The Agony of Colic

In its darkest moments, parenting boils down to two emotions.

Once you muffle the laughter and the joy – and let’s be real here, in the face of the day-to-day grind that is raising children, the laughter and the joy are already often muffled by the frustration and the exhaustion – two feelings come to the fore over and over again. Two feelings that, on your worst days, overwhelm everything else.

Being a parent is largely about guilt and fear, even when it should be about neither.

My three-week-old is colicky. (In lieu of flowers, please send your donations to

I can’t sit here and explain colic to you, because after googling it and reading about it and trying to understand and solve it, I’m not sure anyone can.


Colic is a condition where there are repeated bouts of excessive crying in a baby who is otherwise healthy. The definition doctors use is: a baby crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for at least one week.

As far as I can tell, colic is when your baby cries, all the time, for no discernible, and generally, despite all appearances, no unhealthy, reason, other than the fact that he hates you.

Every night, for three-to-four hours, The Hammer is inconsolable. Whether it’s from 7 to 11pm, or 9 to 1pm, or 10 to 2am, nothing calms him down for more than ten minutes at a time, and that ten minutes is usually when he’s feeding. It’s excruciating, listening to your helpless baby freak out and being unable to soothe him, and after more than a week of it, it’s doing a number on me and Mom and Buried. colic, newborn, baby, stress, fear, parenting, phases, dad and buried, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, humor, funny, mike julianelle, kids, dads, moms, motherhood, fatherhood, expectations, discipline, tantrums, life, parenthood, family, kids, children

And that’s when the trouble arises. That’s when you get scared, that’s when you feel guilty, that’s when you start looking for answers. And that’s when blame and resentment fester.

Despite your better judgment, you might find yourself resenting your spouse: Your husband can’t breastfeed, the least he can do is use a bottle once in a while! The bottle’s not working? What is he doing wrong? I can’t do everything! Your wife should feed him already, it’s clearly what he wants! It’s not my fault I don’t have breasts and he won’t take the bottle! Why doesn’t she just get to it already? It’s the only thing that works!

Despite your better judgment, you might find yourself blaming your baby: Why won’t he just sleep? Why won’t he let me put him down? I just need to sit for a minute and take a breather! His brother wasn’t like this. I’m trying everything! Why won’t he just stop screaming? What is his problem!

It’s not the Hammer’s fault. At this age, nothing is the Hammer’s fault. (That takes a few years.) And it’s not Mom and Buried’s fault, or my fault. Obviously, right? It’s no one’s fault. We’re rational adults, we know this happens. We know it’s often unexplainable and just one of the joys of infancy. But when you’re at the end of your rope, sleep-deprived, frustrated, concerned, stressed out, and totally at a loss, fear and confusion take over. Blame starts flying, resentment starts brewing, and guilt blossoms.

Guilt over your negative feelings towards your baby, or your spouse, guilt at being powerless, guilt over your inability to solve the problem.

And that’s what’s truly insidious about colic (about all the stress the comes with having a baby, really). It undermines your ability to parent. It robs of you of sleep, of peace of mind, of marital harmony. It causes you to fixate on the most negative aspects of the newborn experience, aspects that are always there but become amplified in its presence, and you forget to – are robbed of the ability to – enjoy the early, and honestly, relatively easy (comparatively), part of parenting.stress, parenting, sleep, toddlers, dads, lifestyle, family, parenting, stress, anxiety, pop culture, Twin Peaks, Leland Palmer

And then, suddenly, without warning, perhaps without you even noticing, it’s gone.

Maybe it takes two weeks, maybe it takes three months, but eventually (or so they say?), the colic passes. The baby is no worse for wear. But you may be. Maybe someone said something regrettable, in their stressed-out, sleep-deprived state. I hope not. Because parenting requires teamwork, and when you are your partner start pointing fingers at each other, out of fear and panic and stress and confusion, that’s when the agony of colic really causes problems. The tremors eventually stop, it’s the aftershocks that linger.

So what do you do? Beats me. I’m still in the middle of it! But I’m gonna guess you survive colic the same way you survive every other parenting challenge: you do your best and you fight through it. Eventually it gives way… to a new challenge. Hopefully, by the time it does, you’re stronger for it.

Parenting is a gauntlet, and it never gets any easier. Starting out with colic is like being thrown into the fire on day one, but you’ll get through it if you stick together and remember that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

Just make sure you don’t burn your bridges before you get there.

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10 thoughts on “The Agony of Colic

  1. My youngest son, who is going to be 4 in the summer, had colic. He’d cry a lot and it seemed the only thing that helped was feeding. It took about 3 months but we figured out it was GERD caused by a cow milkn protein allergy. Even with breast feeding it was still an issue because as long as mom is eating dairy it ends up in the breast milk. We switched to soy formula and it was a night and day difference. Get to a pediatrician and check that out. Our Dr said there’s no such thing as colic. The baby is crying for some reason…you just need to find out why.

  2. Reading this punched me in the gut. My daughter is almost 2 and I don’t think I’ll ever recover from living through her colicky stage, which lasted us 5 months (and for her, after seeing all the doctors and all the lactation specialists and reading all the everything, I decided she was crying because she just needed physical contact. All night long.). Our first wasn’t like this. I was so cocky when pregnant with my 2nd. I kept thinking “I’ve done this before. I’m prepared. I’m going to kick ass the second time around.” and then she came out nothing like her brother. Even now she throws us for a loop and tries our patience, but to make it worse we have a 4 year old who is too smart for his own good to contend with. I figure if I really want to be the best parent I can be that I should have a third because this time I’d know that the only measure of success is getting through the day, and not to have any expectations, but nope. No way. No more.

  3. My daughter had colic, the full three months kind. She would start screaming around lunchtime and continue until midnight. We never found a reason, she was exclusively breastfed, and changing my diet didn’t make a difference. The only thing that sometimes worked was scrunching her legs up, and vigorously rocking her from side to side while loudly and continuously shushing in her ear. This is only physically possible to do for a few minutes at a time. The colic plus an extremely long and painful labour are the reasons why she is an only child. She’s six now and I still get a spike of anxiety when she cries a certain way.

  4. I see the Dr next week. I’ll be sure to tell him a random person told him to go to hell. He’ll get a laugh out of it I’m sure. My wife and I are more inclined to believe him though. He’s helped thousands of babies with “colic”. He’s one of the few peds that’s actually taken the time to do extensive research and look into the various reasons for extended crying. He’s not alone in this opinion either. It’s gaining more traction as Drs investigate.

  5. The vigorous rocking and loud shushing that Alison mentions is similar to the method discussed in the book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. I highly recommend getting it ASAP, along with a big, long swaddling blanket. Not the tiny little scrap of a “blanket” the hospital gives you, but an oversized one that will allow you to wrap the baby tightly. A friend gave me one of those and the book when my third child was born. Best gift ever. I know everyone has parenting advice, and I’m a stranger, but desperate times…

  6. I work for a chiropractor and we help babies with colic all the time!! It’s amazing how in one or to adjustments the colic passes!! I highly recommend seeing a chiropractor.

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