How to Treat Colic

Colic takes an enormous toll on parents, transforming what should be the happiest time in our lives into one of misery for many. I’ll never forget reading a heartfelt blog post by a mother named Lee, who described her experience with colic: “I was a wreck. You were the same way when you were a baby, my mom told me. You turned out just fine. Just fine? I physically beat myself up because I couldn’t get my son to stop crying.”

[Read More: What is Colic?]

Colic usually occurs between a newborn’s second week and the third or fourth month and is medically defined as crying for more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for 3 weeks (the so-called rule of 3’s). Coping with a child who screams and screams for hours on end—without the ability to express what’s wrong—is undeniably distressing.

During almost 30 years as a pediatrician, I’ve worked with countless parents who’ve felt guilt and shame, as if not being able to tame colic makes them a failed parent. When you’re so darn worn out, it’s unfortunately common to give in to these unhelpful doubts. As Lee says in her post, “The only thing that changed was my increasing anxiety that my son would not turn out ‘just fine.’ That I was failing on some fundamental level as a mother.”

How to Treat Colic: Tools for Calming Colic

I have my own theory on colic. I believe that in a “weird” sort of a way, our babies are born three months too soon. Think about it: Baby horses are ready to run from the very first day, but our babies are so immature they need our help…even just to burp! Instead of being plunked down on a flat crib in a stone-silent room, my work has shown that infants need to transition more slowly into our big world. Imitating the five soothing, hypnotic rhythms they experienced in the womb (the so-called “5 S’s”) are just what they need in those first three to four months.

Research confirms these ideas. The department of Health of Boulder, Colorado tried the 5 S’s with 42 at-risk families (teen moms, premature babies, drug users, etc) who all had very fussy babies. Their study showed 41 out of those 42 very fussy babies immediately improved with the “5 S’s” and three special tools: a Happiest Baby DVD to reinforce the teaching, a large, thin swaddling blanket, and a white noise CD for naps and all night long.

Years later, I realized technology could be another tool to help parents. From that idea, I came up with Happiest Baby’s SNOO Smart bassinet. With “responsive” tech based on the 5 S’s, it detects a baby’s cries and provides just the right amount of sound and motion to sooth them and stretches sleep longer. SNOO lends a helping hand to families struggling to settle their babies—especially their colicky babies—and get the rest they need.

Parents Need Care for Colic Too

But equally important to relieving your baby’s discomfort from colic is relieving YOUR discomfort. One of doctors’ biggest concerns is that this type of persistent crying—and the exhaustion it causes— can trigger very serious health issues in parents, including postpartum depression. Some women slip easily into depression (Mental Health Resources for New Parents]

And one important reminder: Never shake your baby! So, if you are getting frustrated or angry because of your baby’s crying, please put your baby down for a little bit. And, make sure to tell everyone helping with the baby the same.)

Final Thoughts on How to Treat Colic

I know it feels like it will never end, but it will. Take heart in the fact that infants who experience colic do not experience any negative effects in the long run. Get rest, take walks outside, eat well, don’t worry about housework and chores, and remember that you’re doing the very best that you can do! If you’re interested in learning more about how to treat colic and fussiness with the 5 S’s, you can stream Happiest Baby on the Block here.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.