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Dealing with Colic

It’s early evening and your baby is inconsolable. You’ve checked her diaper, know she’s fed, and made her comfortable, but the tears keep coming. In fact, they haven’t stopped in close to three hours– for the second day in a row. Sound familiar? If so, your baby might be experiencing Colic.

What is Colic?

Colic isn’t a disease, but if your baby has the symptoms it can feel just as serious as one.

Colic is the term used to describe a baby who cries without discernible reason for up to 3 hours a day, at least 3 times a week. It usually begins around 3 weeks of age, peaks at 8 weeks, and runs its course by the 12 week mark. Colicky babies are those that are otherwise healthy, but have intense, excessive bouts of crying for seemingly no reason. These periods of crying usually begin at night, but can happen anytime.

What Do I Do?

You might not be able to determine why your baby is crying, but there are certain, expert-backed approaches to soothing and caring for a colicky baby.

Soothe, but not too much

“First check your baby for all the things that you already know might typically cause crying. Make sure that your baby is comfortable, not hungry, not wet. Once you’ve done all of those things, you can do a little bit of rocking and soothing, but don’t do too much,” says Dr. Joshua Sparrow, MD, a child psychiatrist and author.

Sparrow cautions against spending too much time rocking your colicky baby because while it does help initially, their agitation can spike when you stop.

“What you’ll notice is when you rock and soothe and coo, the baby does quiet while you’re doing it, but as soon as you stop, the baby wails and shrieks even louder,” explains Sparrow, director of Brazelton Touchpoints Center and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Constipation Relief

Constipation is a common symptom with colic, and easing your baby’s struggle to go can make a big difference.

Dr. Daniel Thomas, MD, is the head of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and recommends speaking to your doctor about antacids as a method of colic treatment.

“I recommend giving a liquid antacid, about half a teaspoon, three or four times a day, of course with the child’s pediatrician’s approval. This takes away some of the gas and pain and helps them poop a lot better,” says Thomas, a Nutrition Committee member for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Stay on Feeding Schedule

Since nothing seems to be making your baby happy, your instinct may be to start switching things up. When it comes to feeding, Thomas advises keeping everything consistent.

“Do the normal things. Avoid overfeeding the child, burp the child before and after feedings, and please don’t change the formula multiple times. Definitely don’t stop breastfeeding the child because someone told you that you need to change to a high-powered formula that is hypoallergenic. That’s not going to work,” says Thomas.

Get Your Own Relief

In between trying to comfort your baby, be sure to make time to get your own relief.

“Find two or three hours of rest and to help take care of that child. It is very frustrating and upsetting,” says Thomas.

As the mother of a baby who went through colic, Juli Schneiderman knows just how frustrating and upsetting that was.

“It’s really hard to deal with a child or an infant who cries all day long. It’s so painful to watch when you know there’s nothing you can do to help, but you get to a point where you go crazy,” Schneiderman says. “You have to take walks. You have to take shifts with family members. Go into a room and cry sometimes. You’ll get through it, you do. It gets better.”

It’s never an enjoyable experience when your baby cries, but for the most part, parents can recognize that it is an important, effective means of determining their newborn’s needs. If it seems like your baby is exceeding the normal or tolerable amount of crying time without discernible reason, check out a mother's tips for dealing with colic.

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