Fussy Baby was originally written and published under the title, Practical Help to Calm Your Fussy Baby, when our first child was a toddler. We have made a few minor updates.
We are NOT doctors. We are NOT experts. The following information is not intended as medical advice. It is simply a collection of our personal experiences in caring for a colicky baby. You and your doctor are responsible for all childcare decisions.
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13 NIV
“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 KJV
“All things work together for good to them that love God.” Romans 8:28 KJV
Babies are different. Some babies “feel good” most of the time, and their needs are easily met. Other babies do not feel so well, and we often do not even know why. They fuss and cry a lot, and it seems there is nothing that anyone can do to help them. This behaviour, frequently described as colic, is usually a mystery to parents and doctors alike.
Mothers and fathers who have gone through the experience of caring for a fussy or “high need” child have found that certain simple and often unusual methods can be employed to provide comfort. The following is a collection of techniques that my husband and I have discovered through research and first hand experience in soothing our first-born son. We hope that this material will be helpful to you and your child.
“If they understood the agony of the baby left to weep in his crib, his terrible longing and the consequences of the suffering, the effects of the deprivation upon his personality development and potential for making a satisfactory life, I do not doubt that they would fight to prevent his being left alone for a minute.”1
Please do not let your little one suffer alone. He is crying for a reason. He is not “just doing that”. You might discover that the next thing you try will comfort him. A combination of methods might be the answer. If you find something that works, keep it up. My husband and I always tried to prolong the peaceful times for as long as possible. A baby who appears to be crying for no reason may be suffering as much as a baby whose crying has an obvious cause.
If you have older children that were not colicky, it will be even more of an adjustment to meet the many different needs of the new baby. Every child requires special and individual care.
Remember, some of the following ideas are appropriate for newborn infants. Others are better for older babies and toddlers. Choose those best suited for your child’s age. Just because it worked for our son, does not mean it will work for your baby. Keep in mind that your child will be more contented if he can share in every part of your life.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5,6 (KJV)
Pray to God for strength and wisdom to cope with the challenge of raising your little child. Pray that you may be enabled to provide the comfort and relief he needs.
The first step in childcare should be to develop a strong bond between the baby and his parents. Breastfeeding, constant mothering, father involvement, holding your baby as much as possible, and baby sleeping with parents all contribute to the development of a secure bond. These factors are especially important when caring for a fussy baby. William Sears, M.D. has explained this successful style of “attachment parenting” in many of his books including The Baby Book.
Babies need their mothers. Mothers need their babies, too.
“The baby…in the beginning is quite helpless, and his mother must actually function for him for many weeks. Any sudden separation from her at this time causes psychological trauma…Babies who do not have constant mothering are definitely slower and less alert.”(2)
“The mothers could, if they realized the urgency of their presence during the baby’s first year, give up the job in order to avert the deprivations which would damage the baby’s entire life and be a burden to her for years as well.”(3)
“Leading authorities agree that for optimum development the child needs one person as a full-time caretaker for the first three years, a person who has time day and night to devote herself to the needs of the child.”(4)
Committed Husband and Father
A stable marital relationship is of utmost importance when trying to cope with a fussy baby. Both parents must have a willing, lifelong commitment to each other and to their child. It is essential for single mothers to reach out for help from family and friends. In the same way that you struggle to “be there” for your suffering child, you, too, will benefit from support from others.
It can be quite a workout, both physically and emotionally, to help your crying baby get through a painful colic attack. This makes it crucial for both father and mother to take turns working the baby.
Family and Friends
Be thankful when family and friends offer to prepare meals, wash the dishes, do the laundry, and care for your other children. Take advantage of that time to concentrate on meeting your baby’s needs. Never hesitate to ask for help. Hiring someone to do the household chores may be the best option.
Family and friends can often be a wonderful help and provide needed relief; however, some visits may be inconvenient or last too long. Limit visitors if they make you or your baby feel tired or uncomfortable. As the days and weeks pass, you may notice that you will eventually have more time and energy for entertaining.
Is everybody giving you conflicting advice?
“If a mother continues to listen to someone else’s advice instead of her own instincts and continues to ignore her baby’s cues, she learns not to trust either herself or her baby.”(5)
Be prepared for well-meaning, but often hurtful comments, particularly from people who have never had a “high-need” child.
Responding to Cries
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me.” Psalm 3:4a (KJV)
“In the day when I cried thou answeredst me.” Psalm 138:3a (KJV)
“In my experience the more promptly the cries of a colicky infant are attended to, the less he cries. The myth that parental over-responsiveness can reinforce the crying and produce so-called “trained crying” is erroneous. Both the experience of mothers and scientific studies have shown this theory to be false (Bell and Ainsworth 1972).”(6)
“A recent study showed that parental responsiveness can lessen the severity of colic (Taubman 1984).”(7)
The more quickly you respond to your baby’s cries, the easier it is to calm him.
