You’re sitting in a new moms class, and you notice that your baby is crying more than most in the class. You watch in amazement as many of the babies sleep and coo in their mothers’ arms, while yours is pulling his legs up, crying in distress. You wonder to yourself, “Why does my baby cry so much?”
Having had two babies who cry a lot, I’ve learned something about what might cause the inconsolable crying and what you can do to help your baby, AND how you can keep your sanity during all of it.
As you’re pulling your hair out, worrying about your little one, doubting whether you’ll ever get more than two hours of sleep again, know this:
You are not alone.
It does get better.
You will get a full night of sleep again, and
Your sweet baby won’t suffer like this forever.
With our first baby, my husband and I didn’t learn about baby reflux until our newborn was about 6 weeks old. Those were a long 6 weeks for my husband and me–and most importantly, for our baby.
Now I know that babies can suffer from reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It’s like heartburn in adults. It makes babies miserable, and it can cause parents to feel especially exhausted and ineffective at soothing their babies. The sooner you get a diagnosis and start treating it, the better your baby will feel. And so will you.
If your baby has any of these symptoms, he/she may have reflux:
How You Can Help Your Baby:
Ask your pediatrician about reflux and ask about strategies, such as these:
Make some changes in your diet, if you are breastfeeding.
Feed your baby in an upright position.
Burp baby frequently.
Meet with a breastfeeding consultant to learn feeding positions for reflux.
Keep baby upright for 20-30 minutes after each feeding.
Wear your baby in a baby carrier – the upright position and belly to belly pressure may soothe your baby.
Have baby sleep at an incline.
Consider medications like Zantac and Prevacid.
How You Can Help Yourself:
Don’t blame yourself.
Mothers of babies with reflux often feel guilty and blame themselves for not being able to effectively soothe their babies when they cry. It isn’t your fault that they have reflux. Reflux is painful, and it is hard, sometimes impossible, to make it better for them in the moment. Even in his crying, your baby knows you are there for him, holding him in your arms. You are doing a great job!
Get some sleep.
Sleep deprivation can affect mood, and can even lead to depression. So, nap when your baby naps, hire a night nurse, hire a babysitter, and ask a friend to watch your baby while you nap.
Take a long shower.
This may sound silly, but the basic act of taking a shower can help you feel refreshed, like the old you. And any mother will tell you just how hard it can be to have time for a shower when you have a newborn!
Going for a walk, sitting at an outdoor café, getting some fresh air and sunshine, all can give you a mood boost.
Ask your pediatrician about reflux, talk to other moms whose babies have reflux, schedule a breastfeeding consultation, and check out sources like these: www.babycenter.com, www.kellymom.com, and the Happiest Baby on the Block.
Communicate with your partner.
Share with him/her what you’re feeling and thinking, and find out what her/she is experiencing. Parenting a newborn is a huge adjustment, and you two are in this together; so lean on each other.
Meet other parents.
Join a new moms group. If you live in the DC area, the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington offers a free weekly group for breastfeeding mothers (www.breastfeedingcenter.org), and PACE offers support groups for new moms and 2nd time moms (www.pacemoms.org).
Don’t expect too much of yourself.
Set one goal a day like taking a shower or going for a walk. Try not to stress about a messy house, with laundry and dishes to do. Your house will be tidy again…someday. And if the mess is driving you crazy, hire a housekeeper or ask a loved one to help.
Ask for help.
Accept your neighbor’s offer to bring dinner over, or ask a relative to help with your laundry. If you think you have postpartum depression, schedule an appointment with a therapist and/or psychiatrist, talk to your pediatrician about it, and talk to your OBGyn. Accepting help is good for you and your baby. Do it for your baby. Do it for your family. Do it for you.
And, remember this:
You are not alone.
It will get better.
(As I was writing this blog post, bouncing my newborn on my lap, he spit up all over me.)