Constant Crying: How to Cope with Colic

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
New mom paces the floor in her home while comforting her fussy newborn son

You’ve been bonding with your newborn for a few weeks when suddenly it starts. Your baby cries for hours at a stretch. They keep crying, no matter what you do, until you are both worn out. The next day, it’s the same thing all over again.

You ask the pediatrician if this is normal. The answer is that your baby might have colic.

“About one-fifth of all babies have this difficult, but temporary, condition,” explains Olga Guzovsky, MD, a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “It can be concerning as new parent when your baby seems so inconsolable. But babies with colic are not ill. They just cry a lot more than babies usually do.”

What Is Colic?

Colicky babies cry (or scream) for hours on end, for no obvious reason. They may:

  • Consistently cry more than three hours at a time—at least three days a week for more than three weeks. The crying spells may occur at any time but tend to be worse early in the evening. Nothing you do seems to help.
  • Sound like they’re in pain. Their stomachs may be hard or distended, and they may stretch or pull up their legs, clench their fists, and pass gas.
  • Turn bright red in the face when crying.
Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes colic. The good news is that colic is something babies outgrow. Most of the time, colic goes away by the age of 3 or 4 months.

What You Can Do

If your baby is colicky, the pediatrician will check whether something else is causing your baby to cry. If you are breastfeeding, they may suggest that you avoid dairy products, nuts, chocolate, caffeine, onions, or cabbage. If you are bottle-feeding, ask the pediatrician about switching to another formula. Your baby might be sensitive to certain proteins in their current formula.

Dr. Guzovsky also suggests these additional tips that may help you and your infant during this stressful period:

  • Try reducing the stimulation – noise, lights, smells – surrounding your baby.
  • Swaddle your baby in a blanket.
  • Rock your baby or go for a ride in the car. Try taking them on a walk in a stroller or carrier.
  • Place your baby within earshot of a white-noise machine, or close to the lull of a fan, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, or dishwasher.
  • Give your baby gentle belly or back massages.
  • Offer them a pacifier.
  • Take time for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for relief from family and friends. Even a short daily break can help you reclaim a positive attitude.

Finally, remember that time is on your side. “Though living through colic can be difficult, your child will soon move on to a happier stage,” Dr. Guzovsky reassures parents. “And you will, too.”

Related Links

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s has the region’s largest coordinated network of pediatric primary care providers, committed to delivering the very best care to children of all ages, including routine immunizations. Find a UH Rainbow pediatric practice near you.

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