Your baby is healthy, well-fed, and wearing a clean diaper, yet she’s been crying for hours. All babies cry, but colicky babies cry more than usual. This can be really frustrating for parents, but the good news is that colic is temporary and you’re not alone.
Colic typically starts when babies are around three weeks old, and ends when they reach three to four months. The condition is defined by frequent bouts of crying — not caused by a medical issue — in the evening for three or more hours, and on a regular basis.
“The cause of colic is still not well understood. Some think it is because of neurological immaturity or acclimation to the world outside the womb, which can make some babies irritable for a short time span,” Sona Sehgal, M.D., pediatric gastroenterologist.
Some babies are more sensitive to stimulation than others. A colicky baby may also be reacting to gas, acid reflux, or a food allergy. Dr. Sona Sehgal, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Children's National in Washington, DC, suggests that parents discuss the baby’s symptoms with their pediatrician. Your baby’s doctor can help you manage the cause, such as using a different formula or changing feeding positions.
Because the cause can vary, there are no proven treatments for colic. However, you may be able to comfort your baby and shorten crying episodes if you’re able to figure out what triggers their colic.
Here are some techniques recommended by Dr. Sehgal that may help soothe your colicky baby.
1. Tummy Time
Lay your baby on their tummy, across your stomach or lap. The change in position may help calm some colicky babies. You can also rub your baby’s back, which is both soothing and may help gas pass through. In addition, tummy time helps your baby build stronger neck and shoulder muscles. Remember to only put your baby on their tummy while awake and under supervision.
Babies with colic often respond well to being held. Being close to you is comforting. Holding your baby for longer periods early in the day might help reduce colic in the evening. Using an infant carrier allows you to keep the baby close, while keeping your arms free.
3. Repetitive Motion
Keeping your baby in motion may be enough to soothe colic. Try going for a drive with your baby or putting them in an infant swing.
4. Hold Them Upright After Feeding
Having gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be a contributing factor for colic. Babies with GERD experience heartburn because the breast milk or formula is coming back up through their esophagus.
Holding the baby upright after feedings can reduce acid reflux symptoms. Lying on their back or reclining in a car seat after eating can make symptoms worse, causing the baby to be cranky.
5. Using Infant Cereal to Thicken Milk
Infant rice cereal can be added to either breast milk or formula as a thickening agent. This is another way to help reduce acid reflux episodes in babies with GERD.
Add one tablespoon of rice cereal to one ounce of formula or pumped breast milk. You may need to make the nipple hole in your baby’s bottle a tiny bit larger for the thicker liquid. Be sure to check with your pediatrician before trying this.
6. Switching Formula
Discomfort from a milk protein intolerance or allergy may also be partly responsible for your baby’s colic. In this case, switching to an elemental formula or one with a different protein source may make it easier to digest.
It takes about two days to notice an improvement. If your baby is still crying at the same rate, intolerance or allergy may not be the issue.
Take notice of what works (or doesn’t) to soothe your baby. This will help you pinpoint the best solution to restoring peace to your house and comfort to your little one.