Why Is My Baby Crying?
Everything in my mom-life starts with a Google search. I call it research so that it sounds fancy. Sometimes that “research” leads me to mom-blogs with firsthand experiences. Sometimes it leads to a WebMD diagnosis. Other times, it leads me to the American Journal of Obstetrics. Hey, balance in all things! From my birth plan, to my parenting style, to Christmas gifts for my family – everything starts with a Google.
Before C was born, I spent so much time researching nursery set ups, healthy pregnancy tips, natural birth strategies, ways to survive a med-free delivery, faster postpartum recovery – everything up to bringing the baby home. I thought the birth was the hard part and after we got home, I’d just sit on the couch with my tiny nugget snuggled in my arms. We’d coo at each other before drifting off to a peaceful, shared nap. Dad would come and marvel at the beauty of us. Friends would pop by with delicious goodies and tell me I was glowing. I’d feel like my life had found what it was missing. None of this happened. From his first pediatric well-visit, my brand-new infant had a label slapped across his tiny forehead – C O L I C K Y.
He cried all the time. And not just moderately annoying “I’m hungry” cries but ear-bleeding, someone-is-torturing-me, banshee screeches. Day and night. His naps were 45 minutes at most. His night sleeps were 2 hour increments which required an hour of nursing and an hour of rocking, bouncing, and shushing to cultivate. Dad and I learned the 5 S’s for soothing babies and practiced them ritualistically even though all attempts to sooth our tiny monster seemed futile. It was miserable. Baby cried, Mom cried, Dad probably cried too although he would never admit it. We both wondered what in the hell we had done to ourselves and WHY in God’s name anyone would do this to themselves more than once. It felt like we’d lived through this hellish version of Groundhog’s Day forever when, at fourteen days old, we took C to have his newborn photos taken. I’ll never forget the story our photographer, Andrea, told us about her son with severe sensitivities to her diet. Her words resonated with me because it was EXACTLY what I was going through. She said, “It was so bad that I just wanted it to be over. When it was day, I wanted it to be night, and when it was night, I wanted it to be day.” How heartbreaking is it for a mother to feel so helpless that she’d wish away her child’s first months of life? But I was there! I wanted so badly to be done.
As Andrea held C and tried to position him into those adorable squishy newborn poses, of which he was having none, she said she could feel his stomach tightening right before each time he woke up screaming and she suggested, because I was breastfeeding, that I search my diet for things that little C might be sensitive to. Her first idea was chocolate. Maybe the sugar? Maybe the caffeine? I wasn’t sure, but if someone had told me that brushing my teeth might have the slightest chance of making C cry, I’d be walking around with a mouth full of plaque and stale coffee breath. I was desperate for anything to help.
When we got home that evening, the research started! If others were noticing that my child was crying with abnormal frequency and he wasn’t hungry, wet, dirty, hot, cold, or tired, there had to be some underlying issue I could find, something I could fix! To begin, I typed into the Google search bar, “Why is my baby crying?” Sound crazy? Would you believe that the third result from the top was an article about infant stomach issues and sensitivities to mother’s diets? The most common cause of baby grief – dairy. Without getting into all the scientific jargon, cow’s milk proteins are too difficult for a baby’s new tummy to digest and this can lead to gassy discomfort, similar to an adult with lactose-intolerance. Kelly Mom explains it well. According to my studious internet research, this is what doctors often label “colic” and write off as a phase parents just have to live through. My own pediatrician said as much. But for my child, at least, it wasn’t just a phenomenon that could not be controlled. It was something I was actively doing to my child! I spared myself all mom-guilt and, right in the beginning of the Christmas cookie season, I quit dairy cold-Christmas-turkey.
Not only did I remove cheese, milk, and real butter from my life but I read the ingredients on everything I ate – bread, crackers, cookies, granola bars, salad dressings – everything. I was surprised at all the places dairy was hiding my diet. Cutting dairy out completely was not easy, but if it would make my child less cranky, I was willing to give it a try. Once, I ate a salad and C had a particularly rough night with a lot of tears. I later read that the gasses produced in our stomachs when we eat greens can make breastfed babies gassy. I have not eaten a salad since. That is how willing I was to try anything to keep my child from being uncomfortable. Not just for Cillian’s stomach’s sake but for my own sanity! At that point, what did I have to lose? Christmas mashed potatoes, I suppose, as well as pumpkin pie, King’s Hawaiian rolls, banana pudding, ice cream, eggnog, hot chocolate, actually, the list of things I had to lose was quite extensive. But thankfully, by Christmas Eve, Cillian was sleeping 4 hour stretches at night and by New Year’s Day, he wasn’t crying every minute he was awake. I still remember being in awe the first time I laid C on the couch and he just looked at me. He didn’t cry or wiggle in discomfort. He just hung out like he was the most content baby one would ever meet. It was as if Santa had brought me a brand-new kid!
As frustrating as it was, going dairy free did have it’s perks, I suppose, even beyond a more content baby. Read about it in The Skinny.
My tiny C monster is now the happiest little boy you’ve ever met. Those who know the story of his dairy intolerance tease that I made the whole thing up because he is so easy going and pleasant now! If only they knew what the three of us (my husband included, as he was right there in the dairy-free trenches with me) went through to get to this point. Thankfully, just before his first birthday, Cillian out grew his sensitivity to dairy as most infants with dairy intolerance do. We still limit his straight dairy (milk, butter, and cheese) intake, mostly out of habit and a slight case of dairy-induced PTSD, but we no longer have to maintain a dairy-free diet.
Cheers to a cheese-filled 2018!