When your baby cries, they’re letting you know something is wrong and they need your help. Usually you can figure it out. If they have a wet diaper, change them. If they’re hungry, feed them.
But some babies seem to never stop crying. If that's the case with yours, friends and family may mention the word "colic." Colic may mean your baby's nervous system hasn't matured or that your baby is sensitive to a food you're eating while nursing. But the strict definition of colic is crying for no reason.
How do you know if your baby has colic? It usually starts around age 3 weeks. Babies with colic:
- Cry for as much as 3 hours a day, as many as 3 days a week, often in the early evening or early morning
- Are hard to calm
- May pull up their legs and pass gas and appear to be in pain
Most babies grow out of colic by age 3 months. Until then, you may get some much-needed relief with these fuss-busters.
Sounds That Soothe
Just as loud noises can make your baby cry, soothing sounds may calm them. In the womb, they got used to hearing a heartbeat. Try out different background sounds, like a white noise machine, a recorded heartbeat, the shower, or household appliances like dishwashers or washing machines. If the sound really seems to work, record it so you can play it when your baby is upset.
Babies also respond to familiar voices. Sing your baby a gentle lullaby or quietly hum while you hold them, or as they lie on your chest.
Has your baby ever stopped crying after you picked them up and walked around? If so, you know that motion can be a fuss-buster.
Many crying babies find comfort in smooth, rhythmic movements, like being rocked in a rocking chair, hammock, or infant swing. Take yours for a walk in a stroller or for a car ride -- just be sure they are safely strapped into their rear-facing car seat.
Try out different types of motion to see what soothes your baby best. Don’t place them on top of a vibrating appliance, such as a dishwasher or dryer, because they could fall.
Contact That Comforts
Your baby may relax when they feel like they did in the womb. Swaddle them in a blanket, or gently pat them on the back in a pattern like a heartbeat. Lie down with them against your side, or keep them close to your body in an infant sling as you walk around. A warm bath may also help.
The 5 S's
Pediatrician Harvey Karp, MD, advises using the 5 S's -- a mix of fuss-busting techniques -- to comfort your teary infant. This method may help create a safe, womb-like feeling.
- Side/stomach soothing -- lay baby on their side or stomach. Use this when your baby’s colicky, but don’t leave them unwatched. And never put them to sleep on their side or stomach -- always lay them on their back.
- "Shhhing" sounds
- Sucking (feed them, or give hem a pacifier)
No matter which technique you try, remember that your baby is more likely to stop crying if you remain calm. If you’ve hit your limit, it's OK to put them in their crib and let them cry for a moment while you calm yourself down. Ask for help from your partner or grandparent while you take a guilt-free exercise break, shower break, or breather.
If nothing works, see your pediatrician. There may be a medical reason for crying, such as reflux or GERD, heartburn, or a milk protein allergy or intolerance.