In various studies over the course of the last 50-60 years, it’s estimated that 5-25% of babies experience extreme fussiness, otherwise known as colic.
Usually defined by the “rule of three” - a baby may be diagnosed with colic if they are: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, and for longer than three weeks in an infant who is well-fed and otherwise healthy. There is no identified cause of colic, although plenty of suggestions over the years, with no clear findings.
I want to assure you, colic is normal. Unpleasant to go through, but normal. And often times, it just needs to pass with the course of time.
Many parents can feel extremely worried, as their baby may appear as if they’re in pain; Their little legs are usually scrunched up towards their belly, they have a furrowed brow, and are letting out some piercing cries. There is little that seems to comfort them.
If you’re concerned there is something wrong with your baby, it is always a good idea to have them evaluated by a physician. Sometimes, other diagnoses may be found, and you can be directed to an ulterior solution. And other times…
…well, you may just come to find you have a colicky baby.
This is a period of time that will pass
Luckily, infantile colic can be defined as occurring within the first four months of life. There is a beginning and an end, so if you’re in the thick of it right now, please keep this in the back of your mind.
You may have heard of the period of PURPLE crying…this is another way to identify and normalize colic, and the experience a family may have with this period of time:
Peak of Crying - this usually presents itself in month two and improves by months 3-4
Unexpected - the crying will come and go and can be unpredictable
Resists Soothing - despite a parent’s best efforts, the crying may be a long episode, experiencing with little success from parental soothing efforts
Pain-like Face - the baby may appear to be in pain even if they are not
Long-Lasting - the episodes may last for hours, or have multiple episodes in a day…up to five hours in a day
Evening - babies tend to have more crying episodes in the afternoon or evening hours
So now that we’ve defined this period a little more…what can you do??
Soothing Your Colicky Baby
Remember, babies with true colic will resist soothing, but that’s not to say you should not try. There are some other things you can try to prioritize also.
Prioritize feeding and burping
With my first two children, burping sessions were THE THING - the only thing - that seemed to provide some relief during these bouts of crying. Babies swallow air from feeding, crying…all sorts of reasons! Sometimes need a little extra help getting rid of it.
I would feed and burp. Feed and burp. Burp halfway through a feeding and then again at the end.
If you suspect a food intolerance (this is not as common as many moms seem to think, fortunately!), your doctor may recommend removing that food from your diet.
If you notice a hard belly or bloating, burps or toots, or sharp pains or sudden crying as if your baby was in pain, these are all signs of gas.
Here are some other things you can try:
Use bottles designed to prevent gas (Dr. Brown's bottles are pretty popular for this!)
Use a slow flow nipple
Make sure your baby’s head is higher than their tummy when feeding
Tummy time - it can help your baby pass gas
Use the windi
Use gas drops
Bicycle their legs
Infant massage (Do you know the ladies from Tiny Yogi Massage? They are the best!)
Learn infant massage
Massage helps with gas but also is a great tool you can use for bonding and connecting with your baby.
This was actually something I ended up utilizing A LOT with my babies. I went to a physiotherapist and had them teach me how to do it properly - you can read more about infant massage here!
Prioritize sleep and prevent overtiredness
If you think your baby has colic, but you’re failing to provide adequate sleep for them, you may find that you actually have an overtired baby, not a colicky one. For your sake, I hope this is the truth, because overtiredness and colic often look exactly the same.
How do you know if your child is overtired or not?
Well, in their first month of life, a child can only handle about 45-60 minutes of time awake before needing to go to sleep. If you look at the clock and realize they’ve been up an hour and a half, get them down for a nap! This awake time stamina gradually increases over time. You can grab my FREE Wake Windows Chart to help you navigate these awake times and prevent overtiredness the first few years of life.
When all else fails, use the 5 S’s
If you’ve done your best and your baby is just stuck in one of those fussy periods, try out different combinations of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s for soothing a baby:
Shush - do this loudly near your baby’s ear
Swing/Rock - movement helps!
Side/Stomach hold - some babies prefer to face outward, others inward.
Swaddle - the key is to swaddle your baby before they get too fussy…otherwise it may be a fight
Sucking - offer yoour breast, a bottle, pacifier, or clean finger for your baby to suck on
Trial and error is the name of the game. You must try different combinations of these soothing strategies and find what works best for your baby.
Look back and laugh…or cry!
I know, if you’re in the middle of it right now, you may be crying. You and the baby!
BUT. Maybe someday you can look back and laugh…
…Remember the time I bounced up and down on a medicine ball for hours just to get you to sleep?? Ha!
Mama, I’m right there with you. Send this post to a mom friend who’s in the thick of it - it’s nice to know we’re not alone, isn’t it?