Colic Relief for Baby (and You!)
All babies cry to let their caregivers know they are hungry, tired or need a diaper change. But what if a baby cries uncontrollably, for no apparent reason, on a regular basis? Those babies are often said to have colic.
Colic is defined as intense crying for at least three hours a day, more than three days a week and for at least three weeks. It typically begins when a baby is around 2 or 3 weeks old, peaks at 6 weeks and ends around the fourth month. The evening hours are usually when colicky babies cry the most.
The exact cause of colic is unknown, but experts posit a few theories. According to MayoClinic.org, some possibilities include allergies, lactose intolerance, a developing nervous system and a digestive system that hasn't fully developed.
Colicky behavior often occurs in babies with a sensitive or spirited temperament. Some experts think these babies have the inability to “self-console” or regulate their nervous system, and they get overstimulated easily. As they get older, their nervous system matures and their crying decreases.
How Can Parents Soothe Their Baby?
If your infant has long periods of unexplained crying, the first thing to do is consult your pediatrician to make sure there is not an underlying medical cause. If the diagnosis is colic, the doctor will probably suggest a few ways to try to soothe your little one.
- Calm. Try dimming the lights, giving him a warm bath, swaddling him in a blanket and quieting the house.
- Gentle motion. Babies often respond well to steady, rhythmic motion. Try rocking her, walking with her in a baby chest carrier or a stroller or putting her in a baby swing.
- Soft sounds. Babies who are overwhelmed with the regular noises of the world around them might find comfort in the sounds of a fan, a CD with monotonous sounds, a vacuum in the next room or a white-noise machine.
- Massage. “When my son was colicky, putting him on his tummy over my lap and gently massaging his back gave some relief,” local mom Amanda Miller says.
- Diet modifications. Jenny Solovev, another local mom, found that eliminating certain foods from her diet, including broccoli, cauliflower, beans, dairy and sugar, helped her breastfed daughter cry a little less. Jenny also made homemade tea bags using various seeds and drank the tea every four hours. “In about three days or so, I saw that my daughter became calmer and in much less pain,” she says.
- Pacifier. Some breastfed babies will refuse it, but others might find relief in a binky.
How Can Parents Cope with the Stress?
Let’s be honest here. Listening to a baby cry for hours on end is nerve-racking. The best parents can turn into stressed-out basket cases, ready to shriek along with their baby. So how can you keep from losing your mind?
Ask for help. Turn to your partner, family member, sitter, friend or neighbor and ask them to take over for a bit. Sometimes babies can sense stress in their caregivers, and simply handing the little bundle over to someone else provides instant relief for the baby and you!
Get out of the house. If someone else can watch your baby for a while, use the opportunity to leave. Take a walk, grab a coffee or go for a drive to collect yourself.
Walk away. If you are home alone with your baby, it’s okay to put her in her crib and go in another room to take a few deep breaths.
Parents, be assured that the seemingly endless crying is harmless to babies, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Colic doesn’t last forever and often comes to a halt just as quickly as it started.
As always, please consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns.
A few “don’ts” when it comes to colic:
• Don’t give babies gripe water or herbal remedies. Many of these products are not regulated by the FDA, and the ingredients aren’t always listed.
• Don’t place your baby on a waterbed, pillow or memory foam mattress. Infants may not be able to lift their heads to breathe and run the risk of suffocation.
• Don’t lose your cool. If you feel you might harm your baby, seek help immediately.
Tisha Foley and her husband live in Belton with their two children.