When I was pregnant, I read the phrase, ‘the days are long but the months are short’ on a BabyCenter Forum. Reflecting on that further, it really hit me. Indeed! Even though I had a very uneventful pregnancy including a first trimester where the worst I felt was exhausted and sleepy, there were some days that seemed to drag on and indeed, the months flew by really fast. I am really glad that I stuck to somewhat of a consistent schedule and kept privately blogging my pregnancy experiences. What a resource to tap into the next time I get pregnant, if there is a next time.
I delivered a healthy baby in February. Over the weeks of bringing him home however, it was quite clear that he was having painful tummy/gas issues. It began by us not really knowing what was wrong with our child or why he was crying. He had a particular kind of crying where he would kick his legs and not latch. It was during his feedings was when I first noticed that the particular kind of crying was always accompanied by kicking and refusal to latch. Thankfully the nights were peaceful. His pains emerged during the day. At the time, I was also drinking a lot of milk being on a post-partum Indian diet. For example, for ease of constipation issues, my mother gave me milk with a little sugar and ghee in the evenings. I also often had chai. In the mornings, I had decaf coffee with milk. I would also drink Shatavari with milk. Typically, my consumption of milk included half a cup a day in the form of coffee or tea so I wondered if too much milk was upsetting my baby.
Every night as I fed Baby J, I would devour online forums in search of things I could do to ease my baby’s discomfort. Starting with Week 3, I declared that I was going to stop all dairy. I wanted to try it out for 2 days and see if that would make a difference. The difference was clear. While he still kicked and cried, the intensity of the cries was somewhat reduced. I decided to extend the no-dairy experiment for another week, and then another.
As I spent days and weeks worrying about Baby J and praying for the strength of his digestive tract, I kept holding on to hope that he will soon outgrow these issues. Baby J is a happy, contented, and patient child. He barely cries unless he is hungry or sleepy but with the tummy issue, his crying was unbearably painful. We could feel the grumblings on the side of his tummy and knew it would immediately be followed by crying, sometimes so severe that he would be red in the face. We all felt completely helpless. There is no bigger pain than watching your child suffer through pain and there is nothing you can do or at least not enough. However, I did try a few things subsequently.
Now at almost 3.5 months, his tummy issues have reduced considerably and even the tummy rumbles which are rare now don’t cause him discomfort. Below are some things I did which might help anybody reading if your child has similar issues:
(1) No Dairy:
Since Baby J was 3-weeks young, I stopped eating all dairy – no cheese, no yogurt, raita, paneer, ice-cream, etc. etc. I do have an occasional cup of chai with about a couple tablespoons of fat free milk diluted with water just to perk up my evenings since I am so sleep deprived all day. That seems to have no effect on Baby J so I might continue doing that.
(2) No Cruciferous Vegetables:
I gave up all cruciferous vegetables and others that have the potential to create gas which meant not being able to eat some of my favorite veggies – No cauliflower, cabbage, no broccoli (good-bye Broccoli and Beef take out), no potatoes, no root vegetables like sweet potato (hence none of my favorite root chips from Trader Joe’s), etc. Hello spinach, kale, green beans, shepu (dill), lauki, etc. etc. Not that I am complaining. All these dietary changes are good for me and healthy in the long run anyway. I also stopped eating daal (lentils) that is so essential to an Indian diet. It did make cooking a little challenging for my mom since she did all the cooking for the family but she got creative with it and started experimenting with different combos of veggies. We cooked Aaron’s meats separately or rather, in addition to the vegetarian food mom cooked.
As a desperate call to help, after a particularly painful evening for Baby J where he was crying till he was red in the face (he did do that often but that evening was more painful for me because amidst his crying even as I was putting him to bed, when he opened his eyes at one point, he saw me looking at him and he smiled…just like that. Seeing my baby smiling at me despite his pain just broke my heart into tears. That day was one of the worst days in my life as a mom and it was also Aaron’s birthday so I wasn’t much in the mood to celebrate), I posted a request for suggestions on Facebook.
Out poured friends’ suggestions and affirmations of their own babies’ issues with colic, gas, reflux and so on. All this outpouring of support established three things: (a) Baby J is normal (I knew he was, affirmation helped even more), (b) that almost all babies suffer from such issues; and that (c) his suffering is temporary and that it will pass. He will outgrow it.
Based on suggestions posted by my friends,
(3) Drinking Ajwain (carom) Water: I switched to drinking Ajwain water which mom immediately started boiling for me. We even started making Baby J’s formula with Ajwain water. You can easily find this at any Indian specialty grocery store
(4) Baby Yoga: I started doing baby yoga with Baby J which let out a lot of gas clearly relieving discomfort making him a happier child. Something like this really helps:
(5) Baby Massage and Bath: I supported my mom’s long term insistence of more regular massage and baths for Baby J. We did this about three times a week but switched to doing it everyday and this helped too. The massage and warm/hot water bath calmed J down and made for an even more peaceful sleep.
(6) Massage Oil: I applied the massage oil that one of my Singaporean friends sent from NJ. I am so grateful that she immediately shipped me a bottle. I used it on Baby J for a couple days but unfortunately it didn’t help him much.
(7) Gripe water: Used this regularly.
(8) Colic Calm: This is known to be more natural and homeopathic. Even my Eastern European friend suggested charcoal based gripe water.
(9) Gas Drops: For one week straight, I gave him gas drops after every feeding, breastfeeding or bottlefeeding and that helped relieve pain and discomfort for 3-4 days but then the pains came back so I stopped using the drops. These are also not that good for the baby so I wasn’t so keen on using it in the first place but you know…desperate situations and all that.
(10) Switched bottles: We switched to Dr. Brown’s bottles by the 6th week or so. They were a pain to clean because they have so many parts but they did seem to help so to me, the labor of cleaning them was worth it.
All I can say at this point as Baby J is feeling better and better every day and I have begun to enjoy being a mom so much more. No matter how cliche it might sound, your baby WILL outgrow his/her tummy issues. Gas, colic, reflux…all of these WILL go away. I know how it feels. Everyday seems like a stretch. You watch your child suffer the pain and cry. For colic babies, parents and caregivers have the additional stress of dealing with incessant crying. NO matter how bad it is, it will pass. Even in the midst of my baby’s worse pains, as I put him to bed at night, I knew the next day would be a better one and the day after that.
I am not an organically optimistic person but I became one for my baby. I knew that every day would bring renewed hope with it. For the first time in my life, I truly understood the meaning of ‘taking one day at a time‘. One day at a time has now turned to one week at a time. I learned to appreciate the power of food. Baby J still has a few occasional tummy issues now but I have a new perspective on things. I feel more secure as a mother in taking care of my baby. I am better able to read his pain cues. I almost always know what is bothering him to make him cry and it could be as simple as the fact that he is tired and wants to sleep and communicates his tiredness through crying.
To drive home my point and relate it to how I started this post – through pregnancy and the first few months of motherhood, it might seem like the days are long when in reality, the months are short. As time passes, you also learn that the years are short. Recently, while researching ‘Happiness’, I came across the following video.
The Years are Short
Finally, please try not to let the feeling of hopelessness engulf you. I really have been in your figurative shoes. If you have a newborn, give it three months. Things almost automatically get better once they cross that 3-months stage, are able to roll over, and especially once they can sit up. Hang in there.