Calming Your Baby With Colic

Whether you're currently living with a baby who is suffering from colic, reflux, or simply bouts of ornery fussiness, her unrelenting cries can be overwhelming. The good news is that there are many simple ways to calm colic or reduce fussiness that you can try immediately, no need to wait for a visit to the pediatrician.

Sometimes it's simply a matter of using common sense to address your baby's cries, and other times you may have to think a little outside the box. The following suggestions are methods you can use to soothe your baby during her witching hour.

If you sense that something beyond normal fussiness is going on with your child, you should consider calling your pediatrician for insights into potential problems.


Midsection Of Mother Feeding Milk To Baby Boy With Bottle At Home
Nikola Ilic / EyeEm / Getty Images

One of the first things to consider is if your baby might be hungry. Newborns often feed frequently, so even though you might be thinking, "But I just fed you," it's quite possible that she needs to be fed again.

Breastfeeding babies often engage in a pattern called cluster feeding, so resist the temptation to watch the clock in order to determine when to feed your baby, and instead watch for feeding cues.

For formula-feeding babies, it may be difficult to figure out exactly how much to feed and how often. Formula needs can be estimated using a baby's weight and the number of times fed in 24 hours, or by using rough estimates by age. Always talk to your pediatrician if you have a concern if your baby is eating too little or too much.

Diaper Changes, Burps, and Gas Pain

Black father burping baby son
Ariel Skelley / Getty Images

There are several other ways to stop discomfort by addressing your baby's basic needs. Baby diaper changes, burping, and relieving gas pain are all methods that can lull her back to peaceful complacency.

Quick hints for diapering, burping, and relieving gas pain:

  • Some babies simply will not tolerate diapers that are even slightly wet.
  • Check to see if the diaper is too snug; it may be time to ​move to the next size.
  • Some babies are particularly sensitive to certain diaper brands. You may need to experiment to find the right brand for your baby or try cloth diapers (which aren't so scary anymore, no pins!)
  • You may need to try different burping positions rather than the traditional over-the-shoulder method. Try burping her as she is sitting upright or lying across your lap.
  • Gentle pressure on the tummy may help to relieve gas pains. Tummy time or positioning your baby across your lap belly-side down might help.

Massaging and Close Contact

Baby boy (2-5 months) receiving hand massage
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON. / Getty Images

Baby massage and other methods that focus on physical touch might be just as relieving to babies as a nice back or foot rub is to adults. Additionally, some babies benefit from skin-to-skin contact, an aspect of kangaroo care.

Some research studies on preterm infants have shown that kangaroo care helps stabilize breathing, improves heart rate, promotes successful breastfeeding, and enhances parent-child bonding.

All of these benefits may contribute to decreasing the fussy periods your baby experiences.

Comforting and Holding

Black mother cuddling sleeping baby son on sofa
LWA/Dann Tardif / Getty Images

Sometimes in the midst of your baby's wails, you'll find that a unique baby hold or body position does just the trick to calm her.

There are many different positioning techniques you can try, from sitting her upright in your arm to Dr. William Sears' suggested "neck nestle".

Part of learning which position works well to soothe your baby is about trying different positions and seeing how your baby responds. As the weeks progress and you get to know your baby better, you might find the exact position she likes.


Father bathing his baby in baby bath.
Kohei Hara / Getty Images

For many adults, even the thought of sinking into a nice warm bath brings fleeting thoughts of comfort and ease. It may be the case for your baby as well. Though some babies will let you know immediately that bath time isn't fun for them, for others the baby bath is a welcome distraction.

Additionally, you may try to take a bath with your baby. Doing so combines the relaxing warm water with skin-to-skin contact comforts. Always follow safety precautions when bathing your baby.

Soothing With White Noise

Baby boy listing in headphones
Michal Baran / Getty Images

As strange as it may sound, white noise can work wonders to calm a colicky baby. Experts reason that the irregular humming sound of background noise might be similar to what your baby heard in the womb. This familiarity may almost fascinate your baby.

Consider these ways to create white noise that may alleviate colic and general fussiness:

  • The hum of a clothes dryer, which also incorporates movement and motion to soothe your baby
  • Other household appliances, such as a vacuum or hairdryer
  • "White noise" machines
  • CDs or MP3s that play tracks of womb sounds


Mother with baby girl in sling working from home
Westend61 / Getty Images

Babywearing, another term coined by Dr. William Sears, has been shown to reduce the amount of crying some infants experience.

The practice of using slings and other carriers have been made more popular by the attachment parenting movement, but more and more parents are turning toward carrying their baby regardless of which parenting method to which they ascribe.

Whether it is the physical closeness to the parent or the movement and motion sensations that work to quell crying, it isn't specifically known. However, what may interest you more than why babywearing works, is if it works for your baby.

Comforting Motion

A young mother rocks her baby boy to sleep.
Christopher Kimmel / Getty Images

Baby colic certainly has its mysteries, but many parents report that movement and motion can help diminish severe crying spells. There are many simple ways to use comforting movements at home.

  • Time attests to the virtue of the classic rocking chair.
  • Put your baby in her car seat and go for a drive.
  • Infant swings and bouncy seats might encourage happy smiles.

Baby Mobiles and Moving Objects

Baby on rug reaching for hanging toy overhead
Tom Merton / Getty Images

Just as experiencing the calming sensations of being moved about in a sling or car seat can eradicate colicky cries, sometimes moving objects can be equally soothing. See if any of these items produce a silencing effect on your baby as she becomes entranced by its motion:

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  3. Wood CT, Skinner AC, Yin HS, et al. Association Between Bottle Size and Formula Intake in 2-Month-Old Infants. Acad Pediatr. 2016;16(3):254-9. doi:10.1016/j.acap.2015.08.001

  4. Campbell-yeo ML, Disher TC, Benoit BL, Johnston CC. Understanding kangaroo care and its benefits to preterm infants. Pediatric Health Med Ther. 2015;6:15-32. doi:10.2147/PHMT.S51869

  5. Lahav A, Skoe E. An acoustic gap between the NICU and womb: a potential risk for compromised neuroplasticity of the auditory system in preterm infants. Front Neurosci. 2014;8:381. doi:10.3389/fnins.2014.00381

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