“Babies whose cries are not promptly responded to often learn to cry longer and with more disturbing cries.”(8)
Control your tone of voice. No matter how frustrated you may be, never speak angrily or yell at your baby.
FEEDING YOUR BABY
If we had to choose the single most effective way to calm a baby, breastfeeding wins, hands down. The importance of this relationship cannot be stressed enough.
“Breastfeeding is clearly better for fussy babies – and for their mothers.”(9)
Breastfeed your child on cue any time of the day or night, as often as he wants, and for as long as he wants. That may mean that your baby will suck for two minutes because he is thirsty or for two hours because he needs comfort and security. It may only be ten minutes since you last fed him. Choose a quiet, comfortable area, away from distractions.
Keep offering the breast between other attempts at soothing your little one, as sometimes he may be too upset to realize what he wants.
Babies need to suck for both nutrition and comfort. That is why breastfeeding is the perfect way to nurture a child.
Research has shown that breastfeeding also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(10)
Almost any questions you could have about breastfeeding are answered in the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from La Leche League International. If you ever have any problems, please do not give up, get help. La Leche League leaders will give you wonderful support.
“Studies have shown that babies who are fed frequently cry less.”(11)
“Early weaning [is] not recommended for babies, especially high need babies.”(12)
Fussy children seem to take longer to wean. It is best to let your child wean himself as discussed in the book Mothering Your Nursing Toddler by Norma Jane Bumgarner. William Sears, M.D. also emphasizes a long term breastfeeding relationship.
“Extended nursing, rather than encouraging a child to stay dependent, creates conditions that encourage independence.”(13)
Before our first baby was born, we expected he would be breastfed for nine months, and the next three months would be spent gradually reducing breast feedings until he was one year old. After his birth, we quickly changed our minds as we realized that it was more important to meet all of our baby’s needs. We researched the subject of child-led weaning and learned all about ecological breastfeeding, extended nursing, and natural mothering. We have found child-led weaning to be a wonderful experience and sincerely want to encourage other parents to give it a try.
Babies with colic are known to want to nurse very often. If you find that he wants to suck but can not handle much more milk, offer the same breast each time during a two or three hour period.
“Although your breasts are never empty since they are producing milk twenty-four hours a day, the baby will not get quite as much milk as he would if he switched sides often, and the baby’s tummy will not get overfull.”(14)
All of your baby’s sucking needs are best met at the breast. Pacifier use can lead to nipple confusion, especially in young babies, and a reduction in the mother’s milk supply. Little ones should not be expected to nurse only for milk and then have all their other needs met by a pacifier.
“The baby can fill up in a few minutes when at the breast, but there are many times, especially when tired, that he will need to be pacified at the breast. You can see how soothing the breast is when you allow your baby to remain there. The breast may even bring comfort to a bottle-fed baby. We had one acquaintance tell us of their adopted baby who was extremely fussy and nothing worked in her efforts to quiet him down. She had no intentions of nursing this baby, but out of frustration she offered the breast. To her surprise, it worked. It was at these difficult times that she used the breast to soothe her baby.”(15)
There is also evidence that the use of a pacifier will hasten the return of fertility in a nursing mother.(16)
There sometimes seems to be a connection between colic and foods the breastfeeding mother eats. Cow’s milk, caffeine, sugar, wheat, and many other products eaten by the mother seem to bother some babies. Mother would do well to eliminate foods that are commonly thought to cause problems and any others that may be suspect. Try this for a couple of weeks to see if there is any improvement, and gradually reintroduce them to your diet. It can take a long time to track down the offending foods, but it is worth it if you are successful. Perhaps muscle testing both you and baby for allergies may pinpoint food problems. It is advisable not to wean because of this problem. If your child is this sensitive, a mother’s milk substitute will often make matters worse. Eat very healthy and balanced meals and snacks, and be confident that breast milk is the best food for your growing child.
We have no experience with formula feeding because our baby has never used a bottle. Colic is more common among formula-fed babies, and mother’s coping skills are diminished. Many experts agree that certain milk formulas increase colicky behaviour.
“Introducing solids too early may aggravate colic…and may be particularly detrimental to high need babies.”(17)
When the baby is not nursing as much, he may become fussier, and the mother’s coping skills are also reduced.
