Newsflash: Babies cry. This is normal. This is real. This is uncomfortable. So, as a new mama, don’t be alarmed if your baby likes to cry. But when does normal crying turn into something more? What if baby colic is what you’re dealing with? Read on, there is hope.
Colic’s Rule of 3
Well, let’s ground ourselves in the definition of baby colic. Think of the rule of 3.
- If your baby cries for 3 hours a day,
- for at least 3 days a week,
- for 3 consecutive weeks,
If these three conditions are met, your child probably has baby colic.
Baby Colic Symptoms
What are some other symptoms to look for?
- Intense crying episodes (sometimes with predictable daily patterns)
- Inconsolable crying episodes with no apparent trigger
- Arching of back, clenching of fists, recoiling to touch, and other physical/posture changes
No doubt about it, mamas and papas can really struggle with feelings of helplessness and frustration when baby has these symptoms. But, there is a reason for your baby’s extreme fussiness and there are natural ways to treat baby colic. (So, don’t despair!)
What Causes Baby Colic?
The medical community doesn’t really know inconclusively what causes baby colic. Some chock it up to a rite of passage that usually begins at a few weeks old to 3-4 months, sometimes longer. Others blame it on an immature digestive tract, allergies, a developing brain/neurological system, or high-strung parents. Some theorize that colic children are “introverts” and are easily overstimulated. But for many mamas, we want to get to the bottom of it because watching our child cry for hours on end each day is nearly unbearable. Of course, it’s always recommended to check in with your pediatrician to rule out any other potential issues. If it does end up being baby colic, thankfully, there are some simple and natural remedies that may help reduce or eliminate your baby’s symptoms. Before implementing any of these remedies, check with your pediatrician first.
Natural Remedies for Baby Colic
1. Rule out Baby Reflux
The first thing mamas will want to rule out is baby reflux. This condition will often mimic some of the same symptoms as baby colic and can be alleviated with natural remedies. A Homeopathic Remedy called Nat Phos 6X changed my daughter from a red, colicky child to a calm, happy baby. Be sure to look for the signs and symptoms of baby reflux and, if appropriate, treat this root cause of your baby’s crying.
2. Check in With a Lactation Consultant
If you are a breastfeeding mom, this is so essential. There are so many anatomical issues that could be causing your baby grief! Unfortunately, most pediatricians aren’t trained to spot these conditions so be sure you find an IBCLC-certified lactation consultant. Your baby could have a bad latch. She could be tongue-tied. He could be lip-tied. All of these issues could cause some major colic symptoms! You also want to be sure baby is getting enough hindmilk, which is higher in fat, calms the stomach, helps with digestion and promotes satiety. If your baby’s poop is greenish, frothy or mucuosy, this is usually a sign that he’s getting too much foremilk, which can cause digestive distress. This often happens when a breastfeeding mom has too fast a letdown or is having oversupply issues, which is very common in the first few months after giving birth. Consult with a lactation consultant and she can give you tons of tips on nursing positions, feeding strategies and any referrals if any follow up procedures are needed.
3. Follow a Clean Nursing Diet
If you’re a breastfeeding mama, you also want to give up foods that can trigger baby colic symptoms. Dairy is a huge culprit. So are other common allergens like wheat/gluten, eggs, shellfish, citrus, caffeine and spicy foods. While it’s certainly no fun to give up some of your favorite foods, it’s worth your effort. Babies immature digestive systems can react to various foods’ proteins in breast milk! You’ll want to eliminate these allergic foods and give it a good 2-4 weeks to be sure they are cleared from your body and milk. Look into Paleo recipes as these often are free of most common allergens.
4. If Using Formula, Try a Different One
Your child may be reacting to something in her baby formula. Some moms find that changing formulas can make all the difference! I would encourage you to try this homemade formula recipe as it’s alive, rich in bioavailable nutrients, and easier to digest than powdered alternatives.
5. Be Sure Baby is Well Rested
I couldn’t believe how little Griffin could be up during his first few months of life. If I pushed him beyond 75 minutes, he was hysterical. As a result, I was like a military sergeant watching the clock to be sure I had him swaddled and at the breast before 75 minutes elapsed. Watch your baby’s signs closely and be sure she don’t get overtired. Experiment with wakeful time periods to see what works best. Generally speaking, newborns need to be back to bed within 1-2 hours of waking. For some, it’s only 45 minutes! A good sign that you caught your baby in time is that she goes to bed without any struggle. If he’s crying like crazy, you missed the window. Try next nap time 15 minutes earlier. The point is be sure your baby is getting the rest she needs, when she needs it. This will only help baby colic symptoms.
