Having a baby who is dealing with colic can be very frustrating for new parents. The crying, the fatigue, the crying plus the fatigue, and the concern when your baby is upset and you just can’t figure out what they need. It’s. . . a lot. The first point of order is to know that even though they are experiencing colic, that does not mean your newborn is unhealthy. Studies have shown that nearly 25-40% of newborns experience colic for a variety of reasons. Let’s get to know what a few of them are and how to manage the stress of a colicky infant.

First things first, what is colic?

I like to use the rule of 3’s. When an otherwise healthy baby cries for periods of three plus hours, more than three days a week, for three weeks or more it’s usually a sign of colic. Colicky babies have a hard time being comforted and can manage a sustained high pitched cry when nothing is actually wrong. Here’s some quick facts:

  • An estimated 25-40% of newborns experience some form of colic
  •  Colicky babies still maintain a healthy appetite, so if your newborn is not eating or is losing weight it may be the sign of something else and best to reach out to your doctor
  • Colic usually presents in newborns between  three to six weeks old and curbs by four months, although some parents note a longer period

What causes colic and what can I do to prevent it?

Unfortunately, doctors aren’t sure as to what causes colic as it can vary depending on the baby. Some suggest cow’s milk as a strain on a baby’s tummy, but breastfed and formula fed babies also experience it. Along with being frustrating, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when your baby is upset and nothing seems to soothe them. It’s okay to feel that, in fact, it’s totally normal. There’s no way to prevent colic so cut yourself a break, but there are things you can try when your baby is fussing and seems inconsolable.

Ideas to soothe colicky babies

  • Avoid bright lights and lots of noise – remember that everything your baby is experiencing is new to them and some have a little trouble acclimating. If your baby is fussing, remove overwhelming stimulants. Sitting in a dark room and rocking baby with only a white noise machine or the sound of a fan in the background may help put them at ease.
  • Try swaddling in a blanket, then slowly rocking back and forth while holding close to your chest.
  • A papoose and a walk – Similar to the swaddle and rock, try an arms free wrap around sling so that baby is laying on your chest and go for a walk around the neighborhood.  The motion can be soothing and may also be beneficial to mom or dad who need some fresh air and a walk.

Does Diet Matter?

It can, but again, the only way to know is trial by elimination. Colic occurs in babies who are both breast and formula fed so you can approach this in a few different ways.

  • Formula fed – There is no magic potion, sadly, but if baby’s colic is caused by some gastrointestinal stress, switching formula can be helpful. Make sur e to try the new formula for at least a week after switching.
    • Gerber Good Start Soothe Powder – One of the most popular and recommended for colicky babies. It’s entirely whey protein that is partially broken down so easier to digest.
  • Breast Fed – Some moms find that changing their diet can change their baby’s reaction to breastmilk. Here’s a few things to try:
    • Reducing intake of eggs, cow’s milk, soy, pine nuts and tree nuts may help reduce colic in babies. Always make sure you check in with your doctor before changing your diet.
  • Other Options
    • Try a bottle designed to reduce gas or a nipple with a smaller hole, both will help cut down on the amount of air baby swallows when feeding
    • Try burping more often during feedings to help release gas and air pockets
    • After feeding and burping, try putting a warm water bottle on baby’s tummy or try a warm bat
    • Try laying baby on their stomach and massaging their back.

Remember to Take Care of Yourself Too

One important thing to remember is to cut yourself some slack. You’re in the process of getting to know your new baby, and you will learn which soothing techniques work for them and which do not. It’s okay to need a break! Your sleep and wellbeing are important for you and for your baby. If you and your partner can, try trading off watching baby for one or two hours while the other gets some rest. Lean on friends and relatives who will babysit so you can get some sleep. As a new parent you are already going to be worn out and stressed, it’s not only okay to ask for help, it’s an essential part of being a family.