“Breast milk is the perfect food for at least the first six months for the healthy, full-term infant, and there is usually no reason for adding any [solid] foods to the breastfed baby’s diet before that time.”(18)
You do not have to introduce solids until your baby wants them. Sometimes that is as late as nine months. Our first child showed no interest in solids until he was about fourteen months old. You do not have to spoonfeed baby food to your little one. He can thrive on breast milk until he is ready to gradually begin eating finger foods and foods from the table.
IDENTIFYING AND ADDRESSING PROBLEMS
Parents who smoke are more likely to have colicky babies.
“Colic incidence is higher in infants whose mothers smoke (Said 1984). This study also showed a higher incidence of colic when fathers smoked, leading the researchers to conclude that the effects were the result of smoke in the home environment rather than a direct transfer of chemicals through the mothers’ milk.”(19)
Smoking in the home is also known to increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(20)
Make sure your baby has a complete medical examination. Describe your baby’s behavior and your methods of care and treatment to your doctor.
Ear infections can be very painful for babies. You should check with your doctor to make sure that this is not the source of your baby’s crying.
Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection can cause symptoms of colic. Have your doctor consider this possibility.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (GER) occurs when “irritating stomach acids are regurgitated into the esophagus, causing pain like the one adults call heartburn. Regurgitation occurs more in the horizontal position, accounting for greater pain when baby is lying flat, so baby often feels better when upright.”(21)
In The Baby Book, Dr. and Mrs. Sears list treatments including smaller, more frequent feedings, breastfeeding, and wearing your baby (in a sling or carrier) as much as possible to decrease crying. Crying causes more pain. Your doctor may prescribe medication “to neutralize the acids or to accelerate their removal from the esophagus.”(22)
Although movements such as bouncing and patting usually calm fussy babies, they can cause great pain in a baby with a dislocated hip. You will be able to tell if certain positions make him cry harder. With this information, your doctor will be better able to diagnose the problem.
Your baby’s crying may be the result of a painful hernia.
I highly recommend making an appointment with a chiropractor who is experienced in working with infants and children.
“In my experience dealing with thousands of children and babies, I found that often a vertebral subluxation in the spine affecting the way the nervous system controls bowel function is the cause of colic. Any chiropractor involved in seeing children will attest to this fact. You must understand that the digestive system is made of muscle walls which are under the direct control of the nervous system. I find that a vertebral subluxation will reduce the amount of information flowing from the brain to the large intestine in the case of colic- thereby reducing the normal function and motility (movement and function) of the large intestine. This causes food to “stick around” in the large intestine longer than it should and it tends to produce gas. This gas causes distention of the intestinal wall, causing pain and crying. The cry of the baby is really for help.”(23)
In his book, What’s Really Wrong With You, Dr. Thomas Griner says, “Colic, a painful abdominal condition in infants, is caused by a spastic intertransversarii muscle. This is a spinal muscle that reflexes to the pyloric sphincter, a muscular ring that separates the stomach from the first part of the small intestine.”(24)
Update: This doctor invented a muscle pulsing tool that provided relief for my third child who had some colicky tendencies.
“Since colicky babies have a slightly increased risk of developing allergies, I advise parents to wait with solid foods until the baby’s development shows readiness rather than going by the calendar.”(25)
Your child’s fussy behavior may be caused by allergies to certain foods in his diet. If you suspect allergies, see a health care provider specializing in allergy treatment because there are usually underlying and treatable conditions involved. We have had success with muscle testing both mother and child for allergies.
Dr. Carolee Bateson-Koch, in her book Allergies: Disease in Disguise, says,
“Colic is easily remedied in a baby. In the breast-fed baby, the mother should eliminate all sources of dairy products from her diet. The baby should be given concentrated plant enzymes each time it is fed.”(26)
Dr. Bateson-Koch also advises that a baby who is formula-fed be put on a rotation diet with a different formula every four to five days and given concentrated plant enzymes before each feeding.
“Researchers at Cork University in Ireland discovered that some colicky babies suffer from a shortage of the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest milk. Experts say moms can look for clues. ‘She needs to observe, whether this has something to do with the feedings,’ said Dr. Lee, Pediatrician. Researchers found that colicky babies treated with lactase didn’t cry as much on average, an hour less per day.”(27)
You should always burp your baby after he eats and sometimes even during the meal. A sure sign that the baby needs burping is when he is pulling on and off the breast. Although there are many techniques used for burping a baby, I discovered the best way to help our baby burp was to stand up and hold him with his chest firmly against my shoulder as I moved swiftly up and down by bending my knees. Pat your baby’s back gently. Harder is not better.
