Jordan and her mother Jeannie are a red haired duo. Jeannie, an ER physician, is all energy: petite, wiry and on the go! When I first met her, she told me how sensitive and fiery her little 3-week-old girl was. Here’s how Jeannie described those challenging first weeks: “What is it like to be the mother of colicky baby? I have by no means led a difficult life, but I am a physician and have gone through some rough medical training, where sleep deprivation is the norm. But, nothing in my experience has been even close to the mental, physical and emotional challenge of being the mother of colicky baby! My pregnancy, labor and delivery went fine and the first two weeks of Jordan’s life were relatively easy — she just ate and slept. I was wondering what the big deal was. Then, when she was about 3 weeks old, she ‘woke up’. Jordan didn’t have the typical 6-9PM bouts of fussiness that I had learned about in medical school…she had inconsolable crying punctuated by blood curdling screams that went on all day. She never slept during the day, hated the swing, bouncy seat, and especially the car, so I carried her all day – singing, bouncing and pleading with her to stop crying. One thing that would sometimes calm her was to go for long walks. But, even when outside, she would keep screaming for at least half an hour until she ‘realized’ she was where she ‘wanted’ to be! I would put her in the infant carrier (she’d never ‘consent’ to be in the stroller) and walk around our neighborhood. I loved getting out with her, but I hated to run into people who always seemed to want to heap their unwanted advice on me. ‘Maybe she’s cold?’ ‘Do you think she’s hungry?’ As if I were neglecting my child. I carefully timed my visits to ‘Mommy and Me’ groups so I would be feeding her during most of the class. But, I have to admit that deep inside I was terribly jealous of the mothers whose quiet babies were contentedly just sitting in their car seats. Jordan was super-vigilant. She noticed everything and easily got wound-up and over-stimulated. Yet I was confused because the only thing that even momentarily soothed her during her rages was very vigorous stimulation, like loud sounds or jolting movements. Believe me, it’s tough holding your baby all day long while she screams right in your ear. I’d spend hours sitting with her, calming her in the glider, and once Jordan was quiet, I was afraid to put her down. I even put off going to the bathroom as long as possible for fear of waking the ‘sleeping dragon’ and starting the shrieking all over again. I initially thought she had a stomach problem causing excruciating pain, but a change in my diet and gas drops did nothing. After about 3 weeks of this, we were ‘fried’! So, we asked our Dr. Karp for help.” When Jordan was 5-weeks-old I made a house call to see if I could help. After just a few minutes I understood why Jeannie sounded so weary. Jordan was a little “pistol” and the only thing that worked to calm her down was non-stop intensity. She required jumping not rocking, swirling not swinging and even the all-powerful “ride-in-a-car” only worked when her mom hit every pothole in the street! (Jeannie began to hate red lights because when the car was stopped Jordan would wake up and yell even more!) I sat down with Jordan and I tightly swaddled her…she went ballistic! She did calm, however, when I turned the hair dryer on the loudest setting and began to jiggle her very fast. After a few minutes of that, Jordan relaxed and allowed her eyes to drift closed but, within seconds of slowing my pace, her ranting began all over again. Next, I did fast rocking for about 5 minutes and when she seemed at peace, I slid her, fully swaddled, into the swing (opening the wrap between her legs to make room for the center protective bar). However, it was soon evident that even the swing’s fastest speed was too slow for this dynamo. So, I rocked the swing manually, in fast little jerks, for 30 seconds before letting it continue on the fastest speed with the white noise blasting nearby. With all this, Jordan finally surrendered into sleep (or so we thought). Jeannie and I exchanged smiles; we had “cracked the code”! We almost started “high fiving”. Her face, formerly twisted into a grimace, now angelic. After watching her sleep peacefully for 15 minutes, I turned the annoying roar of the hair drier to the low (slightly quieter) speed so that Jeannie and I could talk for a moment before I left. Within seconds, Jordan began to clench her face into that pained look that usually came exactly 4 seconds before her giant shriek. We recognized our naive miscalculation. Jordan may have been lightly asleep but she wasn’t in the deep “coma-like” slumber we had hoped for. She clearly was still aware of the world around her. However, before she had a chance to scream, I lunged towards the noisy appliance and switched it back to the loudest, harshest speed. In seconds, the meltdown was averted and Jordan returned to her peaceful repose. Over the next ½ hour, Jeannie and I tried several times to turn the hair dryer down, but each time, the sleeping (but aware) Jordan detected the change and we had to kick the speed up again…to “zone” her out! Jeannie continues her recollection: “Calming her the way I did would have looked like ‘baby torture’ to anyone taking a peek through my kitchen window, but she loved it…and, I did, too! Finally, I had a way to put my baby down for 1-2 hours a day without her exploding. Now her daily routine included a long rest period, twice a day, being swaddled, swung, surrounded by sound and looking out the window to the backyard. My husband, David, made a tape recording of the shower to provide the noise she needed and we put the tape player right in front of her on the swing tray. Jordan began to improve at about 9-10 weeks. She had less frequent meltdowns and longer quiet times, but she continued to hate the car, stroller and bouncy seat. I still used the swing, swaddling and loud white noise for naps, or when she was fussy, but now, at 3 months, things are definitely better and improving daily.” By 4 months, Jordan hated the swing but still loved loud white noise and being wrapped at night. She was much easier for her mother to calm, but she was so sensitive she wailed when she was picked up by anyone else. Jordan no longer took naps but she slept very well from 10PM-7AM with one quick feeding at 5AM. By 7 months, Jordan was napping again but, only in the swing or rocking chair. By that time, nighttime swaddling had lost its effectiveness, but she was able to sleep through the night, after just 2 days of “sleep training”. Once Jordan reached the age of 9 months, she was no longer fussy or difficult, but she was extraordinarily sensitive and tenacious. She demanded the right consistency of food and she rejected all green vegetables unless they were mixed with fruit. The first time Jeannie spooned sweet yellow squash into Jordan’s mouth she screamed like she had been given arsenic. Jordan still loved sleeping in the fast swing with ocean sounds from a white noise machine, but by then Jeannie wisely placed padding under the swing just in case Jordan wiggled free and took a tumble.
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