How to Soothe a Colicky Baby
Tips to help ease your little one's discomfort
Colic is a condition that causes recurrent periods of crying and apparent pain. Fortunately, it rarely lasts beyond your baby's third month, and usually peaks at about four to six weeks of age. Symptoms include irritability, and long, inconsolable bouts of crying, usually starting in the early evening and lasting for hours. There may be signs of abdominal pain, such as gassiness or spitting up. No one is really sure of the cause, but many physicians cite an immature nervous system, hypersensitivity to the environment, and sensory overload, according to Jennifer Shu, M.D., pediatrician and Parents advisor. Sometimes the culprit may be the baby’s diet—either something the nursing mother is eating, or a sensitivity to formula. To soothe your child during bouts of colic:
- Walk him kangaroo-style. With your baby in a front carrier (facing either in or out, depending on what seems to be his preference) walk him around the house, or, if weather permits, outside.
- Hold him in the "colic carry." Position your baby so that his stomach rests on your forearm and his head is supported in the palm of your hand or the crook of your arm.
- Rock and roll him. Rock your baby in your arms. Take him for a ride in the car, or for a walk in his stroller. The steady rhythm of any kind of movement is soothing.
- Make good vibrations. Place your child, securely strapped in his car seat, on top of a running clothes dryer, being sure to hold the seat to prevent it from vibrating off the machine.
- Swaddle him. Some babies respond well to being wrapped tightly, especially while being rocked.
- Give him a massage. Lay him tummy-down across your legs and gently rub his back to help release pent-up gas.
- Play "white noise." A single sound, such as a recording of rain or even the sound of a hair dryer, can calm your baby.
- Reduce outside stimulation. Lower the lights, reduce the noise around the house, and speak or sing softly to your baby.
- Provide warmth. Place a warm (not hot) washcloth on his tummy or give him a warm bath.
- Pedal his legs. With your baby on his back, gently move his legs in a pedaling motion to help him release gas.
- Adjust his diet. If you're nursing and if none of the above seems to help, try changing your own diet by eliminating dairy products, caffeine, onions, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, and spicy foods. If your baby is formula-fed, ask your pediatrician about switching to a soy-based, predigested, or hypoallergenic formula, like Similac Alimentum.
- Calm yourself. If all else fails, put the baby down, make yourself a cup of tea and calm yourself down. Don't let him pick up on your own anxiety. Then snuggle your baby and realize that you're the best person to comfort him and if you can't do it, nobody can.