Babies can cry for a few reasons. Most of which are usually easily rectified. Things such as hunger, a wet bottom or wanting some extra cuddles from mommy and daddy. But what happens when their cry becomes unconsolable? Soothing colic in a baby can seem like a daunting task as a new parent. But with the right information, and a few tricks up your sleeve, consoling baby just may be easier than you think.
How Normal Is Colic
First, let’s take just a minute to talk about what colic is. The easiest way to do this, is to remember the rule of 3’s. Colic is defined as a baby who cries 3 hours per day, 3 days per week or more, for 3 weeks or more, for no apparent reason. It can begin between 2-6 weeks of age and will typically resolve itself between 3 to 4 months old.
When it comes to a colicky baby, some experts believe all babies experience colic. But only 20 – 25 % of them are actually diagnosed with colic. This is mostly due to. not meeting the rule of 3’s mentioned above. But that does not mean a baby does not have colic. The defining factor is to what degree you baby cries. As colicky babies often have a louder, high pitched, more urgent sounding cry.
Symptoms of Colic In Babies
Symptoms of colic often include the following:
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Crying at approximately the same time each day, colic often strikes in the evenings. Babies have been known to cry from 6pm to midnight most nights.
- Balling up their fists, clenching their toes, or drawing their legs up to their chest when crying
- Having a tight belly
- Burping often or passing a lot of gas
- Turning bright red when crying
Tips For Soothing Colic In Babies
Now that you know a little more about what colic is let’s talk about how you can help soothe your colicky baby. I do want to say, this list is complied from things I, myself have done. In addition to other parents I know. But that does not mean, it is the end all be all. Every child is different. What works for one, may not work for another. Please review and use these techniques but do not give up all hope if something doesn’t work.
When babies are in the womb, it’s pretty tight quarters. Which I am sure any momma can attest to. (Let’s talk about the numerous times one of babies limbs ended up in your ribs. ) Because of this they get used to being snuggled up cozily. Swaddling your baby can help to calm them, make them feel safe, and help them to sleep more soundly and for longer. Picking the right swaddle is truly up to you. Personally I prefer the ones that take the guessing work out of it. These are typically easier to get tighter, but not too tight, are just feel all around safer to me. Some parents opt for muslin blankets as they can be cooler. Again the choice is up to you.
When swaddling, following the five S’s for babies to get your baby calm in just mere seconds, everytime.
Some pediatricians think that babies have colic because their digestive systems are not fully developed. Especially when in the case of premature babies. Introducing probiotics can be just the thing needed to sooth colic for some babies. Probiotics are good bacteria that are naturally found inside your digestive tract. Talk to your pediatrician about whether or not they think that probiotics might help in soothing baby colic for your little one.
Baby Wearing is great for soothing baby colic
For some colicky babies, they can get a great deal of relief simply from being close to you while you wear them and go through your day. The motion, your scent, and the closeness of feeling their body up against yours can be very soothing.
Most babies who struggle with colic prefer to be held when they are upset, so having a way to wear your baby can give your arms a break, give you a chance to get other things done and soothe your baby all at the same time.
If you’re new to baby wearing it can seem be a little overwhelming in the beginning. As with swaddling, I prefer no guess work. I loved the Lalabu shirt. Super easy to wear and breastfeed in. Plus I didn’t have to try and learn how to wrap this way or that way.
Baby’s get used to constant white noise when they are in the womb. So hearing white noise when they are upset can help to calm them down. It can even be used to help them to fall asleep and stay asleep for longer. White noise is any constant low level sound like a fan, shower, or vacuum cleaner. There are white noise apps that you can download on your phone and use them to help soothe your baby. Or I’ve been seen white noise machines. And don’t forget Youtube. My daughter actually uses her tablet to listen to white noise on Youtube every night to fall asleep.
The sucking reflex can be very calming and soothing for some babies. If it’s not time for the next feeding and your baby is crying try letting them suck on a pacifier. The sucking reflex helps to calm them and can stop their crying, at least for a little while.
I know some lactation consultants will tell you not to introduce one until a certain age, if you’re breastfeeding. The fear is it causing nipple confusion. However there are several solutions (some as simple as changing baby’s position during nursing) that can help if this does occur.
