To the mums pacing up and down with their crying babies day after day, night after night, I see you.
To the mums googling 'colic', 'baby reflux' and 'baby eczema' and hoping that there is a solution to your baby's misery, I see you.
To the mums who are at their wits end and wondering how you are supposed to 'enjoy every moment' with your baby when they are suffering so much, I see you.
To all the mums whose doctors dismiss you with "all babies cry", "are you a first time mum?", "it's just a bit of colic", I see you.
To all the mums who doubt themselves, and wonder if maybe your baby would be happier with a different mum, I see you.
To all the mums who now understand why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture, I see you.
To all the mums who wonder if this is what your life is just going to be now. Survival. Existence. Not living. I see you.
To all the mums who are not just trying to get through the day, but are literally just trying to get through the next hour. And the next. And the next. I see you.
Because I've been there too.
You are not alone.
You are strong.
You will get through this.
I want you to know that you are in the crappy bit right now. The really tough, grit-your-teeth-and-get-through-it part. The beginning of a very steep learning curve. Parenting is tough. Parenting a baby who cries non stop and seems to be in discomfort all the time is even tougher. So here's what I want you to do:
If you're not getting enough sleep, find someone to hold the baby for you for an hour or two so you can take a nap. If your baby is asleep, go to sleep!!! Chronic sleep deprivation has a huge impact on health and wellbeing. You will be able to deal with all the other stuff so much better if you are well rested. Yes it is boring, but it is the kindest thing you can do for yourself right now.
PS Due to natural fluctuations in your body's genes, hormones and circadian rhythm, allergic symptoms can be worse at night. So if your baby seems worse at night than during the day, this could be why. It's a real thing.
Ask For Help
I don't care what sort of help you ask for, just ask for some. Ask your partner, ask your family, ask your friends. If you have older children, organise playdates for them or ask a relative to take them out. Get as much help as you can. If you can afford it, get a cleaner - seriously, it's the best £20 a week you could spend right now. Use the time you would normally be scrubbing the bath to do something nice for yourself (or sleep)! You do not have to do every single thing yourself.
What you are doing right now is the hardest and most important job you are ever going to have. So take damn good care of yourself! You can't do a good job of looking after your baby if you are burned out. So apart from getting more sleep, make sure you do something nice for yourself. Every. Single. Day. Whatever makes you laugh, whatever helps you relax, whatever makes you feel like you again.
Trust Your Instincts
Whether you are a first time mum or not, you are the expert on your baby. If there is a little worm niggling away in your mind that something is not right, you are probably right. Don't give up. Do what you need to do to help your baby. In my opinion, colic and reflux are symptoms, not a diagnosis - dig a little deeper and find out what is the cause behind it.
Arm yourself with knowledge. Read trusted sources about food allergies in babies. Join a Facebook group and ask questions - there are dedicated groups for colic, reflux, eczema and allergies. However, do take care as it is easy to get lost down a rabbit hole of google search after google search. Or you may find yourself scrolling endlessly through other people's posts about their babies. This can actually increase your anxiety and make you feel even worse. If you're new to food allergies, my newsletter welcome series will take you through the basics, without overwhelming you.
Be a Detective
Keep a diary of everything you and/or your baby eats, depending on whether you are breastfeeding/bottle feeding or have started solids already. Write down all their symptoms. Take photos of suspicious nappies, rashes, vomit, etc. Take videos of your baby crying, straining, struggling to feed. This is all excellent evidence you can show to health professionals so they can figure out what help you need.
If you feel there is something not quite right with your baby, don't try and solve it all on your own. Don't attempt to self diagnose. Get professional advice. Here are some places you can turn to for help with your baby:
- Breastfeeding support - either at a group or with a lactation consultant. They can help you sort out any niggling breastfeeding issues like milk oversupply, poor latch, positioning and so on, and also reassure you about any breastfeeding concerns you may have. They can also check for other issues that could be causing your baby's symptoms, like tongue tie.
- GP - your GP is the person who can help you diagnose your baby's symptoms and refer you on for further medical advice and/or allergy testing if needed. However, bear in mind that only 1 in 5 GPs has had any allergy training, so if they are dismissive, be persistent. Don't take no for an answer!
- Health visitor - health visitors can also make referrals, so if you're not getting anywhere with the GP, try your local clinic instead.
- Private dietitian - if you don't want to wait for an NHS referral, skip the queues and book an appointment with a private dietitian. They can help you with a breastfeeding exclusion diet, or prescribe hypoallergenic formula. They can also give you advice on weaning and allergies.
- Registered nutritionist - a nutritionist can provide advice and guidance on anything relating to diet and health. Nutritionists have to complete a degree in nutrition science and their work is scientific and evidence-based (just check they are a 'Registered Nutritionist').
If you have a baby with colic, reflux, eczema or food allergies, you can feel robbed of your baby's first year. What was supposed to be a magical time turns out to be a nightmare of crying, vomiting, scratching, trying exclusion diets, trying different formulas, trying medications, creams and ointments. It can be very distressing to see your baby suffer and yet it can be difficult to figure out exactly what the cause of their symptoms might be.
Is your baby struggling with symptoms like colic, reflux and eczema? Have you been in this situation in the past? Leave a comment below so that other mums know they are not alone.