Colic is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. Even with so much research and cases of colicky babies (up to 25% of all babies suffer from colic), doctors still don’t know the exact cause of colic and no single treatment has proved to make colic completely go away.
My son Lucas experienced colic until about 4 months. For 4 months I did everything in my power to try to end the uncontrollable crying. Lucas eventually got better and I learned that TIME was the only cure for colic. Living with a colicky baby was a challenge. I felt helpless, and at times, I felt like I was failing as a new mom. I had to learn ways to cope with colic to stay sane — most of the colic remedies recommended by our doctor and other moms did not work for my son.
Here is a list of colic remedies that experts/doctors recommend with my personal remarks of what worked and did not work for my son. I know all babies are different, but I hope that by sharing my personal experience, I can help a parent struggling with a colicky baby. Feel free to contact me directly with questions or by posting comments below!
Colic Remedy #1: Ease a gassy tummy
There are no documented studies that indicate excessive gas is a cause for colic, but some colicky babies also suffer from gassiness because they tend to swallow air while crying. If you think your baby is fussy because he/she’s gassy, talk to your pediatrician. Our pediatrician recommended Mylicon (generic SIMETHICONE) for gas. Simethicone helps break up gas bubbles in the gut and provides gas relief for babies. Unfortunately, we saw very little improvement in my son with Mylicon, and after a few weeks, we decided to stop it. Other parents recommended gripe water (a natural herbal supplement used to ease gas and stomach discomfort), but it was also not effective for us. We tried Happi Tummi, which is a waistband and herbal pouch that you warm up and put around the baby’s tummy. Happi Tummi did provide some temporary relief for my son. I am not sure if it was the warm waistband around his tummy or the aromatherapy, but it definitely helped.
More recently, pediatricians have recommended probiotics for babies with colic. I have heard several success stories in which probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri in particular) have helped relieve colic symptoms. Discuss the use of probiotics with your doctor.
Colic Remedy #2: If you are breastfeeding, make sure you don’t have hindmilk/foremilk imbalance & adjust your diet
I experienced hindmilk/foremilk imbalance, and I noticed a huge difference in my son’s fussiness when I corrected it. Breastfeeding moms who switch the baby to the other side before the baby has completely emptied the breast might only be feeding the baby the foremilk with less fat content and more lactose. This could result in a fussy baby that will cry right after feedings with gas, cramps, and will usually have explosive bowl movements (with green and watery stool). Allow your baby to nurse in one breast until it feels empty. It may take a few days for your baby to fully adjust and pass normal grainy mustardy stools and show improvements with colic. After your breast milk regulates, and if your baby’s stools and fussiness have not changed, you may want to pay closer attention to what you are eating and start eliminating certain foods from your diet that could be irritating your baby’s digestive system. The usual suspects are cow’s milk products, soy, wheat, corn, eggs, peanuts and any food that a family member is allergic to. I kept a food journal for my son and it was very helpful. For more information read “Breastfeeding and Baby Fussiness.”
Colic Remedy #3: For formula-fed babies consider changing your baby formula
Talk to your doctor about switching to a formula containing whey hydrolysate (such as Good Start) or try a low-allergy formula (such as Nutramigen, Alimentum, or Pregestimil). I had to supplement breastfeeding with formula when I experienced low milk supply, and our pediatrician recommended Alimentum. My son rejected it (Alimentum has a very unique and strong taste). I then tried a soy based formula and he responded well.
Colic Remedy #4: Soothe your baby with the “5 S’s”
The 5 S’s was pretty much how I coped with colic and I consider it the most effective “method” to soothe babies. The “5 S’s System,” developed by pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp, consists of five simple steps (swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking) to help trigger a baby’s calming reflex (the automatic reset switch that can stop a baby’s crying and boost a baby’s sleep during the first months of life). My son loved his swing and would sleep better in his swing than in his bassinet. Swaddling also worked for him and he would take longer naps when he was swaddled (learn how to properly swaddle a baby here). Shushing had to be loud, but it also had a calming effect on my son. Now you can even buy a sound machine called the Baby Shusher, which many parents call the “Baby Sleep Miracle.” Sucking did not work for him, he did not like pacifiers, but most babies do and pacifiers are effective soothers. Watch a video demonstrating how to apply the 5 S’s in our post “How to soothe your baby using the “Five S’s.”
Colic Remedy #5: Give baby massage a try
At first, given how fussy my baby was, I did not think baby massage would help. I tried to massage his tummy a few times during his crying episodes and it was not effective. But after doing more research, I learned about the importance of massaging the baby’s tummy several times during the day (instead of waiting for a crying spell) in order to prevent gas from building up. I also learned the proper way to massage a baby with colic. Lucas really enjoyed being massaged and it certainly soothed him. It was also a great way for me to bond with him. I wrote about baby massage in the post “Baby Massage Helps Relieve Colic and Soothe Babies.” Make sure to watch the video.
Colic Remedy #6: Try white noise
After reading that white noise is considered one of the most effective ways to soothe and prolong baby’s sleep, I had to give it a try with Lucas. I didn’t have any baby sound machines in the house and decided to use my husband’s electric shaver that had vibration sounds. I was amazed at how well he responded to it. The crying and fussiness would immediately stop every time he heard the vibration and static noise that the device made. The electric shaver became my best friend, my miracle soothing tool — it went everywhere with us. When we had our second baby — Isabella — I decided to buy a baby sound machine and retire the electric shaver. Isabella also responded well to white noise. I have recommended my favorite white noise machines in the post “White Noise Machines: The Best Baby Soothers.”
Colic Remedy #7: Manage your anxiety and ask for help
One of the biggest mistakes I made when dealing with my colicky baby was not asking for help. I was sleep-deprived, anxious, frustrated and restless. I am pretty sure my baby could feel my anxiety and it only made things worse. When you become overwhelmed, call your spouse, a friend, or a family member. It is extremely important for you to take a break from the crying.
You need to take care of yourself in order to be as strong as you can to care for your colicky baby.
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This article was written by Fernanda Haido, the founder of FefisBaby. It is based on her personal experience with colic and it should not be a substitute for medical/professional consultation.