Antonio was born two weeks early and without difficulty. I remember thinking several hours after his birth that he was going to be a very easy boy, since my pregnancy and delivery were both routine and relatively easy. Three days after we brought him home, however, I realized that my expectations might have been a little off. Over the next three weeks we started to notice a pattern of crying that started at about 5:00 p.m. and usually lasted for about six hours. In addition to that, Antonio awakened every two hours to be fed during the night and didn’t take daytime naps! During these early weeks, the only way Antonio would sleep, night or day, was if either my husband or I held him. My husband thought we must be doing something wrong, and I was afraid he might be right, although I didn’t admit it at the time.
When Antonio was about 3 weeks old, I brought him to see Dr. Weissbluth. We discussed his sleep patterns (or lack thereof), and he advised me that Antonio’s evening fussiness would get worse until he was 6 weeks old, and then it would start to improve slowly and hopefully end at about 12 weeks. I was quite dismayed to also learn that since Antonio was born two weeks early, I had to count Antonio’s age from his original due date, not his birth date. So instead of having only three more rough weeks, we would probably have at least five! That’s an eternity when you’re sleep-deprived! I really didn’t know how we were going to make it through that rough period! I think the biggest worry we had was that Antonio’s fussiness would never end. We knew in our minds that he had to get better, but the big question was when.
Then, at about 6 weeks after Antonio’s original due date, I couldn’t believe it, but I actually started to notice that his evening fussiness was decreasing! In addition, at the same time, his nighttime sleep started becoming a little longer, and he started falling asleep in his crib instead of having to sleep with me! The improvements were small, but at that point I was just ecstatic to have four solid hours of sleep at night! At about 10 weeks I called the doctor and received encouraging advice. He suggested that I start putting Antonio to bed earlier at night, as this might help him feel less tired and make him fall asleep more easily. At the time, Antonio was going to bed between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. So I moved his bedtime to around 8:00 p.m. for a few nights, and I could not believe how well this worked! I then started putting him in his crib even earlier, as I noticed that he actually became tired at around 6:30 p.m. Antonio is now almost 5 months old, and he has been sleeping from 6:30 p.m. through the night to about 7:00 a.m. He has been doing this since he was 12 weeks old. He does wake up occasionally at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. if he’s hungry, but for the most part he sleeps extremely well at night, and is even starting to form regular daytime naps! Antonio is such a joy to be with, I actually might want to have a second baby. Yikes!
Here is an account of one mother’s first weeks that describes how even colicky babies may be more settled after the 6-week peak:
Today my baby girl, Sophia, is 8 weeks old. I celebrated by taking my first uninterrupted bath since her birth. Of course, she woke up just as I was toweling off, but I have learned to be grateful for small pleasures.
Sophia doesn’t sleep much, and when she’s awake she’s usually either crying or nursing. It’s been a little better the past week, but she still sleeps very little: six to eight hours at night and two to four hours during the day. And since I can’t bear to hear her cry, that means she spends most of her time on my breast, where, mercifully, she can always be soothed. I can’t hold her and play with her; she’s always squirming to get at my breast. So, anyway, she’s on my breast ten to twelve hours a day.
Lately she’s good for a couple of ten- to twenty-minute play periods (on the floor on her back, me leaning over her, or on the changing table while I change her diaper).
When I talked with the doctor, he said it did seem my baby was colicky, and I took his book home to read. Finally, I found descriptions by other mothers of babies like mine! I was not alone. I came to understand how sleep problems, like those of my baby, appear to be hunger but really aren’t. I also learned that there’s nothing I can do for my baby that I’m not already doing, and so I might as well turn some of my energy around and start taking care of myself. Truly, I believe that in the case of a colicky baby, who in most cases cannot be treated for her condition, it is the mother who “needs treatment” or help, and to this end I suggest:
1. Get out of the house an hour or two a day, minimum.
2. When out of the house, try to get some physical exercise to burn off the tension.
3. Don’t feel guilty about doing anything that makes you feel good.
4. Socialize as much as possible outside the home.
5. Keep a diary or log of your baby’s sleeping/feeding habits.
6. When the baby is asleep, get some sleep yourself, unless you’re doing something for your own peace of mind.
And things are getting better. Yesterday afternoon Sophia woke up from a three-hour nap, nursed calmly, and wasn’t fussy for several hours afterward. She didn’t behave in her old way, but I got to hold her and play with her for over an hour; then she stayed calm in the swing for a while.
And I got my first bath in eight weeks this morning.