When we laid our baby down, we always positioned him on his side as a newborn, and on his side or back when he was older. If he turned to his stomach, we knew he had to burp. The only time he slept on his stomach was when he was lying on the chest of his Mommy or Daddy. Studies show that side or back positioning reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(28) Foam positioners can help to keep a small baby on his side.
Giving baby a cold, wet washcloth to bite on may help soothe painful teething problems.
Occasionally, your baby may be very fussy and refuse to breastfeed even though he appears to be hungry. Do not take this as a sign that he is beginning to wean himself. His teeth and gums could be bothering him. When baby is teething, it sometimes hurts to nurse, so he may be crying out of frustration and pain. Do your best to get him to sleep using other techniques, and then feed him when he is sleeping.
Because a baby needs to breathe through his nose when he nurses, a stuffy nose can be very distressful. Gently clear his nostrils with a couple of saltwater drops and a nasal aspirator. You might not even need the saltwater drops to loosen the secretions during a cold.
During the first couple of months, we thought we should change our first baby every time he was wet. When he awoke in the night wanting to be nursed, I would try to change him first. We finally learned that wet disposable diapers did not bother him and never caused diaper rash. We decided not to upset him unnecessarily. With certain disposable diapers, he can usually go all night without a change. Some more sensitive babies may need new diapers much more often. You may find it easier to change your baby’s wet diaper after he has nursed back to sleep. Update: We have since heard about a study that suggests that the ammonia from wet diapers may have a connection to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(29)
If you notice the baby straining before a bowel movement, position him so he can push his feet against something.
Diaper wipes gave our baby diaper rash the first time we tried them, so we began to use lots of facial tissues and warm water and soap.
To prevent scratches, we had to cut our baby’s fingernails about every five days with adult-style nail clippers.
Make sure baby’s clothes are not too cool or too warm. Dress your baby as you would dress yourself. Many well-intentioned parents tend to overdress their babies. Check for clothing that is too tight, especially sleepers, wristbands, ankle bands, and socks. Diaper pins can be a source of hurt and irritation. Remove scratchy tags from new clothing. Sometimes loose threads or hairs can be dangerous if they become wrapped around fingers and toes.
Warm or Cool
Although we have read that colicky babies like to be kept warm, this was not the case with our baby. He preferred to be cool and liked light bed covers when he sleeps. As a result, we went from wearing sleepers on him at night to just an undershirt, even in winter. This made him sleep much better. One-piece undershirts that fasten with snaps at the bottom seem to be the most comfortable for babies. It is suspected that overheating may be a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.(30) It is very unfortunate that many parents overdress their babies in heavy fleece sleepers. Sleeping next to his warm mother will keep baby the right temperature.
While our baby hated being tightly wrapped, some parents find that swaddling calms their newborn infants.
Babies are often fussy when they are overtired and need sleep. With experience you will learn the best ways to help your little one fall asleep.
Let Baby Sleep
Try not to awaken your baby when he is sleeping unless there is some known and necessary benefit.
A very important way to maintain your energy level is to sleep when your baby sleeps. In a large, comfortable rocking chair, mother can relax as baby nurses to sleep. Instead of quickly putting baby in bed, just sit and hold him. You can read or have a nap yourself. When he stirs, offer to nurse him, and he will probably doze off again. I have never worried about dropping the baby in my sleep as even a slight movement causes me to open my eyes. Next to our rocking chair, we keep tissues, a glass of water, snacks, a ring-less telephone, a book, and of course, a baby soothing tape in the cassette player. A baby soothing cassette is a recording of “white noise” that often has a calming effect on a fussy baby. They can be found at stores that specialize in baby products, or you can make one yourself by recording the sounds of a vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, or other effective noise.
Sleeping when baby sleeps gave me the strength to cope during long days and nights with a very demanding child. This can be a very relaxing and peaceful time for both mother and baby. We realize this may not always be easy when you have other children, especially toddlers, but you could spend this time reading stories or even watching children’s videos. Just make sure you rest when baby rests.
Accept the fact that you must be a mother not only during the day but also during the night. You probably do not need as much sleep as you think; however, you do need some sleep. This will often require the father to change diapers and hold or rock the baby after night feedings.
Having originally thought that a little bassinet next to our bed would be the ideal sleeping arrangement for our baby, we soon found a better way. We bought a guard rail which made it safer for baby to sleep next to his mother. This was exactly where he wanted to be. And guess what? It was exactly where his parents wanted him to be, too. Having our baby sleep in our bed makes us all more relaxed and it eliminates worrying. It is also very convenient for night feedings and quick diaper changes (keep a diaper supply next to the bed).
