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What do you do when your baby is colicky?

January 23rd, 2008

crying baby

Photo by Tauri Tuubel

My older daughter was colicky when she was a baby… uncontrollable crying for no apparent reason. That’s what colic is and there is no known cause. But all that screaming and crying is so scary to a parent, you think something must be dreadfully wrong!

Once my daughter started crying, there was no stopping her. I hold her, cuddle her, sing to her, distract her with toys, put her on a swing, make funny faces to make her laugh … nothing could stop her from crying. I even put her in the bath tub to play with water. If this favorite activity of hers doesn’t stop her crying, I was really worried.

When your baby cries uncontrollably like that, you always think the worst. Maybe she’s choking, maybe she’s in pain, you think there must be something wrong. If your baby is like my daughter, she is just colicky, plain and simple.

No one has been able to determine the cause for colic and no one has a cure. Here are some things I did whenever my daughter was colicky.

What you can do when your baby may be colicky:

To be safe, eliminate every possible cause for crying. Double-check to see if there is anything physically wrong.

1. I offer my daughter the bottle to see if she is hungry. I can usually tell the difference between her the colic crying and her hunger cry, but I try the bottle just in case. When your baby rejects it, don’t force it on her thinking that she should be hungry. I made that mistake once, and my daughter started choking and threw up.

2. I burp her to make sure it’s not a gas problem. Gently rub her stomach and pat her on the back. If after a while nothing happens, it’s probably not gas.

3. Since she’s getting all worked up crying, I take some of her clothes off so she’s not uncomfortably sweating, which would make her cry more.

4. I gently press her tummy and other parts of her body to see if she reacts with pain anywhere.

5. I try to take her temperature if I can, but if she had been acting normal all day except for the crying, it’s unlikely that she’s sick with fever.

6. I check and double check her diaper and clothes to make sure nothing is poking her like the corner of a tag, or the tape of the diaper sticking to her skin. I’ve never found this to be the cause of crying, but it makes me feel better to check, just in case.

If after eliminating all the possible causes, and doing her favorite activities does not faze her, it is likely that your child is colicky.

However, if you feel uncomfortable and think that there might be something wrong, don’t hesitate to your baby to the doctor. I rather risk looking like a fool and be safe. I’ve done that several times 🙂 I have to keep myself from going insane with her screaming in the car all the way to the doctor. Wouldn’t you know it, right before we get there, she stops crying and falls fast asleep. The doctor checks her over and says nothing is wrong.

After a few of these episodes of crying, you learn not worry as much.

I began to see a pattern to my daughter’s crying. She would be fine all day, and then for no reason start to cry in the late afternoon. I interpret it as just a need to unwind and cry it all out. I myself want to do that too!

Here’s what NOT to do when your baby is colicky:

1. Don’t leave her alone in the room and close the door. I know the crying is irritating and you want to shut out the noise for some peace and quiet, but it is unsafe to leave your baby alone unattended.

2. Don’t scream at her, punish her in any way, or shake her to stop. Any kind of anger response on your part is inappropriate because a colicky baby is not being “bad”.

3. Don’t let the crying put you in a bad mood. Remember the crying stage will pass, and it’s all a part of the sacrifice of a parent to be there with your baby through all their good times and bad.

Here’s what you can do to ease the situation:

1. Hold her and rock her in a rocking chair. You don’t have to waste your breath by singing or talking over her screams unless it helps you to relax. I would just read a book while holding her to provide her with my loving touch while she cries it out.

2. Wipe her face occasionally to keep her clean. I think a clean cool towel would help your baby feel better, even if it doesn’t stop the crying.

3. Providing some white noise often helps. I used to turn on the dryer with the humming noise and sit next to it holding my baby. When I have to put her down, I put her in her chair next to the dryer’s hum.

If you have any other suggestions, please post it here.

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  1. I appreciate the blog as I am currently dealing with a colicky baby, but your assertion that you should never leave the baby alone in a room and close the door is terrible advice, plain and simple. Parents of colicky babies will be way more likely to shake their baby or harm their baby in some way because of sleep depravation and frustration from the constant crying. Every parent will reach their breaking point, especially if they’re dealing with it alone, and they will HAVE to take a break from the screaming or they may hurt their child. You can know intellectually that it’s not the baby’s fault, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to be complete master of your emotions when you’re running on an hour of sleep a night for months. Parents NEED to leave the baby alone in the room and walk away when they get to that point. Take a hot shower, have a cup of coffee, do what you need to do to regain your cool and maintain your composure, and once you are calm go back and try to soothe your baby. You shouldn’t make people feel like bad parents for doing that!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Monica. As a matter of safety, I say never to leave a baby unattended for whatever reason. When I couldn’t take it, I put on earplugs, and drink my tea and read a book next to my baby. The iPod wasn’t invented yet, but now you can listen to soothing music on your iPod.


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