Soothing strategies: Calming colic

By Published On: January 10th, 2013
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Unless it’s in the delivery room, no parent likes to […]

011013bb-colicky-mainhomelatUnless it’s in the delivery room, no parent likes to hear her baby cry but we all know it’s just what babies do. So what happens when the crying is about more than fussiness or fatigue? Your little one may be suffering from colic.
Colic typically begins around week three and can continue through 4 months of age. Rarely, infants can continue to be colicky through 7 or 8 months.
What a colicky baby looks like:

  • Spends hours crying as if in pain
  • Pulls up legs, squirms and grunts
  • Passes gas excessively
  • Is unable to be consoled

Colic vs. acid reflux: Many parents wonder if their baby’s colic is actually acid reflux. “Acid reflux involves stomach contents (milk and acid) coming up into the throat, causing painful burning, and spitting up. Colic is irritation down lower in the digestive system—intestines and colon,” reports Robert Sears, MD. An infant with reflux will spit up a lot, fuss more upon lying down, have trouble sleeping due to pain, and find relief from symptoms when held upright. Colicky babies tend to have an easier time sleeping and continue to cry despite their position. “The causes of reflux and colic can be similar, however,” explains Sears. “So it isn’t always necessary to distinguish between the two. Any baby who has colic symptoms, reflux symptoms, or both, can go through the same treatment options.”
Priscilla Dunstan, author of Calm the Crying: The Secret Baby Language That Reveals the Hidden Meaning Behind an Infant’s Cry shares her tips for identifying a colicky cry and for comforting a hurting infant.

  • When babies are suffering from colic, you will tend to hear the phonetic sound “eairh” within their cry. This is a forceful cry that can come on rapidly and is often present in the early evening. You will also notice that the baby’s stomach is hard and body is rigid and difficult to hold. When this sound is heard, it’s best to concentrate on holds that help to relieve gas and offer comfort to the stomach area.
  • Try to keep your baby upright as much as possible, and burp your baby whenever he needs it—not just after a feed—especially if the crying regularly starts in the evening or afternoon.
  • When the crying is excessive, relieve gas buildup by using a high over the shoulder hold where baby’s tummy is held high up and pressed against your shoulder.
  • Use the over-the-knee rocking method when it gets to be too much and you need to tune out to recover your patience and sanity. This is as simple as placing your baby over your crossed knee, with his stomach pushed against the top knee and your hand gently rubbing his back.
  • Try a warm bath to soothe and relax your baby. Add in some lower back baby massage to enhance the effect.