According to Dr. William Sears, “a baby’s overall physiological system works better when baby sleeps next to mother. The cardiorespiratory system is more regulated, less stressed; therefore baby is less stressed and thrives better.”(31)
The Family Bed by Tine Thevenin is a very convincing book that discusses where babies sleep best. You would not believe what you miss if your baby does not sleep with you. The love, joy, and bonding that comes from “sharing sleep” is incredible. It seems the way it ought to be. Whether or not they are colicky, our babies will always share our bed.
Our baby preferred that I sit up to feed him even though most mothers lie down to nurse their babies in bed. My back would have given out during the night if it were not for the large foam wedges we bought. I had started out using lots of pillows behind my back, but they did not provide enough support for sitting up all night. The most comfortable position I have discovered is to lean against two 12-inch wedges, sit on a pillow, and use another pillow for my head. A simple arm rest can be made by folding a pillow in half, stuffing it in a pillowcase, and tying a knot. Comfortable nursing pillows are also available that wrap around the mother’s waist. When our baby finished nursing, he would frequently become upset if I tried to lie down with him, so my husband and I would often take turns sitting up and holding him.
Holding Your Baby
Hold your baby very often, especially when he cries.
“Babies do not cry to annoy, to maliciously manipulate or to take advantage of their parents in an unfair way. They cry because they have a need. To ignore the cry is to ignore the need. A baby is not spoiled if he is picked up. He is more apt to be spoiled if he is not picked up.”(32)
“If your infant stops his crying when you pick him up and hold him, just keep on holding him and be happy that you are there to satisfy this important emotional need.”(33)
Get used to doing things with baby in your arms or in a carrier.
“Studies have shown that when babies are worn in a carrier, they cry much less.”(34)
“The increased carrying not only reduced crying, but the researchers felt that carrying promotes proximity to the caregiver which makes crying less necessary. Other benefits of carrying are increased feedings, which tend to facilitate early weight gain and prolonged breastfeeding. Likewise, baby’s contentedness via carrying leads to a state of alertness, and visual exploration, contributes to mother’s positive emotions about mothering, and lessens episodes of child abuse.”(35)
A child’s needs for comfort, security, warmth, and touch are met through babywearing, thus enhancing the emotional and physical development of a child. Babies thrive when they are close to their mothers. Don’t be pressured into thinking baby “should be put down.” Relax and see that a baby-in-arms is where he needs to be.
We strongly recommend using a sling for a fussy baby. It may take some getting used to. Our hip-belt backpack was a necessity totally replacing the need for a stroller or carriage. It can be used during almost every outdoor activity. I even wear it when making meals or doing dishes in the house.
Parents of fussy babies are always moving. When trying to calm your baby, move every way you can possibly move, and then think of another way – up and down, back and forth, side to side. You will soon discover your baby’s favorite. Our first child certainly fit the description of a “bouncing” baby boy. Your little one will probably be comforted if you walk or dance with him in your arms or in a carrier. You might even find it helps to nurse on the go.
Our baby loves it when we dance around the house with him in our arms. Dancing cheek-to-cheek is especially fun.
When you have to lie your sleeping baby down, keep him close to your body, and move down with him very slowly.
When our baby was older and a little fussy, he would feel better when we gave him a gentle jiggle as he was lying down. We still do this in the night if something is bothering him.
Carrying your baby in the “colic hold” will most likely give him the relief he needs. Extend your right forearm with your palm up, keeping your arm close to your body. Place your baby on your arm, tummy down, with his head in the crook of your elbow and your right hand coming up between his legs. With the baby fully supported with your left arm and against your body, walk around the house. Some colicky babies are soothed by the pressure applied to their abdomen when they are carried in this position. There are many variations to this hold. You may be more comfortable using your left arm. Baby can even be reversed with his head in your hand. We used to swing our baby back and forth. My husband and I would switch places after a stressful fifteen minutes or so. The baby was usually very contented with this, and we would try to keep it up until the colic attack passed.
Gently patting or rubbing your little one’s back may be comforting especially in combination with other soothing techniques.
We have found that gently rubbing our baby’s tummy in a clock-wise motion sometimes made him feel better.
“Babies who are touched more cry less, gain weight faster, have better motor development and show more advanced behaviour.”(36)
There are infant massage books available with detailed instructions on how to handle delicate little babies. Be very gentle.
Babies thrive when being lovingly held close to their mothers and fathers. Skin-to-skin contact makes them feel warm and secure.
Some parents find that their babies are comforted when lying on lambskin (or lambswool-pile) mats. Do not let baby lie on his stomach on lambskin mats or thick comforters. There is a risk of suffocation if your baby is left unsupervised, so carefully monitor him as he might turn over himself. We have seen articles that question the use of lambskin, so research is advised.
