My daughter was colicky for the first 16 weeks of her life. Colic is awful, plain and simple, and there were many things people said to me during this difficult time that weren't particularly helpful. If you know someone with a colicky baby, avoid the following remarks -- they don't help anyone.
1. My baby cries too, and it's so hard. I'm really sorry your baby cries. It sucks. No parent wants to see his or her innocent, helpless infant cry out. However, there's a very big difference between normal crying and colic. When my baby cried, she didn't stop. Things like swaddling and white noise helped temporarily, but the colic persisted. She didn't just have a few bad days here and there, every day was a bad day for her. So yes, when your baby cries, it's not fun, but don't assume you know how hard it is to have a colicky baby.
2. Have you read The Happiest Baby On The Block? My baby cried for the better part of the day and you really think I didn't research how to soothe my unhappy baby? Yes, I did read the book that was at the top of every single Google search I did. I even watched the DVD. And while the baby-soothing techniques are helpful, even the author of the book says they "may" help colic symptoms. May. I'll give you one guess if reading the book cured my baby's colic.
3. Your baby is upset because he or she can sense your anxiety. Even if there's any truth to this claim, then it would follow that when I handed my baby off to another caregiver, she should have calmed down. Ask some of my friends and family if she relaxed in their arms, and they'll likely tell you she got more upset while they held her. I actually preferred to hold my colicky baby because I spent countless hours learning her cues and I knew how to soothe her best.
4. Stop breastfeeding or change what you're eating. I had so many friends and family telling me this would help my daughter's symptoms. I refused to stop breastfeeding (a decision I don't regret), but I did make major changes to my diet that on most nights left me with a piece of unbuttered bread and a pickle on my dinner plate. Cutting out foods didn't help my baby's symptoms. True colic isn't the same as a food allergy or food sensitivity. My pediatrician was good enough to know the difference and encouraged me to keep feeding my baby the way I wanted to.
5. Colic ends at 12 weeks. You'll see this everywhere when researching colic. And while these words do give hope to parents who feel like this awful phase will never end, it actually did the opposite for me. My daughter's colic didn't end at 12 weeks. It ended somewhere around 16 weeks. A few weeks might not seem like a big deal, but every day that passed after that 12-week mark, I lost a little bit of hope that I would ever have a happy baby. Don't tell someone when it will end, because every case is so different.
6. My baby's colic was much worse than your baby's. Really? Do you really think a comment like that is going to make me feel better? You might as well tell me I'm a terrible mother and I'm not strong enough to get through this rough patch, because that is all I'm hearing when you say something like that to me. My heart honestly breaks for any parent who has a truly colicky baby, so I would never say to anyone, "My daughter's colic was worse than your baby's." Instead, I would give them a hug and tell them I feel their pain.
What do parents of colicky babies really need to hear? It's actually pretty simple. Tell them you're sorry and that it must be devastating to have to hear your baby cry for hours and not be able to do anything to make it stop. Offer to make them a meal or help in some other way. Remember, they have probably tried everything in their power to make this better, so don't offer advice unless you're a professional. Remind them this won't last forever and they will get through it.