My first baby was the shriekiest infant I have ever encountered. Seriously, you guys, it's a dang miracle I ever went on to have more children. And the other two weren't exactly a walk in the park! On the bright side, I now know more ways to soothe colic than I ever thought possible.
If your child has received this unfortunate diagnosis and you're looking for ways to soothe colic, I'm here to help. Trust me, you WILL get through this. He or she will outgrow it in a few months and everything will eventually be okay.
In the meantime, here is what you can do.
Every Trick in the Book to Soothe Colic Fast
Before you try to soothe colic, you should know exactly what it is. Colic is characterized by 3 or more hours of crying per day, 3 or more days per week, for more than 3 weeks. That's a LOT of crying! Babies with colic typically have attacks at the same time each day. They stiffen their bellies, ball up or arch as if they are in pain and scream in a blood-curdling manner that is unlike general fussiness or crying that's related to wet diapers and hungriness. Doctors don't entirely understand the cause, but think that it's related to an immature gut struggling to digest food. The only real solution is to wait for the child to outgrow it, but there are quite a few remedies to help soothe colic and at least provide some relief during episodes.
Swaddle. Mimicking the feeling of the womb helps them feel safe and secure. Some like to be legs-out, some like varying fabrics, some like their arms up or down or at their sides and some hate swaddling altogether. Try different variations to see what your baby seems to prefer.
Binky. The sucking reflex can compound aggravation from colic. A pacifier may help them calm down more quickly.
Stomach sleeping. As much as doctors say that you should face your baby up to sleep, my last one would sometimes ONLY calm down when I put him on his stomach. On top of that, as soon as he could flip over he would refuse to stay on his back! I think the downward pressure helped his digestion. If this is the case for you, try to do it more safely by keeping crib sheets tight and using a movement sensor pad to ensure steady breathing.
Mirror. For some babies, looking in a mirror is like a magic trick. Bring your screaming baby into the bathroom so they can see a reflection of themselves. It may be just the distraction they need to soothe colic.
Commiserate. Sometimes, there may be nothing you can do to soothe colic and it will feel absolutely overwhelming. These are the times that I have simply taken a photo, sent it to a dear friend or family member and said, “We're going on hour four. Please tell me this gets better.” Encouraging words from someone who understands can go a long way. Do not ever, EVER shake your baby. If you feel like you're going to lose it, set them down in a crib, walk away and call the 24-Hour Parent Helpline at 1-888-435-7553, the Crying Baby Hotline at 1-866-243-2229 or the Fussy Baby Warmline at 1-888-431-BABY.
Look for underlying issues. The more information your doctor has, the better they can help you. Keep an eye out for unusual bumps, decrease in bowel movements, severe bloating, fever or other signs that there are allergies or illness beyond colic.
Massage. Rubbing your baby's tummy in a clockwise motion can help digestion and soothe colic.
Babywearing. The closeness of a parent can really help calm your baby! Options for babywearing are as varied as people: you can try ring slings, soft carriers, wraps and more structured support systems. Experiment and see what your baby likes best.
Bath time. The calm water sure helps me relax, so it's no big surprise that it can help soothe colic.
Colief. Many young tummies have trouble digesting dairy, an issue known as “temporary lactose intolerance.” Two of my three children have had this problem. We're working with Colief Infant Digestive Aid, and they provide an awesome solution with drops that can be added to pumped breast milk or formula. The gluten-free supplement has been shown to reduce crying associated with temporary lactose intolerance by as much as 40%. I pick it up at Walgreens, but it's also available online.
Burp. Trapped air isn't always the problem, but it certainly doesn't help things. Giving your baby a few firm pats on the back to release the pressure can help soothe colic.
Heating pads. I love the feel of a warm gel pad on my stomach when my belly hurts, so it's no wonder it helps to soothe colic as well. If you use one, just make sure to test the temperature and wrap it in a towel as opposed to placing on bare skin!
Music. The minute I turn on Nicolette Larson's “Sleep, Baby Sleep” album, my third child transforms into an angelic little dream child. Some moms swear by “Music Together.” Find a beat that works with your baby!
All the noises. Baby's not a fan of Mozart or Bach? Keep trying. Some prefer a white noise app, whereas others are calmed by the sound of the vacuum or television.
None of the noises. For some babies, overstimulation is a problem. If music and white noise doesn't do the trick, see if your baby prefers a quiet, dark environment.
Amber necklaces. I buy these for myself to help with back pain, and many moms swear by their holistic healing properties to help with teething and soothe colic. An online store called Inspired by Finn offers anklets, bracelets, necklaces and even belly bands – many of which are double-knotted for infant safety. I've personally seen good results using the anklets on babies who are too young to pull at their feet. I feel far more comfortable using those as opposed to putting a necklace on my little one.
Bouncing. Hold your baby belly-against-you with his face nuzzled into your chest and then bounce side-to-side and up-and-down like a swaying pogo stick. This is what my pediatrician calls the “colic move,” and it's the only thing that worked reliably with my first kid.
Go for a drive. Oh, the magic of a bumpy road! The rocking, swaying motion of the car is legendary for its ability to calm a crying child.
Vibrate. Stick a vibrating pad under baby's crib mattress or against your chest as you hold him or her.
Cherish the precious moments. Snap photos of the peaceful times, so you can look back at them when things are rough. It sounds trite, but it can really help improve the mental state of the entire family.
Feed small and often. If your baby tends to eat a lot at one sitting, try getting into a habit of feeding half that amount with twice the frequency. It's easier on their tummies to digest little bits at a time.
Stretch it out. Move your baby's legs up and down in a bicycle motion to help keep digestion moving forward.
Change the environment. If you're inside, go for a walk outdoors. If you're outside, bring it on home. Changing baby's view can often change their mood.
Give yourself a break. Hire someone to clean the house, or simply ask a friend to hold the baby so you can take a nap. Don't use every second of downtime trying to get caught up on all the things that are falling apart. Remember: this, too, shall pass.
What are your tips to soothe colic?