To you, swaddling might feel like being in a straitjacket. But to a crying, fussy baby, it’s like being back in the womb. How tight do you wrap this baby burrito? Snug enough so they can’t wriggle their arms and legs free. Make sure to always place them on their back. Stop swaddling when they are able to roll over on their own.
Parents tend to cradle a colicky baby face-up, but that may not help. Instead, hold their face down -- with your hand under their belly and their head on your forearm. The pressure on their tummy can help relieve uncomfortable gas.
Turn On White Noise
A little white noise can help your baby feel like they are back in the womb. There was a lot of whooshing and background noise in there. To re-create these soothing sounds, turn on a fan, put the bassinet near the dishwasher, run the vacuum, turn on the shower, or tune a radio to static. You want a constant, low-level sound.
Infants have a strong sucking instinct, so a pacifier can calm your colicky baby. Bonus: Studies show binkies may help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Make this sound right in your colicky baby’s ear. Don’t be timid. Shh loudly enough so that your baby can hear you over their own racket.
Take a Ride
Babies in the womb get used to a lot of motion. Get your baby moving and they may go right to sleep. Put them in a swing. Cradle them in a rocking chair. Lay them in a vibrating infant seat. You might even set out for a drive in the car, but don’t hit the road if you’re too tired.
The soothing power of your own touch can work wonders on a colicky baby. Many babies love skin-to-skin contact. And studies show infants who are massaged seem to cry less and sleep better. Just undress your baby and use slow, firm strokes over their legs, arms, back, chest, and face. It may calm you down as well. Check with your pediatrician before using any oils or lotions on your baby.
For a gassy baby, rub their tummy in a clockwise motion, or bicycle their little legs to relieve some pressure.
Wear Your Baby
In many cultures, infants spend much of the day in slings on their mothers' backs or chests. When you put a colicky baby in a sling or carrier, they can snuggle close and -- with luck -- may be lulled to sleep by your movement. Slings can also give your aching arms a rest or free a hand to fix a sandwich. just remember that there should be no cooking, eating, or drinking anything hot while carrying baby in the swaddle.
Give Them a Burp
A crying baby can gulp down a lot of air. That can make them gassy and bloated -- and make their crying worse. Burp them with gentle thumps on their back. The classic position -- with the baby’s head over your shoulder -- works, but can leave a trail of spit-up down your back. Switch things around: Lay your baby face down across your lap, or sit them up. Support their chest and neck with one of your arms.
Take a Breather
Night after night with a colicky baby is hard on parents. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and not up to the job. If nothing seems to work, take a break. Hand the baby off to your partner, a family member, friend, or sitter. When that’s not an option, remember that it’s OK to let your baby cry in the crib for a little bit while you collect yourself.
See the Doctor
If you’re concerned about your baby’s crying, take them to the doctor. Your pediatrician can give you guidance and rule out any medical causes. Odds are there’s no special reason. Some babies just cry more than others. So the next time your baby’s wailing makes you wince, remember two things: It’s not your fault, and it won’t be like this forever.
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(1) Seth Joel/Photographer’s Choice
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(5) Karan Kapoor/The Image Bank
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(11) Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library
Karp, H. The Happiest Baby on the Block, Bantam Books, 2002.
Murkoff, H., Eisenberg, A., Hathaway, S. What to Expect The First Year, Workman, 2003.