6. Create Closeness
In the last weeks of life in the womb, your baby’s environment is snug, dark, cozy and warm. When babies come out into open space to join the rest of humanity, it can be a jarring and uncomfortable transition. Some even consider the first 3 months of a newborn’s life the “4th trimester.” You can help your colic child transition to the world by babywearing.In many cultures, babywearing is the norm and moms wouldn’t think of setting child down on an activity mat or in a crib. The closeness and warm created with babywearing can soothe colicky babies when nothing else will. Even better, babywear skin-to-skin. Studies show that skin-to-skin contact can regulate baby’s breathing, temperature, heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure. It can also regulate MOOD!If you like your baby to nap outside of the baby carrier, you can try swaddling. This practice creates some of the comfort and closeness baby is accustomed to. Additionally, some babies wake themselves up regularly with their startle reflex. Others inadvertently scratch themselves. A swaddle will solve both of these problems. You’ll want to be sure you swaddle correctly as too tight at the hips can cause issues later on. I liked this swaddle because it tightens around the arms and leaves the hip/feet loose. Keep in mind, your baby may resist the swaddle initially but he/she will sleep much better and longer with it on. Some babies will like being swaddled for 6 months but most will want to stop around 3-4 months. I also don’t know what I would have done without this transition swaddle. Great for when baby doesn’t want the swaddle anymore but they aren’t ready for a sleep sack or blanket. If your baby is consistently objecting to the swaddle and it isn’t helping her sleep, it’s best to stop.Even better, co-sleep. Some moms bypass the swaddle entirely and co-sleep whenever possible (naps and nighttime). The majority of the world practice this sleeping arrangement. By creating this closeness and warm, you can help soothe your colicky baby.
7. Create Some Noise
The womb was not only snug but it was noisy. Between mama’s heartbeat and digestion, the sound in utero is intense. My childbirth educator said it’s the equivalent of having a vacuum cleaner on at all times! We like this noisemaker as it’s fan-based and not too intense. My brother ended up playing a hairdryer CD on repeat to keep his baby boy asleep at night! I’ve also heard amazing things about the Sleep Genius app. When we soothe baby to sleep, we can also make ssshhing noises (learned about from “The Happiest Baby on the Block”) or hum loudly. This noise can often refocus their attention, comfort them and reduce crying overall.
8. Let Baby Suck
Babies have a very powerful sucking reflux that needs to be satiated. If you think about it, it’s literally life or death as this is only way they take in nourishment for their first several months of life. Some babies come out of the womb with sucking blisters on their hands! Babies have a hand-to-mouth reflex too, which them to place their hands, fingers or fists into their mouth as a way to comfort and soothe themselves.Griffin loved to “comfort” nurse or just suckle at the breast after he had his fill of milk. Paloma liked to suck her hand. We also resorted to natural pacifiers when in a pinch (like in the car). If baby is breastfed, let him feed on demand as much as possible. If you formula feed or work outside of the home, you can try a natural pacifier or a clean pinkie finger, if you feel comfortable. (Note: There is a risk of nipple confusion so use wisely.) Bottom line, let your colic baby use their natural refluxes to comfort and soothe themselves.
9. Get Fresh Air
Something about the fresh air is magical. When I couldn’t soothe Griffin or Paloma, I’d always bundle us up and head outdoors. The sun, the wind, the bird chirping, the movement, all of these elements helped to shift the mood and comfort my babies.
10. Take Warm Baths
Alternatively, some babies love a warm bath. It can help soothe their tummies as well as their spirits. You don’t have to add any soap or bubble bath. Just warm water and a peaceful bathroom environment. You can also warm a wash cloth and put on baby’s tummy if you don’t want to draw a bath every day.
11. Create Movement
With Griffin, I would rock him for hours in my arms. With Paloma, I’d bounce her on an exercise ball for hours. Some moms walk around the house with baby in sling. Some moms put baby in stroller and walk the neighborhood. Of course, the classic is driving around in the car while baby falls asleep in back. Swings and vibrating recliners/rockers can also be fantastic tools for parents of colicky children. Do whatever works for you! The point is movement can calm and soothe an upset child so incorporate regularly.
