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Soothing a colicky baby

April 7, 2011
By Sue Junge , Times-Republican

Coming from a mother who has experienced the stress of having a baby with colic, I can truly relate to what new parents go through when their new baby seems to cry all the time! You feel so helpless and try everything to comfort your new little bundle of joy, but many times, it is to no avail.You try singing to them, walking with them, riding in the car, gas drops, changing formulas and nothing seems to work. has offered some great advice and suggestions on how you can comfort and soothe your fussy baby.

Did you know that 26 percent of babies are diagnosed with colic? It usually starts about two weeks (our son started within a few days of coming home), peaks at six weeks, and is "usually" gone by 16 weeks. Though all babies cry, those with colic do it with gusto.

You are talking earsplitting screams that seem to come out of nowhere and could shatter a window. These episodes can happen at any time; evenings are notoriously brutal.

That is when my son would start, about the time I was sitting down to eat the evening meal and pretty much last until about 10, but then he was pretty restless all night.

During the day, he would have several hours of restful sleep, but then start again when late afternoon would come around (there were many times I was crying with him?). Remember, this is just a "stage" and it will end, but until it does here are a few suggestions for calming the fussiest babies and ideas for keeping your sanity also.

The five S's of Soothing many parents assume that their colicky babies are in pain, and some may have some major gas pain, but some experts feel that some may simply have trouble adjusting to life outside the womb. Harvey Karp, MD, author of the book and DVD The Happiest Baby on the Block, suggests trying the following, and employing all five at once is best (if possible).

Swaddling If may seem like you are putting your baby in a straight jacket, but that cozy cocoon will prevent his limbs from twitching and help him nod off. Please refer to regarding the correct way to swaddle safely.

Shushing A "shhh" sound is soothing to a newborn because it mimics the whooshing noise that surrounded him in the womb. Do this yourself or possibly tune a radio to static, or have a CD of white noise. Make sure the sound is louder than their cries so they can hear it but not so that it would cause more distress.

Side Lying Before birth, your baby spent most of his time on his side. Carry him the same way now and use the football hold as you nurse (clutch him with one arm, your hand supporting his head, and his legs under your armpit).

Swinging Fast, rhythmic movements like swinging, rocking, or jiggling might remind your little fusser of those days he spent bouncing inside of you. Remember though; always keep your baby safe in your arms with their head supported whenever you use the swinging motion, holding them firmly while going back and forth in a constant motion.

Sucking for a baby, sucking on a finger or pacifier can be what lying on a warm beach is for us; total relaxation. It works best after you've calmed them with the other S's.

It's also a good idea to get your baby in a good sleep routine. Though colicky babies are usually poor sleepers, the more exhausted they get the more they cry and the harder it is to soothe them. To help both of you, create calming bedtime habits. Start with a warm bath and then play relaxing music. Make nighttime feedings (in the middle of the night) "all business." Keep the room quiet, dim the lights, and don't engage your little one. Simply feed and change them, and quickly put them back to sleep. Babies don't know the difference between day and night, so you have to teach them by behaving differently (according to Pamela High, M.D., a colic expert at the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk). To help baby sleep better at night, don't let them nap for more than three hours at a time during the day, even if it means waking them.

Also, when the constant crying is starting to wear on your nerves, send out an SOS!

When trusted friends and family ask what they can do, suggest they come over and watch the baby. Now is the time to call in favors; research shows that very anxious moms are more likely to have colicky babies. Don't even think about feeling bad; looking for support doesn't mean you're weak or a bad parent.

It's smart to recognize your needs and accept assistance; wouldn't you do the same for a friend? It's much better than having a major meltdown which could do more harm to you and/or your child.

But if your unhappiness feels more like depression, see a doctor as soon as possible. It's not uncommon for new mothers to experience "baby blues" but it may be more severe in some new moms so do not hesitate to get help!

Some other things you may try are changing formulas and ruling out reflux (consult your doctor before changing formula and also have them check for reflux), or head outside if the weather permits.

Remember, this is just a stage, but it can be a very stressful time that seems like it will never end. Taking a time out, by putting baby in their crib, is also OK, even for just a few minutesso you can take a few deep breaths and regain your thoughts. You will be much calmer and in turn, will help your baby to settle more quickly also.


Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Specialist for Marshall County Empowerment and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit



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