Life with a newborn can be difficult. But when your baby has colic difficult takes on a whole new meaning. Hours of constant crying is enough to wear down even the most patient of parents.
I was lucky enough not to experience colic with my first son. He was incredibly relaxed and easy going as a baby and rarely cried. Whenever I would tell people what an easy time I had with him they would respond with some variation of, don’t expect to get that lucky the next time around.
They were right. Our second son is the cutest chubby little baby who I love to death. He also has colic and will cry inconsolably for hours on end.
For those of you lucky enough to not know what Colic is, it’s generally defined by the rule of 3s. Crying for three hours a day, three days a week, for at least three weeks. Unfortunately one of the only things that truly cures colic is time. But luckily babies will normally begin to stop showing symptoms of colic around 10-12 weeks.
Although there is no magic cure for colic there are several steps you can take to help soothe your baby and reduce some of the discomforts and crying.
Below are 5 ways I help sooth my son during episodes of colic. They don’t always stop his crying completely but they can help to shorten the duration and bring him comfort. These tips aren’t just for colicky babies. They also work for any baby that is experiencing fussiness.
Babies love the feeling of being tightly swaddled. Newborns are used to the cramped living conditions inside your womb. Limited space meant they had to keep their arms and legs tucked in close to their body. Swaddling helps recreate that feeling which helps to calm and relax them. When your baby is fussy swaddling along with movement (more on that below) is sometimes enough to quickly calm them down.
Newborns also have something called, Startle Reflex. This reflex causes them to throw their arms and legs into the air and then tense their body. It’s a natural reflex that happens for a few different reasons including being startled by a loud noise, a change in lighting, or sudden movement. If you baby startles while sleeping it will normally wake them up. Swaddling them tightly will prevent this. The Startle Reflex begins to decrease by 12 weeks and is normally no longer present by 3 or 4 months. Which happens to also be around the time you begin to stop swaddling your baby.
I recommend cotton/jersey swaddle blankets or a “magic swaddle” over swaddle blankets made from muslin material. In my experience muslin swaddle blankets do not get a tight enough swaddle. Which allows your baby can easily break their arms and legs free and reduce the effectiveness of swaddling.
Like swaddling, movement helps to recreate the conditions of being inside your womb. You may have noticed that during pregnancy your baby was often more active in the evening and during the night. This is because they were rocked to sleep by your movement during the day. When you were relaxing at the end of the day the lack of movement caused your baby to wake up.
Try holding your baby close to your chest while walking and giving them a very gentle bounce. This gives them the movement they are used. It also provides the added comfort of being able to feel your heart beat.
Another way to provide movement is to use a baby swing. I honestly think a baby swing is the greatest invention ever. When my son is crying and I cannot calm him down on my own I will swaddle him and place him in his baby swing. More often than not the combination of the swaddle and the movement from the swing is enough to put him to sleep and stop his crying.
Excess gas in your baby’s tummy is often one of the causes of colic. Symptoms of excess gas in babies include excessive crying, a hard belly, and pulling their legs into their stomach and arching their back.
Our little guy gets pretty gassy so when he starts crying my first response is to pick him up and try to get a burp out of him.Often he lets out a huge burp as soon as I pick him up.
Burping helps let out any excess gas that has built up in his system. He tends to calm down quickly after letting out a burp.
There are times when I cannot get him to burp no matter how hard I try. If I can’t get him to burp after he has finished a bottle or when he is showing signs of pain from gas, I’ll use gas drops to help work any excess gas out of his system.
Gas drops can be found at almost any grocery store or pharmacy. There are several different brands you can buy at varying prices. Since all drops contain the same amount of the anti-gas drug Simethicone I use the generic Walgreens brand which is less expensive.
During a particularly bad episode of crying, I was frantically searching the internet for any tips that could help calm him down that I hadn’t already tried. I found an article discussing the use of probiotic in infants with colic. It’s thought that one of the causes of colic is the lack of good bacteria in their stomach. Studies have shown the use of probiotics reduced the amount of crying in infants by more 50%.
After some additional research, I found Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops (get it HERE on Amazon, or at any pharmacy). They had good recommendations in several parenting groups so I decided to give them a try. Within a few day of using the drops, there was a noticeable reduction in the amount he cried and he no longer was wreathing in pain. It hasn’t stopped his crying completely but it definitely does help. And I will take any help I can get.
If you try a probiotic look for one that contains the strain of probiotics called, Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis. This is not by any means a medical recommendation, it is just merely my advice based on research and personal experience. Please talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions regarding the use of probiotic drops.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your child’s pediatrician when they show symptoms of colic. There could be an underlying medical issue such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or food allergies that are causing your baby to be colicky. Talking to your child’s pediatrician can also provide you with peace of mind and reassurance.
Another important thing to remember when your baby has colic is to take care of yourself. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one can deal with a child screaming and crying for hours on end without it taking a physical and emotional toll on them. Have your partner, a family member, or close friend lend a hand so you can take some time to relax.
Develop a self-care routine to help you relax during those precious quiet moments. Even spending 10 minutes on self-care a day can make a world of difference. Check out these 5 Practical Self-care Tips for Postpartum Moms for ideas.
If you have any other tips or tricks to help soothe a colicky baby I would love to hear them. Please let me know in the comments below.