0 - 12 Weeks

Newborns with colic: how to help your baby and yourself

Baby laying down

If your baby cries and cries and cries—sometimes for hours, despite attempts to calm them—they may be among the up to 40% of infants with colic.

The word ‘colic’ derives from the ancient Greek word for intestine, as colicky babies were once believed to have tummy troubles. Today’s thinking is that the condition isn’t necessarily connected to a baby’s digestive system. While different theories exist, the exact reasons for colic remain unknown.

Having a colicky baby can be distressing. Fortunately, it doesn’t last forever, and there are zero short- and long-term effects.

The facts on colic

  • Colic is defined by the “rule of three”: 3 hours or more of inconsolable crying for 3 or more days per week for 3 or more weeks.
  • An estimated 10 to 40% of babies suffer from colic.
  • Colic tends to peak around the 6-week mark; most babies outgrow it between 3 and 6 months.
  • Colic rates are identical across genders, socioeconomic status, gestational age, and feeding methods (formula vs. breast milk).
  • Colic is referred to as a “diagnosis of exclusion,” which means a doctor can only diagnose it after ruling out other causes.

How to help your baby

Start by checking with your pediatrician, who can help determine whether there’s a medical explanation for your baby’s persistent crying.

Try the 5 S’s outlined by pediatrician Harvey Karp, M.D.: shushing (or a white-noise machine); swaddling; sucking (pacifier, bottle, or nipple); side-lying (supervised; sleep is always on their back), and swinging gently back and forth. These actions help mimic the conditions of the womb and may help soothe your baby.

Use motion to calm them. This could mean driving around in your car, walking with your baby strapped to your chest, or rocking in a glider.

To expel any trapped gas, try burping them or bicycling their legs: when they’re on their back, gently bend one knee in toward their chest, then extend it as you bend the opposite knee; continue to alternate legs. 

Have a regular and soothing bedtime routine. Babies with colic usually aren’t great sleepers, and not getting enough sleep only makes them crankier. Nighttime feedings should be “all business”—keep the lights dim, don’t talk or play, and get them back to sleep as quickly as possible.

Try to just be there. As hard as it can feel to be with a baby who won’t stop crying, you do so much for them by holding them—even if they continue to wail.

How to help yourself

Know that you’re doing your best. Colic can be really hard on parents and caregivers. It can feel stressful, aggravating, and hopeless. Know you’re trying and don’t think it signifies anything about you or your parenting ❤️

Accept help. Caring for a colicky baby isn’t a one-person job. When family, friends, and neighbors volunteer to help out, take them up on their offer. 

Get some heavy-duty, noise-cancelling headphones. When your colicky baby cries, all they really need is to be held—but listening to the sound for hours and hours can be extremely draining. Headphones that either play music or simply cancel out most sound can make holding your baby while they cry more tolerable.

Notice your limits (without judgment) and respond. Shaken baby syndrome is a severe condition often caused by caregivers at the end of their rope. If you feel your fingers tense or you put your baby down a little too hard, place them in a safe location (such as their crib) and step away. It’s okay to let your baby cry while you compose yourself. If possible, give your baby to someone else for a bit.


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Posted in: 0 - 12 Weeks, 3 - 4 Months, 5 - 6 Months, Lovevery App, Social Emotional, Newborn Care, Safety, Baby Care, Child Development

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