Friday, November 11, 2005

Hush little baby

Today's New York Times had an interesting article on the variety of cultural remedies that can be found for colic in its multi-ethnic, cross-cultural streets. It's worth reading just to see how many strategies women around the world have developed to deal with the nightmare of a child that won't stop crying.

[L]ittle New Yorkers are being comforted with Colombian cinnamon tea, soothed with Egyptian recipes for rosewater and calmed with infusions of anise seed, fennel, chamomile, or "hierba buena," a kind of spearmint plant that Latin American mothers and baby sitters seek out in supermarkets. Others are dosed with "gripe water," the elixir once bootlegged from the former British Empire, and now sold over the Internet in nonalcoholic versions with names like "Colic-Ease" and "Baby's Bliss."

Sure, methods from the heyday of America's machine age are still popular: place the crying baby atop a vibrating washing machine; run the vacuum cleaner full blast near the cradle, or take the wakeful infant on a midnight ride (preferably on a route without stoplights).

But now, with more immigrants in the city than ever before, so too are there more ancient anticolic traditions practiced down the block: Chinese acupressure, Haitian belly binding, Mexican swaddling, Indian oil massage, African cowry shell bracelets. And just as exotic foods from distant cultures enter the city's culinary mainstream, these methods are being examined and tried by the city's natives and nonimmigrant transplants, desperate for any way to stop the screaming.

Removed from the situation, I think it should be some comfort to mothers of fussy babies to see what a universal, normal situation it is. I can remember being in the throes of it, however, and nothing mattered but putting safe space between me and that baby!


Blogger Julie said...

Ugh. I'm so glad those days are over. I remember a couple of cute baby outfits that I came to hate after staring at them for so long during the wee hours.

I do like the term "gripe water" though. It sounds like some kind of old-fashioned patent remedy.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Casey said...

It is comforting to learn that colic is a universal experience. I think my daughter's incredible fussiness (for 5 MONTHS!) played a major role in my ppd simply because I felt so inadequate as a mother. I had read so many books and articles asserting that newborns don't cry if they're held enough and nursed on demand. No amount of baby-wearing, nursing, or cuddling soothed my little girl. It was heartbreaking.

12:08 PM  

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