profile picture of Dr. Cheryl Wu
Dr. Cheryl Wu

Tips For Surviving Colic?

My baby is colicky. I’m stressed, and I don’t even like going out because I’m afraid baby will start crying and not stop. What are your best tips for getting through all of this?

Colic is usually defined when a baby cries a minimum of three hours a day, three days a week, during the first three months. Now that’s a lot of crying! And let’s be honest, a lot of stress on mom and dad. In fact, some pediatricians will tell you they can diagnose colic based on the parents — they're almost always very jumpy and distressed.

Some babies who are very fussy and difficult to control have underlying issues, like a  protein allergy or reflux, so you should definitely see the pediatrician to rule out anything like that. Treatment can often help. But if there isn’t a good explanation for baby’s crying, the good news is, most babies grow out of colic by the time they’re three months old.

Use the Four S’s

Babies tend to be soothed by these tactics:

Shushing Any loud (but not too loud) white noises may remind baby of being in utero and help calm her. Baby sound machines and some baby swings and toys have sounds like rain or thunderstorm that may work. Some parents even use radio static or a hair dryer or vacuum cleaner to make a shushing sound.

Swinging. Some babies really respond to motion. Try a baby swing or taking baby for a car ride if she’s being fussy. Some babies also like vibration sensations, so one of those vibrating seats or bassinets could work too.

Swaddling. Make baby nice and cozy by creating a tight intrauterine-type environment with a snugly wrapped receiving blanket.

Sucking. Baby may likely be calmed by sucking on a pacifier, breastfeeding or gnawing on her own hand.

Have a Bag of Tricks

You might lose your mind if you stay inside with baby all the time, so learn to leave the house — but not without a bag of tricks to help baby. Whether they’re chimes that hang from her carrier, rattles, pacifiers or portable sound machines, pack things in your bag that soothe her. Knowing you’ve got a stash of weapons to combat colic will make you feel less stressed when you’re out and about.

Seek Out Others Dealing With Colic

Parenting a baby with colic can be very isolating, but remember, this doesn’t just happen to you. Definitely reach out to other parents dealing with this problem. Try meeting other parents on The Bump boards or at local playgroups or parks. Not only can you learn tricks and tips from them, but you can commiserate and support each other along the way.

Try Some New Tactics — Even If They’re Weird

Parents have used some strange methods to calm their babies, including running an electric drill and carrying an industrial hair dryer everywhere they go. Go ahead and try everything, no matter how weird it is — as long as baby’s doctor says it’s 100 percent safe, of course. You might have to get over a little embarrassment, but as long as you find something that works, go with it.

Use the Process of Elimination

If baby’s out of control, go through the list of things that could be wrong. Of course, being hungry or tired or needing her diaper changed are high up on the list, but some babies are simply more sensitive than others. Baby could be too hot or too cold — some get annoyed at something as small as the tag on a onesie. Some simply have different preferences than others and maybe don’t like being swaddled or prefer the lights to be on or off. Test it out, and over time, you’ll learn what your baby tends to prefer. After all, you both are still getting to know each other.

Learn to Put Baby Down

Sometimes you really just need a break — otherwise you’ll go crazy. And there are going to be times when you feel like nothing you’re doing is working. If you’re starving, you need to take a shower or brush your teeth, or you’re crying, you need to put baby down. Put her in her crib, where she’s safe, and take a break. Don’t feel guilty — a lot of new moms become so focused on caring for baby that they forget about taking care of themselves, and that’s important. Crying never kills anybody! If you’re on maternity leave and your partner is working, when he comes home, be sure to pass baby to him. Call other friends or family members to help out too — it's too much pressure to do everything yourself, even if you think you want to.

Be Honest With People

A lot of new parents don’t like to talk about their babies’ colic, because they don’t want to scare people away. But it’s other people who’ll help you through it — and you have nothing to be embarrassed about! Chances are, your baby’s crying bothers you more than it bothers everyone else. And venting about it will help you release some stress. Plus, you might get more offers for help that way.

Remember that this will be over one day, and you’ll have gotten through it. My son had colic as a baby, and he kicked our butts. Now he’s a spirited, fun-loving kid.