Coping with colic

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What to do when a baby has colic

Caring for a baby with colic can be stressful for parents, especially first-time parents. Even if you’ve been reassured by you GP that your baby is healthy, it’s not easy to listen to them crying, or see them upset and unable to settle. But there are a number of strategies parents and carers can use to make it easier to cope with a colicky baby.

Self-care

It is important to take care of yourself and have strategies in place to help yourself. Dealing with a colicky baby is very challenging. It’s normal to feel distressed when your baby won’t stop crying. And it’s important to remember things will get better. If you’re stressed your baby will pick up on that, as will other members of your family. So remember, the symptoms of colic will pass, usually by four months of age and at the latest by six months of age.

In the meantime, coping will be much easier if you accept that you are not a super parent and you can’t do everything perfectly. Caring for a baby takes lots of time and energy, so you should not expect to be able to do all the things you did before you had a baby. Obviously there are some things you need to keep doing, like shopping for food and cooking, but you’ll need to cut back on other things. If you can’t keep the house spotless or run out of time to weed the garden, remind yourself that it really doesn’t matter. Worrying won’t help, just the opposite.

Make sure you get enough rest (and that might be challenging with a fussy baby). Sleep is important- you’ll be better able to cope with your baby crying if you’re well rested. Try to take a nap while your baby is sleeping, and if you can’t fall asleep, just use the time to rest and relax. Ask friends or family for some support so you can have some time out and take a nap. Try to sleep for at least three hours (continuously) at least twice a day.

Take a break when you need to. Even if there is no one available to help you when your baby is crying, you can walk away. Put them in a safe place, where they can cry alone for a few minutes and spend the time relaxing and collecting your thoughts. Exercising is also a great way to rest the mind.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept it when someone offers. And remember just being there to talk to is a great way friends can help. Try to spend time with other adults every day, so you can talk about your experiences. Joining a parent’s group is a great way to meet new people who are experiencing similar things to you. And there are many telephone support services that offer advice and support to new parents, if you need an extra source of support. Although it’s normal to have some negative thoughts, if you feel depressed or resentful towards your baby, it’s particularly important to talk to someone you trust.

Plan baby’s daily routine

Planning your baby’s daily routine, so that you are doing things they like and find comforting during the time of day when they usually feel unsettled, can also make it easier to cope with a colicky baby. You could schedule their daily bath around the crying time. The warm soothing water and a massage might help calm your baby. Other ways to soothe your baby include motion such as rocking or pushing them in a pram.

Mother soothing her crying baby More strategies on helping a colicky baby

Plan your daily routine

As the colic crying period is mostly in the late afternoon and evening, it is best to not organise other activities for these times. The stress of that and caring for a crying baby will put a lot of pressure on yourself and partner, and it will be even greater if you plan to do important things at the time your baby is crying each day. Have simple easy to prepare meals planned that don’t require a lot of preparation. For example, try grilled meat/fish and salad. Or prepare meals ahead of time so all you have to do is reheat them. This works well for soups, pasta and rice dishes. You could also ask friends and family to help out by providing you with precooked meals. That way you’ll be able to give your baby your full attention, without feeling stressed about other things you need to do.

Using a variety of settling strategies

Use a variety of strategies to try and settle your baby. Some babies like sucking a dummy (pacifier), others being swaddled, then try to settle them. Don’t be surprised if what works to settle your baby one day, doesn’t work the next. You may have to change your settling strategies from day to day.  However there are many different things you can do to try and settle your crying baby.

Seek support from friends and family

It’s important to seek help and realise that you don’t have to care for your colicky baby alone. If possible get regular support, for example have a friend come and support or relieve you at a certain time of the day or week. Let your partner know how they can support you and plan times that they can take over caring for your baby, so that you can have a break.

If you find yourself becoming increasingly stressed or angry as the time goes on, have a friend or family member come to relieve you. Get out of the house for a while until you calm down. Even just an hour or two can make a big difference to how you feel. If you are at home alone, it is ok to put your baby safely in the cot and walk away until you feel calmer. If you start to feel like you can’t cope, see you doctor or child health nurse for help.

Seek professional support

You may also want to seek professional support if you have difficulty getting your baby to settle. There are a range of health professionals who may be able to offer support, including maternal and child health nurses and general practitioners. There are also telephone help lines you can call for help, any time you need it.

family support See support services for new parents

What not to do when a baby is crying from colic

Never shake a baby

Never shake a baby. Shaking a baby can cause serious injuries including brain damage and blindness. It may also kill your baby. If you are feeling very stressed and think about shaking your baby, you need support. Talk to your doctor or child health nurse immediately, and if available ask friends and family to help you look after your baby so you can have a bit of time out.

(Kindly reviewed by Annie McArdle RN, RM, CHN, Master Adv. Prac. (Healthcare Research); Clinical Midwife at Mater Mothers’ Private Brisbane with over 25 years’ experience in parent information and education.)

More information

crying baby, infant colic To read more about infant colic, what it is, causes and how to treat it, visit Infant Colic.

References

  1. National Health Service. Colic. 2015. (cited 28 August 2016). Available from: (URL Link)
  2. Raising Children Network. Colic- What is it? 2015 (cited 7 August 2016) Available from: (URL Link)
  3. Australian Capital Territory Government Department of Health. Colic. 2015. [cited 31 July 2016. Available from: (URL Link)
  4. Raising Children Network. Colic- What to do? 2015. (cited 31 August 2016). Available from: (URL Link)
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Colic relief tips for parents. 2015. (cited 31 July 2016). Available from: (URL Link)
  6. Canadian Pediatric Society. Colic and Crying. 2016. (cited 25/9/2016). Available from: (URL Link)
  7. National Health Service. Colic-treatment. 2015. (cited 25 September 2016). Available from: (URL Link)
  8. American Pregnancy Association. Colic. 2016. (cited 25 September 2016). Available from: (URL Link)
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Date Created: October 14, 2016 Date Modified: October 20, 2017