Many babies cry a lot; how do you know if your baby’s crying might be colic?
Babies with colic typically cry a lot in the late afternoon and evening. These crying spells can last for 2-3 hours, multiple times a week up until your baby is about 3-4 months old. Even though the condition is short-lived, it can be a very stressful time for both the baby and the family. The cause of colic is unknown.
The common pattern of colic is:
- The baby cries or screams for a long time, often at the end of the day.
- The baby is hard to comfort. Doing things that help her become calmer earlier in the day no longer help.
- The distress comes in waves - the baby seems to calm then suddenly starts screaming again.
- The baby may arch backwards and either draw her knees up or stretch her legs out stiffly.
It's a good idea to check with your baby's healthcare provider first to rule out any other medical condition that could be causing your baby's crying. For example, food allergies have been known to cause symptoms that are very similar to those of colic. If your baby is healthy, and colic is indeed the problem, there are some things you can try to soothe your baby. Your doctor might also have some suggestions, so don’t hesitate to ask!
Help soothe your little one by trying the following suggestions:
Try giving your baby a gentle massage
Make sure to be sensitive to how your baby responds to a gentle massage. Some may feel overstimulated. Chiropractic care has not shown to be effective in treating colic.
Make some noise – or just keep quiet!
Sometimes making noise can help soothe your baby’s crying. Some babies are comforted by noises that remind them of being in the womb such as rhythmic and swooshing sounds. Your baby might find it comforting to sit in his infant seat near the clothes dryer as it's running or snuggle in a front carrier while you vacuum. Other natural noises like waterfalls have been shown to be effective as well. Keep in mind while some babies like noise, others like peace and quiet. Through trial and error, you’ll learn what works best for your baby.
Some babies are comforted by movement. Gentle motion can be soothing, so try rocking your baby. It might be easier for your baby to settle if you walk around the house carrying her in a front carrier or sling. She may prefer being held higher in the pack, close to your chest and your heartbeat. Try gently bouncing up and down in this position while hugging your baby close.
Your baby might also like going for a walk in a stroller, sling or front carrier so that she can enjoy new sites, sounds and smells. The rhythmic movement might calm her, or, if the baby has had a busy day, some quiet time at home might work best.
Try swaddling your baby before he or she usually begins to experience colic crying. This can help your baby get to sleep and sleep more soundly.
Give your baby a bath
Try giving your baby a warm bath during his or her bout with colic. A warm bath or a spray from a handheld nozzle on the baby’s back can help calm the baby. The rhythmic noise helps too.
Try a pacifier
For some babies, sucking on a pacifier or finger can be the best way to calm them.
Ease a gassy tummy
Make sure to keep your baby upright during feedings and burp your baby often.
Use a (warm) hot water bottle
Some babies enjoy the feeling of warm water against their belly. Fill a hot water bottle with lukewarm water and wrap it in a towel. (Don't make the water too hot – what feels warm to you might be too hot for your baby.) Place it on your belly and let your baby lie on top of you.
Ask your doctor about the use of probiotics
Studies have shown that babies with colic have different gut bacteria than babies who don't have colic. Probiotics have been shown to help some colicky babies. Ask your doctor what probiotic they would recommend.
Colic can be stressful for the whole family. What is important to remember is that even though it may seem like you’re unable to help your baby, you are helping by offering your love and support. Remember, colic is not a result of poor parenting. When it gets to be too much, try taking a break. Have someone else take over for a little while. Express your feelings to your friends and family or those that have gone through similar experiences. What is most important to remember is that colic is temporary. In a matter of weeks or months, your baby’s colic will end and you will have gone through your first major challenge as a parent!