All newborn babies cry — it's just a fact of life. But if your baby seems to be crying more than usual and nothing you do seems to soothe them, he or she might have colic. Colic is a condition that occurs when a well-fed, healthy baby wails inconsolably for hours on end, and it can last up to three or four months.
Doctors often diagnose colic by the "rule of three": a healthy baby cries for at least three hours a stretch, three days a week for three weeks or more in a row. Colic is a common condition that occurs in one in five infants. It's not a disease, there's no cure (except the passing of time) and doctors don't know what causes it, which can be frustrating to parents who just want to calm their distressed child.
The good news is that colic doesn't last forever. Most cases peak when the infant is six weeks old and begin to go away when they're 10-12 weeks old. Most colicky babies seem to grow out of it by the time they're three or four months old.
In the meantime, if you're caring for a colicky baby, there are a few things you can do to give your child — and yourself — some relief.
Talk to your baby's doctor. Start by talking to your pediatrician about what and how your baby is eating. What your child consumes doesn't cause colic, but it can make it worse. Sit your baby up while they eat and remember to burp them after feedings. You may also work with a Board Certified Lactation Consultant to learn positions and techniques that may reduce colic symptoms in the breastfed baby.
Gentle movement. Motion calms babies. Hold and rock your child, put them in a gentle baby swing, walk around the house with them in a wearable baby carrier, take a walk with them in a stroller or strap them in their car seat and go for a drive.
Make the room friendly to your baby's senses. Newborns are hypersensitive to their surroundings, and a loud, bright environment could contribute to their distress. Make your baby's surroundings as womb-like as possible by trying the following: lay them on their back in a dark, quiet room, swaddle them snugly in a blanket, give them a gentle infant massage or give them a warm bath. Soft sounds — like the sound of the clothes dryer, a fan, a vacuum or a white noise machine — can also soothe your baby.
Give yourself a break. Dealing with a colicky baby can be draining. When the crying gets to be overwhelming, call a family member, friend or babysitter to watch the baby while you take a break to recharge. Even if you just take a walk or grab some lunch, it's a good idea to take a breather so you can re-group.
Remember: No matter how frustrated you get, never shake or hit your baby. If you feel like you're at the end of your rope, call your doctor immediately and ask for help.
If you're expecting a child, sign up for Goshen Health's Traditional Childbirth Education Series, where you can learn about the third trimester of pregnancy, the labor and birth process, medical interventions, vaginal and cesarean birth, the postpartum period, baby care basics and breastfeeding. The series is free for those planning to deliver at Goshen Hospital. Call (877) 566-4660 to register.