Being a new parent is challenging. The added challenge of a fussy or colicky baby makes parenthood even more difficult, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when our postpartum support networks might be different than at other times.
What is colic?
All newborns cry and are fussy, but an otherwise healthy baby who cries for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks is said to have colic. Often, nothing you do will stop the crying. Colic most often starts around 2-5 weeks of life and typically goes away by about 3-4 months of life.
How do I know if my baby has colic?
Babies with colic are healthy, growing well, and will not have long term negative health consequences from colic. There is no diagnostic test for colic. If you think your baby has colic, talk with your pediatrician about the crying pattern to determine if it is colic and strategies to help.
Babies will also cry for reasons other than colic. Call our office or seek care right away if your baby has crying associated with a fever, is less alert than typical, isn’t feeding well, is throwing up, or is losing/not gaining weight.
How to treat colic
Just as there is no diagnostic test for colic, doctors also aren’t sure exactly what causes it. Unfortunately, there is no one specific treatment that can make it go away quickly. However, there are different strategies that can help. Remember, every baby has their own way of calming down and what works for one baby might not work for another. My son used to get even more fussy with a warm bath but would calm down when being walked outside in a front carrier. After you’ve made sure your baby isn’t hungry and has a clean diaper, here are some other strategies that can help:
Try movements where baby has close contact with you, like rocking, walking baby, or bouncing on an exercise ball. Hold baby close to you and pat or rub their back. You may also try going for a car or stroller ride.
Sing or talk to baby, play quiet music, or use a white noise machine.
Consider a dietary trigger
Some nursing mothers find that cutting out dairy helps. If you decide to do this, eliminate one food at a time. Make sure you are still eating, taking care of yourself, and getting enough calories.
Try a different bottle
If bottle feeding, consider trying a different bottle that might reduce the amount of air swallowed, or check in with your pediatrician to see if a different formula might be helpful. Often colicky babies are the same regardless of the formula.
Sometimes a dark room without any noise or movement can be helpful.
Try pausing feedings to burp more often. You may also consider using a pacifier.
What if nothing helps?
Know that colic is not your fault. Your baby will outgrow this phase. Take care of yourself and ask for help when needed. It’s alright to put your baby down in the crib or bassinet and take a break before trying again to calm your baby down.
A great resource to learn more about how to soothe a baby and cope with crying can be found at: http://purplecrying.info/