How To Cope With A Colicky Baby: Tips For Enduring This Challenging Period

Colic is a difficult diagnosis for many parents to hear. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), colicky babies fuss for no apparent reason. They’ve been fed and have a fresh diaper. They’ve just napped. And yet, they cry, and nothing their parents do seems to help.

Does this sound familiar? Do your babies fuss and cry endlessly, falling asleep only when they’ve exhausted themselves, or when you’ve driven them around in the car? As research has not determined a sole cause of colic yet (and perhaps never will) parents must find ways of coping. The first step, however, is a trip to your pediatrician, to ensure your baby has colic, and not an underlying medical condition causing the problem.

In this post, we outline symptoms of colic, and offer strategies for coping if your baby has it.

Symptoms of colic:

1. Your baby cries constantly.

Babies need burping after eating. Colicky babies aren’t soothed after burping or passing gas. They continue crying, even when all their needs are met.

2. They cry so hard they turn a bright shade of red.

This is tough on parents because it seems as if their baby is in pain. If your doctor has ruled out medical issues, it’s likely colic.

3. The baby draws up their knees and makes tight fists.

These are indicators that the baby has colic. Their movements are intense and almost dramatic because they are so unhappy and uncomfortable.

Potential causes of colic:

As we said, researchers have not settled on one root cause. However, some reasons listed here are considered possible triggers for making colic worse.

  • Sensitivity to formula or breast milk.
  • Overstimulation from noise in their environment.
  • A not-yet-fully-developed nervous system or digestive system.

Coping Strategies:

It is fair to say that, because colic has no long term effects on babies, it is parents who, in certain respects, suffer through it the most. After all, no parent wants to see their infant seemingly suffering, and not be able to calm and soothe them.

Still, there are ways you can ease their symptoms. And, just as importantly, calm your own fears that your baby is in great distress.

1. Reach out for help.

First, talk to your doctor. Once you know it is “just” colic and not something more serious, you’ll feel less anxious. Also, your doctor can show you how to massage your baby, to ease cramping and gas.

2. Feed your baby in an upright position.

 Trapped gas may be part of the baby’s discomfort, and holding them upright when feeding helps formula go down more easily. This can be difficult when breastfeeding, so once they’ve had enough, hold them up and rock them gently. This encourages burping.

3. Walk around with them while they cry.

Movement is often soothing – that’s why babies fall asleep so easily in a moving car. If walking doesn’t do the trick, try driving around for a while until they nod off.

4. Switch formulas.

Some experts suspect that certain proteins in the formula may make colic worse. Try changing brands, and see how your baby does on a new one. It may also help to warm the formula to room temperature.

5. Keep an account of what you’re eating.

If breastfeeding, what you ingest affects your baby. Keep a daily journal of what you’re eating and drinking, and jot down any changes in your baby’s colic – better or worse – after you’ve had a specific food. Chocolate, for example, is a stimulant, and it may make colic worse because it overstimulates babies. The jury is still out on how mom’s diet affects colic, but all avenues are worth exploring if they lessen your baby’s discomfort.

6. Keep their environment quiet.

If your baby is overstimulated, it will make colic worse. Keep the nursery quiet, and ask the family to lower sounds (like the TV volume) when the baby is fussing. If everyone pitches in to help and cope with a colicky baby, the onus doesn’t fall on one person.

7. Feed your baby less, but more frequently.

Some experts think giving a colicky baby less food in one sitting may help them process it more easily, and produce less gas. Try to get your baby on a routine of extra feedings more often – it just might make eating easier for them.

8. Don’t feel guilty about needing a break.

Many parents get frustrated and overwhelmed when dealing with a colicky baby. It’s natural and understandable – hearing your baby cry incessantly and feeling powerless to help is a recipe for anxiety. It’s vital that you ask your support system – your partner, your nanny, your extended family – to take over when you feel you just can’t cope for another hour. Getting some exercise, taking a nap, or going out somewhere quiet to recharge your emotional batteries are all healthy options when caring for a colicky baby. Chances are you haven’t been getting lots of regular sleep, so taking a break and then returning restored is the best solution for everyone.

9. Remember: colic isn’t curable, but it’s temporary.

When you’re in the midst of caring for a colicky baby, the days and nights can feel interminable. Try to focus on two things: there are no long term consequences of colic, and it will pass. It can happen quite suddenly; one day you’ll realize that your infant hasn’t fussed or cried for three or four hours. A sense of relief washes over you because you’ll know this trying time is on the way out.

10. Ask your pharmacist about over the counter drops.

These can ease gas and cramping, and make your baby more comfortable. Be sure they are okay for your infant by placing a quick call to your pediatrician.

Parents face many challenges when they bring a newborn baby home. If colic is one of them, it’s crucial that you know it is no one’s fault, that this stage will pass, and that having someone to spell you is how you’ll come through to the other side. As time goes on, your baby will grow calmer, quieter, and happier every day.