing anything wrong, or at least to create a space where I felt safe and supported enough to ask for help. But how do you even ask for that as a first-time mom without feeling like a total failure? My hope is that when you do these things for the mom of a colicky baby, she'll already know she's not a failure and can ask you for support when she needs it.
Tell Her It's Not Her Fault
Whatever is going on to cause her baby's colic, it's important you tell her it's not her fault. If she's anything like me she likely won't believe you, because moms seem hardwired to self-blame, but it will mean a great deal that you believe she didn't cause her baby's inconsolable nature. The fact is, that even the experts call the cause of colic a mystery, so it really doesn't do any good to blame oneself.
Take Her Baby Out So She Can Sleep Or Shower
She likely won't want to shower because sleep deprivation makes nothing as important as getting some damn sleep. Still, if you can do so in a supportive way, gently encourage a shower that might help mama feel a bit more human. It's important to couple this encouragement with an offer to stay with the baby even longer, so she can sleep and shower. Telling a new mom she needs a shower and a sleep, but only taking the baby for 30 minutes, just makes mom feel more guilty, inadequate, and frustrated.
Tell Her The Baby Will Be OK
What are we most worried about when we have colicky babies (besides our own sleep deprivation)? That our babies will never be OK. We are worried for our babies' safety and health! Console mom with facts about colic and your belief that baby will be just fine. Back that up with an offer to drive mama and baby to the pediatrician for a full check up to ease everyone's mind and make sure baby really is going to be OK.
Tell Her That She Will Be OK
When I'm sleep deprived and I can't soothe my newborn my entire world feels like it is crumbling around me. Because, well, it is. If you're in a position to know it's true, let mom know that she will be OK, too.
Tell Her That Even If Nothing Is OK, You'll Still Be There For Her
When your world feels like it's crumbling around you, and exhaustion becomes overwhelming, it's pretty normal to start feeling like you won't ever be OK again. Don't try to talk mom out of this thinking, because chances are it won't work. Fear, anxiety, and sleep deprivation blinders are more powerful than anything you can say. Instead, let mom know our support and love for her are not conditional upon her being OK ever again. Let her know that you will be there if she is a hot mess forever. Then back it up with action.
Buy Her Ear Plugs
Noise cancelling ear plugs or muffs given to me by somebody else would've done two miraculous things for me:
1) Cancelled a bit of the ear piercing noise of my colicky baby;
2) Given me permission to use them without guilt.
Number two would've been a lifesaver for me. I never would've bought them for myself, because as a first-time mom I thought muting my baby's cries would make me a bad mom, even while I stood and rocked my baby for hours and hours on end. But if someone else had given them to me and told me it was OK to use them? Guilt absolved.
Ask Her What She Needs
She might give you a list, but trust that she's probably holding back. There really is just that much she needs right now.
She also might not know what she needs. I probably wouldn't have if someone had asked, but it still wouldn't been really nice to have been asked. That simple question may help remind mom that she is still a real, separate human from this squalling infant. It will remind her that even if she's finding it difficult to bond with this baby right now, she is capable of bonding because she did so with you. In a weird, backdoor kind of way, this helps mom know she'll eventually be able to bond with baby.
Let Her Know The Baby's Cries Don't Bother You
When I had a colicky baby it was really difficult having other people over to our house. I was so worried that my baby's constant, piercing cries would inconvenience other people or make it so they would never come again. As a result, I barely ever had people over, and would sweat profusely with anxiety anytime I did.
I also really needed to have people over to our house. Social time with dear ones invigorates me and keeps the depression at bay. The gift of acceptance is the best thing you can give the mama of a colicky baby. Even saying something along the lines of, "Your baby's cries don't bother me. It's OK. Let me hold her for a while," is a pretty amazing gift.
Tell Her She's Doing Great
Because whatever she is doing is great. Really. She's doing the best she can and it will help to hear someone acknowledge that.
Do Whatever You Can Do To Let Her Sleep
This may sound like a duplicate, and perhaps it is. However, guys, sleep deprivation is seriously torture. Parents of a colicky baby need sleep more than just about anything else.
Honestly, the first time you take the baby out so mom can sleep, she probably won't. It's not because she doesn't want to, mind you, but because she's probably ridiculously nervous. So please, oh please, offer again, and offer often.