As most parents know, colic is intense crying that never seems to end. It leaves parents feeling terribly helpless and for new parents, it can be especially frightening. Here, your beautiful little baby seems to be in so much pain, and the piercing cry is almost too much to bear. It most often seems to happen when everyone is tired and cranky-early to late evening. It generally subsides when the baby is three months old.
Often parents think their baby has colic when it could just be general fussiness. I used to think my babies had colic, but the one missing ingredient was the classic ” knees pulled up to the chest.” They never did this, so I can now say, they didn’t have colic. Yet their early evening, endless crying, left me feeling the same way a parent of a colicky baby would feel.
What do Professionals Say Causes Colic and Fussiness?
- Intestinal pain.
- Swallowing too much air when they start to cry, which in turn causes gassiness, which leads to more crying.
- Tension that builds throughout the day.
What Can a Parent or Caregiver Do?
- Prepare yourself and your environment for the possibility you will have a fussy/colicky baby. Understand that it is normal and many if not most, babies experience it. You are not alone which is so good to remember because you may feel alone. Talk to your baby’s dad and make sure he understands there could be lots of crying. Keep in mind fussiness begins late in the afternoon and can go long into the evening. Prepare an early dinner for yourself, get other children settled, set up a comfortable room in the house where you have things to keep you occupied and distracted (movies, magazines, snacks) while you soothe your baby.
- Probiotics have been found to relieve colic in some babies.Of course this is never advised unless the pediatrician agrees.
- Feed baby small amounts at a time and burp a lot.
- Remove cow’s milk from the nursing mom’s diet, and eventually other things such as, caffeine and spicy and gassy foods, if need be.
- Use a white noise machine which can calm a baby as it re-creates sounds of mom’s womb.
- Sucking-whether it be breast, bottle, or pacifier, this is found to trigger the calming reflex.
- Swaddling-babies feel they are back in their mom’s body which brings them comfort and warmth.
- Side Sleeping-lying baby on her left side can aid in digestion and inhibit the Moro, also called startle reflex.
- Swinging-movement such as a swing, car ride or rocking reminds baby of his first home.
- Shushing– while you walk, hold, or lie with your baby, this sound emulates what he heard in the womb.
As a Last Resort
If none of these things work, it’s best to lay your baby down in his bed and leave him to cry. It may sound cruel, but often your baby needs to cry. Being exposed to so much stimulation throughout the day can be very overwhelming and crying can help relieve this tension. You can try this in five to ten minute intervals. Put him in bed for five to ten minutes, then try to soothe him for five to ten minutes.
Interestingly, a study showed that babies in the hospital had less colicky type behavior than babies who were at home with their parents. The study concluded that babies in the hospital cannot be attended to the way they are at home. Therefore, they are exposed to less stimulation, which may actually be the root of the problem.
Remember to take care of yourself. You are still recovering from childbirth and you need your rest to make sure your milk supply is adequate, so enlist the help of others if you feel overwhelmed.
Sleep and the Colicky Baby
So now that the colic has subsided you may run into sleep difficulties. This is one of the things that can happen because colicky babies are held and comforted a lot. Many have not learned self-soothing skills, and therefore have negative sleep associations, and often a big sleep debt to make up. At four months of age, a baby’s circadian rhythms develop and it is now important for them to be on a solid nap and bedtime schedule, so that they get the most restorative and consolidated sleep.
If by the age of four months your baby is still not able to settle on her own, wakes frequently throughout the night, wakes very early in the morning, or is not napping properly, you may need to consider sleep training. Sleep training will teach your baby not only to sleep well, but to love sleep, and this is key to a well-rested, happy and healthy baby!
Does your baby have colic or fussy periods throughout the day? Let us know what techniques you implement.
Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland