As second-time parents, I thought we had the whole “fourth trimester” thing figured out. You know, the first 12 weeks of a baby’s life where they’re adjusting to life outside the womb and the period of time where you, in your sleep deprived state, are just going through the motions to keep this brand new thing alive. Anything goes during those first 12 weeks as you navigate the waters of life with a newborn.
As if you’re not aware, babies tend to cry during the first 12 weeks of life. And if you’re our second-born child, you cry A LOT. Specifically, between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight. And yes, sometimes well into the wee hours of the morning.
We had our second baby in December 2014 and things started out peachy. We adjusted to life with two kids somewhat seamlessly. It appeared we had another easy-going kid on our hands. Once Leighton turned 6 weeks old, though, it was like a switch flipped. At 6 p.m., every night, she turned from a happy, content baby to a fussy, crying, miserable mess and we nothing we did seemed to help calm her down.
Was it colic? She wasn’t crying all day long. Only at night. I wasn’t sure if Leighton’s newfound evening behavior was extreme enough to be labeled as colic. But like clockwork, every night around 6 p.m., she’d turn into what felt like a completely different baby. We’d bounce, rock, nurse, offer bottles, utilize the swing, lay on the floor, turn up the white noise and dangle toys in front of her face in order to calm her down. Then, just as quickly as the fussiness had come on, she’d finally settle and go to sleep, usually between 10 p.m. and midnight.
After one particular trying night, I remembered something I had tossed into a pile that the hospital had given us at discharge. It was a brochure and DVD regarding something called the Period of PURPLE Crying.
Once I read about the PURPLE crying period, it put things into perspective. And if you find yourself going through this, I feel for you. It’s tough. Here are a few things that have helped us survive this trying time (and honestly, most nights we are doing just that – trying to survive…)
- Accept what it is. Knowing this was a normal part of a baby’s development made it a little easier to cope every evening. Knowing it had a name and websites dedicated to educating people about it helped me realize that we’d just have to ride it out. Don’t get me wrong, it’s heartbreaking to not be able to comfort your baby. It tests your patience and it stresses you out but accepting the fact that we really couldn’t do anything about it was key for me.
- Keep a routine. This is the hardest for us. We try to do the same thing every night, but when those things aren’t working, we want to throw in other things to see if they’ll help. Gas drops, gripe water, nursing (again and again…), topping of with a bottle, early bedtime, later bedtime. The list goes on. In the end, we try to stay consistent knowing that eventually, we’ll get back to the routine we want to have for bedtime.
- Follow up with the doctor. After last weekend, I was convinced there was something else wrong with the baby. She slept for 90-minute intervals or less all. night. long. She’d wake as soon as she was laid flat in her crib and only seemed comfortable when held upright. I took her to the pediatrician to rule out an ear infection or other issue that would cause such awful sleep. She checked out perfectly healthy and the doctor was confident this was just part of the PURPLE crying package.
- Walk away. This is most important. It is perfectly acceptable to put the baby down in a safe place and walk away. Hand her off to another family member and take a break. I’ve had ugly cries in the bathroom at 4 a.m. because I couldn’t stand to be a human pacifier for one more second. I snapped at my husband as he offered to help. I know when I need to take a step back to regroup, and that’s OK.
Leighton is now 4 months old, and we are still waiting for her to outgrow this phase. In all honesty, it has actually gotten worse as she’s gotten older but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Everything I’ve read says most babies outgrow it around 4 months so we should be nearing the end – or so I hope! My emotions do get the best of me some nights but I try my hardest to remember that this too shall pass – she is healthy and growing and for that I am thankful.
And if I need a pick-me-up, I read articles like this one that say my baby will be a genius as a result of her poor sleeping habits. Or something like that.