Set the baby in motion.
As most parents can attest, mild repetitious motion, such as that of a moving car or a rocking chair, can calm a cranky baby. With a colicky child, that knowledge is doubly important, according to Cheston M.Berlin, Jr., M.D., a professor of pediatrics and of pharmacology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey. "Motion is the best thing for children who are having so much trouble," he says. If taking the child out in the car is too inconvenient, he recommends putting the child in a safety seat and placing it atop a running dryer (don't leave the baby unattended).
There are also devices on the market that will rock or vibrate the baby's crib, Berlin says. Some of these devices even have sound sensors that will start the motion only when the baby starts crying and will stop after it senses that the baby has calmed down or gone to sleep. One device even simulates the motion of a car moving at 55 miles per hour. Some physicians find it effective, while others feel that it makes little difference.
Let the baby sleep.
Many parenting books and pediatricians would have you believe that you should pick the baby up every time he or she cries, says Carey. However babies often cry because they are tired. If this is the case, picking up the child only stimulates him or her further. "I think some of the time you should be leaving the baby alone," Carey says. "If you pick up a tired baby, he'll cry more." To assess whether your child is crying because of fatigue, try everything else first: feeding, burping, changing, cuddling. Then, if the baby is still crying, put him or her down to sleep, and walk away. Often, the child will settle down within five minutes, Carey says.
"It is important to emphasize that colic is a benign disorder," Berlin says. "It has never been known to cause or represent any serious medical problem." With that knowledge in mind, understand that this is just a stage in your child's development an unpleasant stage that will soon pass.
Take your baby off cow's milk.
Some studies have shown an improvement in colic after dairy products have been removed from babies' diets, according to Ronald G. Barr, M.D.C.M., an associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at McGill University and director of the Child Development Program at Montreal Children's Hospital, both in Montreal. The culprit seems to be a protein in cow's milk which is present in many infant formulas and is also found in the milk of breast-feeding mothers who eat dairy products, Barr says. The protein may be responsible for colic about five to ten percent of babies who suffer from the condition. Changing the baby's formula (there are many soy-based formulas available) or staying off dairy products yourself if you are breast-feeding, is worth a try. If your baby's crying does not seem to improve after two weeks you can assume that the milk was not the problem.
Try peppermint water.
Although it has never been definitively proven to be effective, peppermint-flavored water is a century-old remedy for colic, according to Berlin. "It was very recently discovered that the active ingredient in peppermint a calcium-channel blocker, a substance that may relax the gut," he says. He recommends soaking a piece of a peppermint stick in water, then feeding a bottleful of the flavored water to the baby. Do not use straight peppermint oil, he says, as may be too strong for the baby.
Add fiber to your baby's formula.
Some studies have shown that colic seemed to improve in certain infants when fiber was added to their formula, according to William R. Treem, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. "Some babies seemed to be dramatically better when we added fiber to their formula," he said. "We used Citrucel, a bulking agent that draws water into the stool. We have added anywhere from one-half teaspoon three times a day to one-half teaspoon six times a day. I think it's best to start small and build up to the higher doses." Although not the answer for every baby, adding fiber is certainly safe and is definitely worth a try, Treem says.
Take a shower.
If your baby's crying has driven you to the point of near madness, it's time to stop and take a break, Berlin says, since an overly frustrated parent can be of no help to anyone. "I recommend 20 to 30 minutes in a warm shower," he says, adding that the sound of the water can successfully mask the baby's crying. (Be sure the baby is in a safe place, such as a crib).
Keep a calendar.
A record of your baby's weight and the frequency and length of crying bouts may be of help in tracking his or her progress, Barr says. It can also be a handy record to take to the pediatrician's office, he says. A useful bonus of the charting is that it reminds you that your baby does cry a lot, but that there are breaks in between. "Parents tend to feel like the baby just cries all the time," Barr says.
"The babies that you see in magazines and booksthe babies who are neat, clean, and happywell, you can expect your baby to be like that for about 30 minutes out of every 24 hours," says Edward R.Christophersen, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri at Kansas City School of Medicine and chief of the Behavioral Pediatrics Section at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. "Keep in mind that the only exercise babies get is crying and nursing." In other words, don't be discouraged: Your baby is not abnormal just because he or she cries a lot.
Soothe, don't stimulate.
Since crying, colicky babies are already overly stimulated, try soothing the baby instead of bouncing or rocking him or her says Carey. Some time-honored tools: a hot-water bottle, filled with warmnot hot water and placed on a towel on the child's back or stomach; a pacifier; or the use of repetitious sounds, such as the noise of a fan or humidifier.
Maintain as much direct contact as possible.
Pediatricians often recommend carrying and cuddling a colicky baby as much as possible. However, studies have failed to show that carrying actually causes a reduction in crying. On the other hand, carrying the baby more frequently before colic ever sets in may prevent the condition from developing in the first place, says Barr. He mentions a study where the caretakers of 99 normal infants increased their carrying of the infants by the age of three weeks. The result? The babies cried 43 percent less than other babies of the same age. "The carrying prevented the crying peak from ever occurring in those infants," Barr says. He also describes studies of a tribe of Botswanian hunter-gatherers, the Kung San, whose infants cry as often as North American babies, but only for about half as long. Mothers in the tribe spend significantly more time with their babies held close to their bodies than North Americans do, he says.
Feed more often.
One reason that the !Kung San spend so much time holding their babies is that they feed them almost continuously, Barr says. "They feed very frequently approximately four times per hour, four minutes per feed," he says. This type of feeding schedule may be partly responsible for the reduced crying of the !Kung San infants, according to Barr. "Parents do have the option to feed more frequently," he says. "I think there is lots of room for changing the frequency of feeding that is within the range of what is normal." Even if continuous feeding does not fit into your schedule, adding a few extra feedings still may help, Barr says.
Put your baby on a schedule.
Some children cry excessively because they simply don't know how to calm themselves down enough to go to sleep, says Christophersen. Since babies under the age of 12 weeks often fall asleep while being fed, it is sometimes difficult for them to fall asleep without feeding, he says. He suggests starting your baby on a regular schedule of sleeping and waking and trying to get him or her to fall asleep without your assistance. "Kiss them, hug them, sing them songs, then let them fall asleep on their own," he says. "This way, they learn to make their own transition from the alert, crying state to the sleeping state."
Touch base with your pediatrician.
Your pediatrician can be an invaluable source of ideas, experience, and reassurance, says Christophersen. "Parents can get very discouraged with a colicky child," he says. He recommends taking advantage of all support systems that are available to you.
Wait it out.
If all else fails, take solace in the fact that colic generally stops by three months of age, Berlin says. The longest you'll have to wait is until the baby reaches six months, although colic this long-lasting is rare. Unfortunately, "there's no dramatic cure," he says.