While nursing, our baby needed to grasp his Mommy’s long hair, and he often reached out to hold the ends of my hair when he awakened during the night. It seemed to be his security “blanket”.
When our first child was an infant, we poured some warm water in a small baby bathtub, put in a bath rack, and let him enjoy the warm soothing experience for as long as he wanted. Babies and mothers sometimes enjoy a relaxing bath together in the big tub. You can even nurse your baby in the tub.
“Leave the faucet running and the tub’s drain open just a bit. This not only provides the soothing sound of running water; it also keeps the water at a comfortable temperature.”(37) Supervise your child at all times.
If it is obvious that your baby dislikes a tub bath, continue sponge bathing for as long as necessary.
When I could find time to take a shower in the evenings when Daddy was home, and our baby got upset, I would get frequent visits from an anxious little boy. He was very pleased to see his Mommy and loved to watch the shower run and feel the spray on his hands.
When baby is able to sit up and play, the easiest way to shower is to give him bath toys in a little tub at the end of the big tub. He happily stays in one place while Mommy takes a leisurely shower. Then baby can be given his bath. It works great. Using a hand held shower faucet on a hose is a helpful idea for rinsing the shampoo from your child’s hair. Always remember to carefully monitor the water temperature, and watch your child carefully around water.
One of the first places where we would go when our baby began to cry was the kitchen sink. He loved to watch and listen to the water running.
Cup of Water
When your fussy baby is older, he may stop crying immediately if you let him splash his hand in a cup of water. You will probably have some water to clean up, but at least it will not be tears.
Gentle rocking and a lullaby will not always soothe a fussy baby, but they are very enjoyable when they do. A comfortable rocking chair and a footstool are necessary furniture when there is a baby in the house. They might even be taken outdoors in warm weather.
The bounce in an old-fashioned baby carriage sometimes helps babies to forget their problems.
Our baby usually preferred to be carried in a soft baby carrier or backpack, but many little ones enjoy stroller rides around the house, yard, or even at the mall. Determine if baby prefers to face forward or face you and whether he likes a smooth or a bumpy ride – fast or slow.
We positioned our baby against pillows, fastened the safety belt, and pulled a happy little boy around and around in his wagon.
Infant Seat Carrier/Car Seat
Buckle baby in an infant seat carrier or car seat (in the house, not in the car). Now brace your arm against a wall or doorframe. Swing the car seat with your other arm between your extended arm and your body. I think this was what caused me to develop some arm muscles. It also led us to buy an automatic baby swing.
Automatic Baby Swing
My husband and I were able to eat a meal together without bouncing our baby when we bought an automatic baby swing. To help it remain effective, we only used it when it was really needed.
An adult-sized swing is a great addition to the backyard. I would put our baby in a soft baby carrier, go outside, and we would swing together until he fell asleep. In cold weather it did not take long.
Our little boy received a toddler swing for his first birthday. After putting it up in the kitchen, we quickly discovered how helpful it is. Sometimes our baby was very tired but did not want to settle down. We then put him in the swing, and he often fell asleep in minutes.
We were given a jumper to hang in the doorway. This was very helpful during meal preparations when it was unsafe to hold him.
We expected our baby to love his bouncer, but he did not. We know of other babies who enjoy the bouncing motion of these chairs.
While firmly holding your baby close to your body, carefully jump on a trampoline or bed. Bounce up and down, side to side, and back and forth. Do not lose your balance.
My husband put our baby in a forward facing soft baby carrier and vacuumed the carpet. Just turning on the vacuum would calm him.
Another reliable sound which soothes a crying baby is that of a dustbuster. On…off…on…off… It works great! It is even all charged up and ready for a power failure. It happens!
In the beginning, we used a lot of power running the hair dryer so often. Keep it at a safe distance, and do not aim the blower at baby. The soothing sound put our baby to sleep many times. We started using an audiocassette, and he only got to enjoy the hair dryer when I actually dried my hair.
Buckle baby in an infant seat carrier or car seat and hold it securely on the washer or dryer. The humming and vibration may soothe the baby. We sometimes went in the laundry room and held our little boy on the top surface of the running dryer to quickly calm him down (as long as it was not hot).
Our baby soothing cassette is played day and night for hours. We turn it on during fussy times. It lessens disturbing sounds at naptime and during the night. You could make a long-playing tape recording of any of the sounds that soothe your baby. You might choose the vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. For best results, introduce the sounds within baby’s first three months. We took our little boy on an overnight trip when he was about thirteen months old and we forgot our tape and cassette player. It was much more difficult for him to fall asleep. We spent a lot of time bouncing on the hotel bed.
