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Surviving Colic

Keep a colic diary

The Colic Clinic provides parents with a diary that divides each 24-hour day into 15-minute sections, each with check boxes for if the child is crying, sleeping, feeding, and/or awake. At the end of every week, the four behaviors are highlighted in four different colors. "This allows a parent to see how much a child is actually crying and when it is most likely to occur."

A diary also can make parents aware of what they may be doing to exacerbate the situation. "A mother may realize that, gosh, she's been feeding the baby 20 times a day, or putting him down every night at 11:00 pm. She might, then, try to modify these behaviors to see if the situation improves."

In the very least, keeping a diary gives a parent a better sense of control and a clearer perspective of a situation that may otherwise seem to them like a shapeless, sleep-deprived abyss.

Give yourself permission not to suffer

When I decided to allow my first child to start crying himself to sleep, I laid myself right down on the floor next to his crib until he uttered his last pathetic whimper. "Somehow," I thought, "I wasn't being cruel if I was miserable right along with him."

Maybe I was jaded the second time around, maybe I was just too darned exhausted from caring for a toddler and a colicky baby. But when Noah refused to stop screaming in the middle of the night, regardless of how I tried to comfort him, I closed my bedroom door and went to bed.

Lester endorses the response: "Mothers must regain ego strength and take time to care of themselves," says Lester. "That means getting adequate sleep. It can even simply mean taking a nice long shower. If the kid cries for 15 minutes while you're bathing, it's OK. You need the time to cool off."

Get relief

Though it's not true for all colicky babies, Noah's crankiest periods were generally predictable. I knew that come three o'clock, the really serious fussing would begin and it would keep going strong until bedtime. With these parameters in mind, I used my very limited babysitting budget to pay a neighborhood teen to simply walk, hold, and stroll with Noah from the onset of witching hour until my husband got home from work.

I, meanwhile, used the down time to chill out with my older son, prepare dinner, and simply enjoy having an empty pair of arms. I also found that just having a fresh face in the house and a quasi-adult to talk to brightened my spirits.

At the Colic Clinic, part of the marching orders for mothers is that they must go out with their partner twice a week -- sans baby. If paying a sitter is out of the question, recruit a close friend or family to watch the baby. And don't consider it a luxury. "This is vital to your well-being and to your relationship's well-being," says Lester, adding that it's perfectly all right to leave a screaming baby behind. "The child will be all right, and the babysitter will survive, too."

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