Calming Your Baby With Colic

Whether your baby suffers from colic, reflux, or simply bouts of ornery fussiness, unrelenting crying 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 their witching hour. If you sense that something beyond normal fussiness is going on with your child, always call your pediatrician for insights into potential problems.

Feeding

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 whether 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 your baby needs to be fed again.

Breastfeeding babies often engage in a pattern called cluster feeding. 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 are concerned that 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. Diaper changes, burping, and relieving gas pain are all methods that can lull a baby back to peaceful complacency. Run through a quick checklist.

  • Is the diaper wet? Some babies simply will not tolerate diapers that are even slightly wet.
  • Is the diaper too tight? Check to see if the diaper is too snug; it may be time to ​move to the next size.
  • Is the diaper uncomfortable? 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.
  • Does your baby need to burp? You may need to try different burping positions rather than the traditional over-the-shoulder method. Try burping your baby while they are sitting upright or lying across your lap.
  • Does your baby have gas? 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 massage
Photo © Heiko Bennewitz

Baby massage and other methods that focus on physical touch might be just as comforting 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 hold or body position does just the trick to calm them. There are many different positioning techniques you can try, from sitting them 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 they like.

Bathing

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 thoughts of comfort and ease. This 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 bath is a welcome distraction.

Additionally, consider taking 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.

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 fascinate and soothe your baby.

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

  • The hum of a clothes dryer or other household appliances, such as a vacuum cleaner or hairdryer
  • "White noise" machines
  • CDs or MP3s that play womb sounds

Babywearing

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 the 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, that likely won't matter to you if this technique does work for you and 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 can help diminish severe crying spells. There are many simple ways to use comforting movements: Rocking your baby in a chair, placing them in an infant swing or bouncy seat, pushing them in a stroller, or putting them in their car seat and going for a drive.

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 seeing moving objects can be equally soothing. See if any of these items produce a silencing effect on your baby as they become entranced by watching the motion of:

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