All babies cry. Some significantly more than others. However, even if your child never seems to stop crying (despite your best efforts to soothe them) this does not necessarily mean that they have colic. Colic is defined as babies that cry more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks1.
If your child does have colic, it can be an frustrating and difficult experience for parents. It is stressful, upsetting, and can make bonding with your baby harder. But rest assured that colic is just a phase. It starts around the age of 2 weeks and usually goes away on its own by 3 or 4 months, if not sooner1.
If you think your baby has colic then first check with your doctor or healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues that may be the cause of the crying. If everything is okay on that front, here are a 5 tips for dealing with colic
1- Soothe Your Baby With Motion
Motion is thought to help calm babies. Try holding or rocking them gently in a swing or stroller. Alternatively, walk around with your baby in a baby carrier (the kind you wear over your chest). The combined warmth and rhythm may lull him or her to sleep.
If all else fails, it’s thought that the rocking motion of a car might also help. If you’re not too tired to go for a short drive, secure your baby in the car seat and go for a brief ride around the block. The gentle rhythm of a moving car may be just the trick that gets them to sleep.
2- Use sound to calm your baby
No one knows why but many babies respond well to rhythmic sound or the soft hum of a machine. One theory is that the sounds remind them of the rhythmic heartbeat and gentle whooshing noises they heard in the womb. Turn on something with a rhythmic sound like1:
- A fan
- The clothes dryer
- White-noise machine
3- Get rid of distracting lights and sounds
While some babies are comforted by motion and noise others need less stimulation and respond better to quiet, stillness, and darkness. Try placing your baby in a quiet, dimly-lit (but well ventilated) surrounding. Bright lights and sounds can sometimes overwhelm a colicky baby. Your baby may calm down if you try the following1:
- Lay them on their back in a dark, quiet room
- Swaddle them snugly in a blanket
- Lay them across your lap and rub their back.
- Have them suck on a pacifier
- Soak them in a warm bath
Not all these will definitely work for your baby but go down the list and see if one or two of them brings down the level of crying. Try one method for at least a few minutes before moving on to the next one.
4- Infant massage
Many caregivers use infant massage to help relax babies. Doing so might prevent crying and hopefully soothe and comfort them. Many hospitals and childcare centers provide classes on infant massage but here are the basics of how to do it.
How to do an infant massage safely2:
- Find a time when you are relaxed and won’t be interrupted. Be sure the baby is neither full nor hungry.
- Find a comfortable location and position. The room should be warm. Lay the baby on his or her back on a towel on a bed, the floor, or your lap.
- Some parents use a warm (not hot) natural oil such as vegetable or olive oil. Slowly rub a little over the baby’s body. Move your palms in clockwise, rhythmic circles on the baby’s abdomen. Use only light pressure.
- Be sensitive to your baby. A newborn may enjoy only 2 to 5 minutes of massage.
- Do not massage a sick or feverish child.
5- Try singing to your baby
Sing quietly to your baby. You may find that singing the same song or nursery rhyme over and over is soothing. You can also try playing music at a low volume.
Remember, you’ll likely have to try a few different methods to find what works. Try one thing at a time to see if it calms your baby. If the colic still doesn’t settle or you’re unsure about any colic remedies then talk with your child’s pediatrician.
Lastly, do what you can to comfort your baby, but accept that sometimes nothing works. If you feel stressed or worn out, take a quick break. Ask a friend or family member to babysit for just a few minutes -even if it’s 20-30 minutes. This can make a huge difference. Take good care of yourself, and remember that colic will go away soon.
1- WebMD. Could Your Baby’s Crying Be Colic? https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/what-is-colic#1
2- HealthlinkBC. Infant massage. May 4, 2017 https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/d17760717#d17760717-sec