Colic: Sleepless Nights & Endless Days

Has your newborn been cranky lately and crying for hours at a time?It may be loud and flustering, but crying is a natural part of infant life.Babies cry for a variety of reasons—because they are hungry, have a wet diaper, need to be burped, want to be held.

What's important to remember is that crying does not hurt newborns.“Crying in and of itself is not something to worry about,” says Dr. Ronald Barr, a professor of child development at Montreal's McGill University. “It is rare that crying, without any other symptom, is indicative of a serious problem or disease. If persistent crying is accompanied by an elevated temperature, weight loss, change in sleep habits of energy level, then seek help.”

Still, a newborn's constant crying can unsettle and frazzle even the calmest parent.This is especially true when the crying intensifies and lasts for hours.If this sounds familiar, your baby may have colic.What is colic?Essentially colic is when newborns cry inconsolably, often screaming, extending their legs and passing gas. These crying jags can occur around the clock, though generally they become worse in the early evening and nighttime hours.

Dry Those Eyes

Oddly enough, there is no definite explanation for why colic occurs.It's a phase that will eventually pass, but that’s of little comfort to sleep-deprived parents at their wit’s end. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to curb the crying.Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:

  • If nursing, eliminate milk products, caffeine, onions, cabbage and any other potential irritating foods from your diet.If bottle-feeding, try a formula that has no cow’s milk.If food sensitivity is causing the discomfort, the colic should decrease within a day or two of these changes.
  • Walk your baby in a carrier to soothe her.The motion and body contact will reassure her, even if her discomfort persists.
  • Rock him, run the vacuum in the next room or place him where he can hear the clothes dryer.Steady rhythmic motion and sound may help him fall asleep.
  • Introduce a pacifier.While some breastfed babies will refuse it, for others it provides instant relief.
  • Lay your baby tummy-down across your knees and gently rub her back.The pressure against her abdomen may help relieve her pain.
  • Swaddle her in a blanket so that she feels secure and warm.

Safety Tip

If your baby’s colic is making you feel tense or anxious, have someone else look after the baby and get out of the house.Just an hour or two away can help you gather your thoughts and calm down.Remember: No matter how impatient or angry you feel, never shake your baby.This can cause blindness, brain damage and, in severe cases, death.