Coping with a colicky baby can be a challenge for parents. Remember that colic is common, and it won't last forever. It starts at approximately 3 weeks of age and is usually gone by the time a baby is 3 months old.
When to Call a Doctor
Basic Colic Treatment
If your baby is colicky, there are some initial steps you can take to try to soothe them, including:
- Change your baby's diaper.
- Offer your baby the chance to nurse or a bottle.
- Use a pacifier.
- Burp your baby.
- Hold and rock your baby, or use a swing or bouncer if your baby is old enough.
- Make sure your baby is not too hot or cold.
- If breastfeeding, you can try to cut down on milk, spicy foods, citrus, and caffeine in your diet. (Although colic usually isn't related to anything you've eaten.)
If you're concerned that what your baby is eating may be the cause of their colic, consider the following:
Is it the breastmilk or formula? Some parents worry that what they feed their baby or what they eat if they're breastfeeding can upset their little one. Generally, breastfeeding isn't a cause of colic, but it can cause irritation. If you think it might be the cause of your baby's crying, talk to their pediatrician. Mention any vitamin supplements or herbal remedies you're taking. You may even want to keep a diary of the foods you're eating that could be causing discomfort to your baby.
Help them swallow less air. Try a special bottle designed to reduce gas or a nipple with a smaller hole. Sit them up while they eat so they swallow less air. Remember to burp them during and after feedings.
Use Sound and Motion
If feeding or changing your baby doesn't soothe them, try using sound, motion, or shifting positions to comfort your little one.
Walk or rock. Motion helps calm babies. Walk around with your baby in a baby carrier (the kind you wear over your chest). The combined warmth and rhythm may lull them to sleep.
Hold and rock them or put them in a swing or stroller. The gentle movement may stop their tears.
Put your baby's chair next to (but not on) a vibrating washer or dryer. There are also vibrating soothers that come in the shape of a stuffed animal or a wand. These can be placed near the baby or in the lining of a car seat.
If all else fails, secure them in their car seat and go for a ride. Just make sure you’re not so tired that it’s unsafe to drive.
Use sound to calm your baby by singing or making a shushing sound directly into your baby's ear. Many babies also respond well to the gentle hum of a machine, such as a:
- Clothes dryer (but don’t be tempted to put your baby on top of a dryer -- not even in a carrier or car seat -- because they could fall.)
- White noise from a machine or an app
You could also try classical music or a “heartbeat soundtrack” next to the crib.
Sometimes, it may comfort your baby if you reposition how you hold them. Try shifting positions by:
- Holding your baby facing down with your hand under their belly and their head on your forearm. It's called a football hold.
- Putting your little one in a wearable carrier.
- Swaddling your baby in a blanket or swaddling wrap.
Calm Their Senses
Bright lights and sounds can overwhelm a colicky baby. Your baby may calm down if you:
- Lay them on their back in a dark, quiet room.
- Swaddle them snugly in a blanket.
- Lay them across your lap and gently rub their back.
- Try infant massage.
- Put a warm water bottle on your baby's belly.
- Have them suck on a pacifier.
- Soak them in a warm bath.
Other Colic Treatments
You may have heard that some home remedies can relieve colic. Most aren’t proven and they could hurt your baby. Always talk with your child’s pediatrician before trying something new. These are things you may have heard about.
- Rice cereal in a bottle. This is a definite no-no. It's a big choking hazard, and it's not proven to work.
- Herbal remedies such as chamomile, or gripe water. It’s best not to use these. The FDA doesn’t regulate over-the-counter remedies. You can’t be sure what they are made of, and ingredients aren’t always labeled. Some can have things in them that are very bad for your baby, such as alcohol or opiates. Babies can also have allergic reactions to them. They’re also not proven to work.
- Colic drops. Simethicone gas drops are a medicine designed to relieve symptoms of gas and bloating. These drops can be OK to try if your baby is colicky, but they may or may not help.
Colic Treatment for Parents
Caring for a colicky baby is challenging for any parent, especially if you're already stressed and tired. You need to take care of yourself, too.
- When possible, ask your partner or another family member to take a turn with your baby.
- Don’t get burned out. When you need to, put your crying baby down and take a break in another room for a few minutes to recharge.
- You may want to talk with your pediatrician about probiotic supplements or feeding changes to help with colic.
No matter how frustrated you get, never hit or shake your baby. If you ever feel like you might hurt them, call your doctor right away and ask for help.