12. Do Bodywork
Certain baby exercises can do wonders for releasing trapped gas. You can try doing bicycle legs, bent legs or put their bellies on your thighs for gentle pressure. You can also do gentle belly massages. (Always do clockwise motion when rubbing baby’s tummy.) Here is a great video that brings these exercises to life! You can also get your baby adjusted by a chiropractor. Many times, during the birth process, baby’s body gets out of alignment which can affect everything from sleep, to bowel movements, to digestion. I would recommend finding someone who specializes in infant care. Here’s where you can find a pediatric chiropractor near you.
13. Use Digestive Support & Probiotics If Necessary
As mentioned earlier, some practitioners believe colic is related to baby’s immature digestion. The trapped gas, sluggish digestive tract and acid reflux (all babies have some form) can lead to the colic symptoms. Some moms find that gripe water works great. Others like using formulations with activated charcoal, which can absorb excess gas.Some breastfeeding moms will drink fennel tea and this will calm baby’s digestive system. Others swear by baby probiotics. Babies need bifida bacteria for their developing digestive systems. The purest infant probiotic on the market, with no added fillers, is available here. (It is very pricey but a little goes a long way and this bottle will probably last your baby’s first year of life!)
In studies, this probiotic strain showed promise for reducing colic symptoms. As I mentioned earlier, of all the products out there, I like the homeopathic remedy Nat Phos 6X. It’s a natural cell salt, something our body already produces, but it can be underproduced in newborns. I like that it only uses lactose as an added ingredient, something that baby already consumes abundantly with breastmilk or formula. I also found it extremely effective! I administered 1/2 tablet (dissolved in a little breast milk) after every feeding and Paloma went from a fussy, unhappy baby to a calm and peaceful one. The key is to work with your healthcare provider to find the right digestive aid for your baby if appropriate.
14. Get Help
Despite all of our best efforts, sometimes babies just cry. Sometimes there is nothing we can do to make it better. Watching this unfold as a parent is heartbreaking… and at times overwhelming.
Moms of colicky babies need to take extra good care of themselves. (In fact, these moms have a significant increased risk for postpartum depression.) Have a friend, family member or babysitter come over a few times a week so you can get a break if the crying is too intense. On the weekends, have dad takeover more so you can get some extra rest and light exercise. Talk to a counselor or other moms for support. Go on medication if need be. Don’t go through this alone.
Here’s How Other Mamas Helped Relieve Their Baby’s Colic Naturally
I asked the moms on my Facebook page what they did to help a colicky baby. Here are some of their responses.
- My daughter had really bad colic. At 2 am and almost 24 hours of no sleep, I turned on my hair dryer. Instant quiet. As soon as I turned it off, she’d start crying. Thank God my hair dryer had a cool setting. My daughter, hair dryer and I spent a lot of time rocking together. – Kimberly G.
- Woombie, amber/hazel, chiropractor, probiotics, baby wearing, nurse on demand, co sleep, swaddle/swing. It works!! – Eco Chic
- My 2nd child was extremely colicky…I tried wearing him, different holding positions ( tummy down on my arm), catnip tea, among others. Our saving grace was a chiropractor. He was amazing, our first visit, and it was like we had a new little boy that same night. – Kimberly H.
- Yes! My first baby was extremely colicky until almost 6 months. It was really one of the hardest experiences of my life! Wearing her a lot, infant massage, and being proactive about helping her get gas out (squishing her legs up and doing bicycles) were super helpful. Also, we would put her infant tub under the warm water, and let it run on her belly, and this would almost always bring her relief! – Kelley S.
- Absolutely everyone should have cranial sacral with their infant from birth. My OB and my doula both do it. My infant did and he also has monthly chiro adjustments. – Stephanie H.
- Brauer’s homeopathic Colic formula. – Simba & Mama
- Our biggest savior and almost instant improvement was our Chiropractor. – Melissa A.
- Catnip tea. – Ashley G.
- Babywearing…bouncing…nothing really helped much, it was an agonizing 3 months. – Julie T.
Take Heart—It Will Pass…
Be patient with implementing these natural remedies as some can take time to see the effects, particularly the diet/digestive-related ones. Know that your baby will get through this phase. IT WILL PASS. For most, colic lasts for the first 3-4 months of life. You can look at it as “growing pains” as they make the transition to life on the outside 🙂 While it’s not easy as a parent to watch, you will get through it and get to the other side. Hopefully, these 14 natural remedies for baby colic can help you along the way.
How About You?
Was your baby colicky? What seemed to help him/her? Share with us in the comments below!