Being a new parent is exhausting enough. After birth, most babies give their parents a 2 week reprieve and are little angels. But at the 2 week mark, what if your little one is crying 3 hours a day, at least 3 hours a week, for at least 3 weeks? Then your baby may have colic.
Colic is poorly understood in terms of “why”. Many theories abound, ranging from neurologic immaturity of the baby, a gut that is revving up but not functioning smoothly, hypersensitivity to changes in the environment, etc. So most of what you read may lead to stand on your head trying to cure it, when it cures itself by 4 months.
But what do you do in the meantime? How do you survive? Well, the first thing is to discuss your baby’s symptoms with your healthcare provider. Many times what looks like colic may represent another condition. We look into the maternal diet if baby is nursing, may tweak the baby’s formula if not. We look for injuries (like a scratched cornea), and we want to make sure baby doesn’t have an infection or other condition resulting in prolonged crying.
When those conditions are sorted out, and ultimately ruled out, here is a list of things you can do to try to alleviate the crying (in no particular order):
First, look to see if there is a pattern – ie a time of day that crying is worse. Look at what is happening in baby’s day at that point. Is there lots of commotion in the house? Is it quiet? Has baby been indoors all day? Has the baby been napping regularly or up for several hours (nothing like fatigue to drive some exhausted crying)? If there is a pattern, try to reverse it. If the house is too noisy, put the baby in a quiet space. If it’s too quiet, put baby in a bouncy, and turn on some white noise (sitting next to the dryer or putting a radio on with static noise, or putting on the heartbeat teddy bear). Heading outside for some fresh air (and the vibration of a stroller) helps both parent and baby. Getting baby down for naps every 2-3 hours may alleviate exhausted crying.
Secondly, develop some comfort holds – it may mean wearing your baby in a carrier or sling for comfort and calm. Holding your baby facing out, with your hands firmly on the tummy may help with getting a burp or gas out. Holding your baby, tummy down, on a warm water bottle, may alleviate tension or cramping. A younger infant may do well with swaddling during a crying bout.
As far as colic drops, gripe water, and other solutions purported to "cure" colic, buyer beware. If you do venture here, please look at the ingredient list of what you want to give your baby, and run it by your health care provider. Some remedies don't list ingredients, and others, imported from other countries, may have ingredients that are dangerous for your baby!
Third, and most important, develop a support system to help you! Colic is EXHAUSTING, and often evokes frustration, anger, anxiety, and disappointment in parents as they struggle to comfort baby, and can’t. It’s important to know when you have reached your limit, and be comfortable asking for friends or family to give you a break. Even 15 minutes away from the crying can help restore your stamina. Later make sure you return that favor!
And lastly, know there is an endpoint to this. Colic won’t last forever. Try to put yourself in the frame of mind, like enduring a very hard semester in school. Put in the work, keep your chin up, and work hard to capture the moments of calm, the new smiles, and the dear moments of the day, and use those to give you strength and hope. You can do it! And babies with colic grow up no differently than those without. Hang in there!
For a link to the Hallmark Home & Family segment that featured this topic go to: