Mom Triumph: Learning to Soothe My Baby
After Madison was born: I knew I had to go back to work six weeks later, so I tried to spend as much time with her as I could. But about a week after I brought her home, she started crying almost nonstop. I couldn't figure out how to help her, and I felt overwhelmed. Plus, I was exhausted from getting up every few hours at night to breastfeed.
What I tried: The usual techniques, such as holding her and rocking her. Everyone told me that swaddling a baby can give her comfort, but Madison would try to kick her way out of it. I tried massage, but that just seemed to agitate her. Taking her for a ride in the car worked, but just until we got home -- the second the car stopped, she'd start up again.
Talking to an expert: At one of Madison's appointments, I asked her doctor if it was normal for her to cry so much. He told me she didn't have colic and was healthy, so as long as I was meeting her basic needs (Is she hungry? Does she need to be changed?), then maybe she just needed to cry. I was relieved that she was healthy, but it still hurt to hear her wailing.
A last resort: I heard from friends that if I just left her in her crib, she'd cry herself
out in 15 minutes. When I tried that, I held out for an hour before I couldn't take it anymore. I finally went in and started rubbing her back and talking to her, but that didn't work, either.
How I felt: Like the worst mom in the world. My baby was counting on me, and I was letting her down. Every other mom had it figured out from the beginning, and I was a failure. I see now that this was irrational, but at that point I was so exhausted I wasn't thinking straight.
Getting support: My husband, Aaron, and my mom were a big help. They couldn't calm Madison down, either, but they kept telling me that it was okay and that it wouldn't last forever -- every new mom goes through this. They also reassured me that this wasn't a reflection at all on what kind of mom I was. It helped to hear that.
What finally worked: About six weeks after she was born, I happened to hold Madison vertically against me, with her head resting on my chest, near my heart. Until then, I'd mostly been using a cradle hold. I swayed from side to side. After five minutes or so, she quieted down and fell asleep. It's hard to believe that after everything I'd tried, something so simple would work! This has done the trick ever since -- she still prefers to be held upright, a little lower down against my body so her head lies on my chest rather than by my shoulder.
What I'd do differently: I wouldn't be so hard on myself. Even though every mom I talked to said she felt just as horrible as I did in the beginning, you tend not to believe them when you're in the middle of it. But it's the truth, so just give yourself some time. Now even I feel like a pro -- or I will until my second child comes along!