You may prevent some crying episodes related to colic by developing a strong emotional bond with your baby, which helps both of you to feel more secure and calm. After your baby has started to cry, use comforting and soothing techniques to try to shorten the episode or decrease its intensity. Certain preventive measures may also help. Colic gradually goes away on its own, regardless of what you do.
Keep a diary to chart your baby's daily activities, including when he or she cries. The record may help you to notice patterns in your baby's crying and increase your ability to predict when colic episodes are likely to occur. You may be able to help prevent or decrease crying episodes during those times:
- Anticipate your baby's needs. Pay attention to your baby's natural habits and set a rough schedule for meals, nap, and play. That way, you can predict behavior and respond appropriately. You may also want to try holding and comforting your baby before his or her usual crying time. Use a front carrier or sling so you can do other things while you keep your baby close to you.
- Create a calm environment. During expected fussy times, touch your baby only if needed, and try to limit visitors, bright lights, loud noises, and chaotic situations. Overstimulation can trigger a crying episode or make one worse.
- Reduce stress. Babies are very sensitive to the moods of their caregivers and may cry more during times of family stress or tension. Take good care of yourselves to help keep your baby's environment calm and safe. Remember that this challenging time won't last, and know that you have personal limitations.
- Ask for help when you need it. It may help shorten a crying episode by having another caregiver try to soothe your baby during times when you feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Your baby may respond better to someone who is "fresh" and relaxed. Plan ahead by scheduling help before you need it. Have a list of people to call in case you need help unexpectedly.
Colic is not caused by health problems. But when your baby doesn't feel good, crying episodes may get worse. You can help minimize colicky behavior by taking preventive measures to reduce your baby's risk of illness.
- If you are breast-feeding, be aware of your diet. The foods you eat may affect your breast milk and cause abdominal (belly) pain in your baby, which may extend a crying episode.
- Feed your baby appropriately. Very young babies may be hungry 1 to 2 hours after a feeding. Offer food on demand. But to avoid overfeeding, be sure to watch for when your baby is full.
- Help prevent abdominal gas in your baby. Gas can cause pain, leading to extended crying.
- Practice good hygiene to avoid illness. A sick baby usually has more frequent and intense crying episodes. To help prevent illness as much as possible, use good hygiene, such as washing hands frequently, including your baby's. Ask visitors to do the same. Avoid being around large crowds during a baby's first weeks, especially around people who smoke. Breathing in secondhand smoke can increase a baby's risk for respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma.
After a colic episode begins, comforting measures may help.
- Respond to the crying quickly and appropriately. Quickly assess whether a cry likely indicates "I'm hungry" or "I need to be changed," and so on, and act accordingly. Doing so may prevent your baby from getting so upset that he or she cannot be consoled. For more information on figuring out what your crying baby needs, see the topic Crying, Age 3 and Younger.
- Burp your baby, especially if you suspect abdominal gas started the crying episode.
- Reduce the activity around your baby. Overstimulation from noise, lights, and too much attention can trigger a crying episode. Move your baby to a quiet and calm environment.
- Try infant massage. Some parents use infant massage to try and relieve colic. Research does not show one way or the other whether this method helps babies with colic.1
- Soothe your baby by helping him or her to be more comfortable. Don't worry that you may be spoiling your baby by giving frequent and loving attention.
If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your baby, act immediately.
- Place your baby in a crib to cry while you go into another room and calm yourself.
- Ask someone to take over for you. If nobody else is home, call a friend who can help you calm down. If you are afraid you cannot control yourself and cannot get other help, call .
Call your doctor if you frequently feel overwhelmed or are unable to get adequate support.
Do not use unproven or dangerous treatments for colic. Get advice from your doctor before using alternative therapies, which may have unknown effects.
Also, be careful about acting impulsively or using desperate measures to treat colic. For example, do not:
- Let your baby stay in the crib and cry until he or she is exhausted.
- Stop breast-feeding your baby. This will not cure colic.
- Give your baby aspirin or aspirin products, because of the risk for Reye syndrome.
- Give your baby alcohol (even a pacifier dipped in brandy or other alcoholic beverages).
- Shake or spank your baby for crying. Serious or even fatal brain injuries may result (shaken baby syndrome).
- Give your baby medicine unless it is recommended or prescribed by your doctor.
Some doctors prescribe probiotics, which are bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms (microflora) in the intestines. Studies are being done to find out how helpful probiotics are for babies who have colic.
It is important to take care of yourself and remember that colic is not caused by poor parenting. Colic is temporary, and it will not affect a baby's general health or future development.
If nothing seems to console your baby, keep trying comforting techniques, but realize that sometimes nothing works. If you are not successful and you become exhausted by these efforts, ask for someone else to take over for you.