Q&A: How can I manage colic?
My son is 6 weeks old and cries for hours at a time, especially at night, and I can’t seem to make him comfortable. Could this be colic? And if so, what can I do to help him?
Whenever parents are concerned that their infant is crying too much, the first thing I always ask is whether or not he is otherwise doing okay. At 6 weeks, “otherwise OK” means:
- drinking well (breast milk and/or formula)
- peeing six or more times a day
- pooping regularly
- and growing well (as evidenced by the growth measurements pediatricians routinely plot on the growth curve).
The reason why this is so important is because
colic, by definition, occurs in “otherwise healthy” infants. The most likely or common cause for nightly, unexplained crying at your son’s age is colic (colic affects an estimated 40 percent of infants). But first, it’s important to make sure that there’s nothing else responsible for your
baby’s cries before chalking them up to colic.
Following what is often referred to as the rule of threes, colic typically appears:
- at 3 to 6 weeks of age
- consists of crying for three or more hours per day
- occurs more than three days per week
Fortunately for a majority of infants, colic usually resolves itself, sometimes quite suddenly, by 3 months of age.
As for what can be done to
soothe colicky babies, you can find a more detailed description of the most commonly recommended strategies, including those of my colleague Dr. Harvey Karp, in my newborn book,
Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. They include such simple but soothing techniques such as:
- providing movement (such as swaying or pushing around in a stroller
- white noise (or “shushing” as Dr. Karp calls it)
For any parent of a colicky baby, I also always like to acknowledge the fact that persistent
crying can definitely be a source of parental stress and frustration for the best of us. If you ever find yourself frustrated because you have tried everything and just can’t get your baby to stop crying, never feel bad about simply putting your baby down in a safe place, such as his crib, asking for some help, and giving yourself a break.