Some infants are soothed by recorded sounds found in the baby’s former environment of his mother’s womb. You can buy cassettes or even teddy bears with these sounds.
When baby cannot lie on the chest of his Mommy or Daddy, sometimes a recording of mother’s heartbeat will comfort him.
A deep, strong hum softly against the back of our baby’s head would often calm him. It also helped to keep him from getting worked up.
Music makes up a large part of our lives. Classical music such as Vivaldi, Mozart, Handel, Bach, and Beethoven can be very soothing. Our baby also liked to listen to pipe organ selections and especially to music with children singing. Remember, baby’s favorite music is his mother’s voice. Sing to your baby.
Children are often interested in wind-up musical toys or those that play audiocassettes.
The sounds of wind chimes will often calm a crying baby.
Our child became contented when one of us held him in front of our organ and let him lean against the lower keys. When he was older, he enjoyed playing the organ himself. The rhythm sounds are especially fascinating, and his tears stopped immediately.
Some musical programs or those showing babies, small children, or puppets may stop your little one from crying. Use discretion when choosing appropriate television shows for your children to watch.
We found when we played back some home video footage of our baby on the television screen, he would immediately take notice and carefully watch and listen. He enjoyed recognizing his Mommy and Daddy, and there was an exceptionally cute baby to watch.
Some parents sit their baby in front of a crackly and snowy television screen with quieting results. Stay with him, and make sure he is not too close.
When you are driving in the car and need some static on the radio, remember to put down the antenna so the reception is poor. This may be helpful when you forget your baby soothing cassette.
Fans fascinate babies. The sound and motion provide distraction from colic pain. Our baby would gaze up at the ceiling fans in stores causing shoppers around us to look up also. Never let baby get too close to a fan.
A musical mobile sometimes distracts a baby making it a little easier to change him.
Our son enjoyed watching a campfire or a fire in the fireplace. Be sure to keep your baby at a safe distance.
A baby needs the security of knowing you are there for him. Bonding is enhanced with eye-to-eye contact.
Play peek-a-boo under a blanket. Daddy used to hold him, and they would peek around a corner at Mommy. Sobs can turn into happy squeals.
Baby’s image in a mirror makes a great playmate. Our child was always amused to see that the baby image could make the same faces as he could.
A familiar line from a story would bring a smile to our baby’s face. Use different voices and great expression when reading books and poems and telling stories to your child.
Picture books, photograph albums, and even wall pictures will also attract a child’s attention.
Aquariums are often found in doctors’ offices to provide a calming effect for patients. Your baby may also be calmed by an aquarium.
Watching active pets or visiting an outdoor animal farm or zoo can please an upset baby.
Buckle baby in his car seat and go for a drive. As long as there are not too many red lights, he may be sleeping in a short time. We used to jiggle our child’s car seat to keep him from getting upset when the car stopped or was going too slow. For several months, he disliked night driving unless an interior light was on. For more help, let your baby listen to static on the radio or a baby soothing cassette. Loud singing can also help. Friends have told us that the only time they could talk was when they took their colicky baby for a drive in the car. It is a good idea to keep a book and even a pillow in the car because it is sometimes difficult to take a sleeping baby into the house without disturbing him. You could use this additional “car time” to relax and read, or maybe take a much needed nap.
Keep a large assortment of rattles and other small toys within your easy reach in the car so baby can continuously be given a different one to play with in his car seat.
Driving in the rain with the wipers going will often distract a fussy baby. He must be old enough to sit in a forward facing car seat in the center rear seat to get a good view. This is actually the safest place in the vehicle.
Our baby and his Mommy sometimes sat in the car while Daddy washed it. The water spraying against the windows fascinated him.
Our first baby spent at least a few minutes outside nearly everyday of his first 2-3 years. Spring, summer, fall, or winter… 30°C, 0°C, or -15°C… Sun, rain, or snow… Morning, noon, or night. From a tiny baby to an active toddler, he would often fall asleep during a walk outside. The ever-changing sights and sounds easily catch the attention of a little child, and the healthy benefits of being outdoors are an added bonus.
The beach made our baby feel happy. The waves and sea air are very calming.
A noisy environment bothered our baby. If your situation is similar, you should try to eliminate any unnecessary sounds. I could not even read a book for at least the first three months while holding our baby as he slept, because the sound of the turning pages would bother him. While consistent, vibrating types of noise are soothing to our baby, sudden noises are disturbing.
As babies sense when you are upset or angry, avoid situations and confrontations which place you under increased stress.
Turn the volume down on the telephone ring or even disconnect it if you find it disturbs your baby.
