Parent Time

Colicky Baby or Just Fussy:
Symptoms and Soothing Treatments for Relief of Excessive Crying

Colic can be identified from the nature of the crying: colicky babies cry more and more loudly than fussy ones. An infant with colic has intestinal discomfort; you can hear it in that shattering wail. Colic crying puts all adults within hearing on red alert: there’s no way in the world to ignore it. Colicky babies curl into a tight ball or arch their backs, throwing back their heads. Their tummies may seem tight or distended, and their temperament may be generally cranky (how do you feel when you have indigestion?).

Is it colic?

If your baby starts exhibiting signs of colic, first consult your pediatrician. Other medical problems may cause pain and crying that can mimic colic; have a professional check out the baby to rule out other problems.

Your doctor may diagnose colic based on the “rule of three”. If a baby cries for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for three weeks, he or she is considered colicky. Doctors and parents seem to agree that colic has something to do with the digestive process, causing excessive crying.

Natural Remedies for Colicky Babies

Herbal gripe water has been a preferred colic treatment in Europe for more than a hundred years. Some babies respond to switching formulas from cow to soy based milk, or to special formulas made with smaller molecules that digest easier. Lactose intolerance causes colic, or nursing babies may be responding to something that the mother ate. Underdeveloped digestive systems or food allergies may also cause colic.

The good news about colic is that most babies outgrow it by four months of age. The bad news is that colic symptoms often start when a baby is two weeks old, turning that newborn “precious little bundle” into a screaming bag of misery, and parents into desperate prisoners. Cures are rare and highly individual; treatments seem to rely on the individuality of each child.

A Remedy List for Colicky / Fussy Babies

  • Change of diet (different formula, new feeding schedule, different food amounts)
  • Safe, soothing baby ‘tea’, made of chamomile and lemon balm.
  • Change of bottle: try a different bottle design, with the teat tilted to prevent excess air intake during feeding.
  • Gentle tummy and back massage can ease gas pains and help burp the baby between feedings.
  • Change of diet for nursing moms: avoid members of the cabbage and onion families.
  • Unhurried feeding. Nursing should be calming, not rushed. Organize your schedule for plenty of time feeding and burping the baby.
  • Lowered Stimuli. Loud noises, bright lights and constant change increase the stress on infants (and parents!) Dim the lights and quiet the household during bed, bath and feedings. A cranky child has more problems going to sleep, so try an evening ritual of a warm bath, massage and quiet rocking in a dark room.
  • Consistent burping. Don’t skip this important part of feeding! Help the air move out of your baby’s stomach by patting her back with a cupped hand, working from the lower back up.
  • Homeopathic remedies. Some parents have complete success with homeopathics; others can’t tell the difference. It’s certainly worth a try.

Calming Crying Infants

  1. You don’t have to hold your screaming baby all the time. Studies show that babies cry more when parents are anxious, and babies who spend time alone in their cribs learn to self soothe more easily than ones who are always being picked up. If you’re getting more and more stressed, put the baby in his or her crib and find yourself a quieter room. Relax by playing soothing music or reading books or magazines you find calming.
  2. Parents under the stress of a screaming child are more likely to hurt the child by shaking or hitting to make the crying stop. If you’re feeling desperate, put the baby to bed and call someone—a mom, the dad, a friend or neighbor—for help. Having an emergency sitter, even for a half hour, will help you get yourself under control.
  3. Realize that colic isn’t your fault. It’s normal to feel guilty when your baby is inconsolable, but recognize that colic is a “normal” growing stage for many babies.
  4. Hire a sitter recommended for calm, unruffled dealings with screaming children. Get someone you can trust, pay him or her highly, and get yourself to dinner and a movie or a walk outdoors.

Continue reading more baby tips about Why Do Babies Cry?

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