Baby’s get used to constant motion when they are tucked safely away in your belly. This motion becomes like rocking to baby. Which is why most babies love to be rocked to sleep. You can duplicate the constant motion of being in your belly by putting the baby in a swing, a vibrating bouncy seat, rocking them back and forth, or taking them for a car ride. Depending on which motion soothes your babies colic the best, there are bassinets and chairs that will mimic up to five different motions. Most having a timer that can be set for up to 4 hours before shut off.
Baby Massage for soothing baby colic
We all love a good massage. So it should come as no surprise that babies do too. Giving your baby a gentle massage can help to soothe them. Working one into your bedtime routine, adding it after a warm bath for example, can help everyone get some extra z’s. You can use soothing scented lotions or oils. Anything with lavender works very well. You want to make sure to gently massage your baby. I like to start with their head (being mindful of their soft spot) and work my way down to their feet. Slow circular motions on their tummy can help to ease some of their pain and help to soothe them.
Burp the Baby
Gas is often one of the main symptoms of colic. This is due to babies swallowing a lot of air when they are crying. This excessive amount of air can make an already upset tummy feel even worse. Sitting baby on your lap, using one arm to support their neck and another to gently pat their back is one of the fastest ways I’ve seen when it comes to soothing baby colic.
Gas Drops or Baby Bicycle
Gas is very normal in babyhood. Whether a baby has colic or not, knowing a few tricks to soothe it is a great idea. If your baby tends to be gassy, giving them gas drops before each feeding can help. Gripe water is another good alternative.
Not into medications, you can also help your baby to pass some gas by bicycling their legs. Just lift their legs up and gently make a bicycle motion with their legs towards their tummy. One thing we found to work quickly was lifting their legs up and towards the tummy. Getting their legs as close to their tummy, without hurting them of course, as possible. This method always results in several farts being let out. Better out then in, like Shrek always says, lol.
Sometimes a change of scenery can help to soothe your colicky baby. If you have been indoors all day, take them outside and walk around the yard. It’s been proven that a little sunshine can go a long way so if possible, try going for a walk. Don’t fret if this one doesn’t work. For some, taking baby on a walk actually backfired. With all the new stimulus being introduced, it’s easy to see why that may be the case.
If all the things you typically do aren’t working, try finding a new position. Sometimes something as simple as going from your left arm to your right is all baby needs. Or maybe not in your arms at all. Some babies respond very well to being laid on your knees on their tummy. This can help to relieve some of their stomach discomforts. Don’t be afraid to try different positions, all babies are different, and sometimes carrying or holding them a little differently can make the world of difference.
Change Your Diet Or Formula
If you are breastfeeding your baby you might consider making some changes to your diet. Some babies are not able to handle eggs, dairy products, wheat, soy, peanuts, and fish, so if you remove those items from your diet, even just temporarily, your baby may get some relief from their discomfort.
This one is last on my list for a reason. While it may seem super simple, there is a lot of misinformation about eliminating foods from your diet as a breastfeeding mother. While I am not here to say what does or does not work, please make sure to contact a certified lactation consultant if this is the path you chose.
If your baby is formula fed, discuss changing to a new formula with your pediatrician. Sometimes something such as changing to a gentle version of formula can help, and in some cases, you may find out that your baby doesn’t tolerate milk-based formulas very well. More recently the soy that is in some formulas has been identified as the problem.
Soothing baby colic is not a one size fits all
Having a baby with colic is hard, and it can be extremely stressful for everyone involved. So it is more then understandable to be looking for advice / help. As I mentioned above, these are things that have worked for myself or were recommended by fellow parents. These tips can help to soothe your baby’s colic and help keep them more comfortable. But every baby is different, so do what works for you and your baby.
Try not to shame yourself or feel like a bad parent. The newborn stage is hard, but asking for help is the first step in getting some relieve. And finally, it is also okay to let your baby cry for a few minutes safe in the crib if you need a break. Take all the time you need to regroup and recenter. Babies feed off of our energy, so being calm is key to helping soothe any baby with colic.