You will sometimes need help to make meals. Plan meals that are quick, simple, and nutritious. You and your spouse may have to take turns between eating and soothing your baby.
Unless you can have baby in your arms or in a carrier, forget housework until baby gets better and is able to cope alone for longer periods of time. Just do what is necessary for survival and peace of mind. Keep your priorities straight. Is cleaning the cupboard important when your baby is crying in his crib? Could a snack satisfy your family letting supper wait until after the colic attack passes?
If you are worried that your fatigue or frustration might ever result in any harm to your baby, telephone your spouse, a family member, a friend, your doctor, or a clergyman.
The loving bond between us and our “almost” formerly colicky baby is absolutely incredible. We believe that it is partly because we did everything we could to help our little one through many trying times.
Gradually the tears will be replaced with smiles and the pain with joy. Accept the trials. Cherish the happy times. When our fussy baby was very small, I think we took a photograph of him almost every time he smiled.
Coping with colic is tough for both the parents and the little baby, but it does not last forever. Your baby depends on you to meet his needs. Faith in God will help you to fulfill this responsibility. Never consider the care of your little child as a burden. Think of it as a privilege.
“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:40b (KJV)
“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” Isaiah 66:13a (NIV)
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” Psalm 103:13 (NIV)
Dedicated with love to our first-born son
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© 1995-2010 This website and its contents are copyright and intended for educational purposes only. The information, research, experiences, and links contained herein have not been compiled by a physician and should not be considered as medical advice. Opinions expressed in the reference books and links may not in all cases reflect the beliefs of Carol@parentingfreedom.com.
1. Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept – In Search of Lost Happiness (United States: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994) p. 160.
2. Margaret Ribble, M.D., The Rights of Infants, (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1943, 1965).
3. Jean Liedloff, The Continuum Concept – In Search of Lost Happiness (United States: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994), p. 160.
4. Herbert Ratner, M.D., Listening, Fall 1983.
5. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), p. 62.
6. Ibid., p. 88.
7. Ibid., p. 88.
8. Ibid., p. 59.
9. Ibid., p. 104.
10. William Sears, M.D., SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).
11. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Baby Book – Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby – From Birth to Age Two (United States: Little, Brown and Company, 1993), p. 349.
12. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), p. 118.
13. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Discipline Book – Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child – From Birth to Age Ten (United States: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), p. 22.
14. Deborah Boehle, When Babies Cry, (United States: La Leche League International, Inc., 1991), No. 20.
15. Sheila Kippley, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing – How Natural Mothering Spaces Babies (Cincinnati, Ohio: The Couple to Couple League International, Inc., 1993), p. 33.
17. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), pp. 116, 117.
18. La Leche League, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (United States: Plume, Penguin Books Ltd., 1991), p. 239.
19. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), p. 73.
20. William Sears, M.D., SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).
21. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Baby Book – Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby – From Birth to Age Two (United States, Little, Brown and Company, 1993), p. 358.
22. Ibid., p. 359.
23. Ogi Ressel, DC, Alive magazine, September, (2001).
24. Thomas Griner, M.D., What’s Really Wrong With You? – A Revolutionary Look at How Muscles Affect Your Health, (New York, NY: Avery, 1996), p. 133.
25. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), p. 11.
26. Carolee Bateson-Koch, D.C., N.D., Allergies Disease in Disguise – How to heal your allergic condition permanently and naturally (Burnaby, British Columbia: Alive Books, 1994), p. 136.
27. Dr. Lee, Cork University, 2002.
28. William Sears, M.D., SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).
29. JamesW. Tyler, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome – Probable Causes and Prevention.
30. William Sears, M.D., SIDS A Parent’s Guide to Understanding and Preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, (New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).
31. William Sears, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., The Discipline Book – Everything You Need to Know to Have a Better-Behaved Child – From Birth to Age Ten (United States: Little, Brown and Company, 1995), pp. 24,25.
32. William Sears, M.D., Creative Parenting – The Complete Book of Child Care (Canada: Optimum Publishing International Inc.,1992), p. 165.
33. La Leche League, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, (United States: Plume, Penguin Books Ltd., 1991), p. 101.
34. William Sears, M.D., Keys to Becoming A Father, (New York: Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 1991), p. 32.
35. Sheila Kippling, Carrying Provides Security and Comfort for Infants. CCL Family Foundations, (Cincinnati, OH: The Couple to Couple League, November-December, 1996).
35. Sheila Kitzinger, The Crying Baby, (England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1990) p. 160.
37. William Sears, M.D., The Fussy Baby – How to Bring Out the Best in Your High-Need Child (United States: Signet, Penguin Books Ltd., 1989), p. 99.