Fortunately, there are some tried-and-true ways of helping to soothe your baby, even if you can't curb his or her crying completely. These are included in the home remedies that follow. Another important component to the well-being of your colicky baby and to you is your sanity. So some of the tips below are designed to help you cope.
Set the baby in motion. As most parents can attest, mild repetitious motion, such as that of a moving car or a rocking chair, can calm a cranky baby, knowledge that is doubly important with a colicky child. If taking the baby out in the car is too inconvenient, put the child in a safety seat on top of a running dryer (but never leave the baby unattended).
There are also devices on the market that will rock or vibrate the baby's crib. Some have sound sensors that will start the motion only when the baby starts crying and will stop after it senses that the baby has calmed down or gone to sleep. One device even simulates the motion of a car moving at 55 miles per hour. Some physicians find it effective, while others feel that it makes little difference.
Let the baby sleep. Many parenting books and pediatricians would have you believe that you should pick the baby up every time he or she cries, but keep in mind that infants often cry because they are tired. In such cases, picking up the child only stimulates him or her further, which could lead to more tears. Hard as it may be to follow, the best advice under those circumstances is to leave a crying baby alone.
To assess whether your child is crying because of fatigue, try everything else first: feeding, burping, changing, cuddling, checking for signs of illness such as fever. Then, if the baby is still crying, put him or her down to sleep, and walk away. Often, the child will settle down within a few minutes.
Stay calm. If your baby's marathon crying drives you to the brink of insanity, remind yourself that colic is not a serious medical problem that threatens his or her health. With that knowledge in mind, understand that this is just a stage in your child's development, albeit an unpleasant one, that will soon pass.
Take your baby off cow's milk. Some studies have shown an improvement in colic after dairy products have been removed from the baby's diet. The culprit seems to be a protein in cow's milk, which is present in many infant formulas and in the milk of breast-feeding mothers who eat dairy products. The protein may be responsible for colic in about 5 to 10 percent of babies who suffer from the condition. Changing the baby's formula (there are many soy-based formulas available) or staying off dairy products yourself if you are breast-feeding, is worth a try. If your baby's crying does not seem to improve after two weeks, you can assume that the milk was not the problem.
Add fiber to your baby's formula. Some studies have suggested that colic may improve in certain infants when fiber is added to their formula. In these studies, researchers added Citrucel, a bulking agent that draws water into the stool, to the babies' formula. Anywhere from one-half teaspoon three times a day to one-half teaspoon six times a day seemed to do the trick. Start by adding small amounts of fiber to the formula, and build up to higher doses. Although not the answer for every baby, adding a little fiber is safe and worth a try.
Take a shower. If your baby's crying has driven you to the point of near madness, it's time to stop and take a break, since an overly frustrated parent is no help to anyone. A long, hot shower will relax your shattered nerves, while the sound of running water can mask the baby's crying. (Be sure the baby is in a safe place, such as a crib.)
Keep a calendar. A record of your baby's weight and the frequency and length of crying bouts may be of help in tracking his or her progress. It can also be a handy record to take to the pediatrician's office. A useful bonus: While it may seem like your baby cries all the time, charting will remind you that he or she takes breaks now and then.
Soothe, don't stimulate. Some crying, colicky babies may be overly stimulated, so try soothing the infant instead of bouncing or rocking him or her. Some time-honored tools: a hot-water bottle, filled with warm, not hot, water and placed on a towel on the child's back or stomach; a pacifier; or repetitious sounds, such as the noise of a fan or humidifier.
Be realistic. You know those happy, smiling babies that you see in magazines and books? Count your blessings if your baby manages to resemble one of those glowing cherubs for a few minutes each day and try not to be discouraged or concerned the rest of the time: Your baby is not abnormal just because he or she cries a lot.
Maintain as much direct contact as possible. Pediatricians often recommend carrying and cuddling a colicky baby as much as possible. However, studies have failed to show that carrying actually causes a reduction in crying. On the other hand, carrying the baby frequently before colic ever sets in may prevent the condition from developing in the first place. In one study, caretakers of 99 normal infants increased their carrying of the infants by the age of three weeks. The result? The babies cried 43 percent less than other babies of the same age. The crying peak never seemed to occur in the infants who were carried. Furthermore, studies of a tribe of hunter-gatherers in Botswana, the !Kung San, found that their infants cry as often as North American babies, but only for about half as long. That may be because mothers in the tribe spend significantly more time with their babies held close to their bodies than North American mothers do.
Feed more often. One reason that the !Kung San spend so much time holding their babies is that they feed them almost continuously, approximately four times per hour, four minutes per feeding. Researchers speculate that this approach to feeding may be partly responsible for the reduced crying of the !Kung San infants. Even if continuous feeding does not fit into your schedule, adding a few extra sessions per day may still help. And don't worry that you're feeding the baby too often. Doctors say a normal schedule can include frequent feedings.
Put your baby on a schedule. Some children cry excessively because they simply don't know how to calm themselves down enough to go to sleep. Since babies under 12 weeks old often fall asleep while being fed, it is sometimes difficult for them to fall asleep when they aren't feeding. Start your little one on a regular schedule of sleeping and waking, and try to get him or her to fall asleep without your assistance. Establishing a simple bedtime (or naptime) routine or ritual may serve as a cue and help your baby transition from wakefulness to sleep without a crying fit in between. For example, each night, you might first change the baby's diaper, then sing a lullaby or two while you cuddle together in the rocking chair, and finally set the baby in the crib just before he or she drifts off to sleep. The baby may fuss a bit at first but will eventually get the hang of falling asleep in the crib rather than while feeding or being held.
Touch base with your pediatrician. Having a colicky child can be discouraging, so take advantage of all support systems available to you. Your pediatrician can be an invaluable source of ideas, experience, and reassurance.
Wait it out. Until someone comes up with a cure for colic, the best advice is simply to hang in there. Take solace in the fact that colic generally stops by three months of age. The longest you'll have to wait is until the baby reaches six months, although colic rarely lasts even this long.
In the next section, we'll take a look at colic home remedies that you can whip up in the kitchen.
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This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.