Anyone who’s ever cared for a colicky baby knows how hard it is to soothe them. The constant crying can make parents feel like they’re doing something wrong and are, at times, helpless. Not to mention tired. Shut eye is hard to come by when you have any newborn in the house, colicky or not. But, there's no doubt, colicky babies can certainly make sleep really hard for everyone involved. While it may seem like a hopeless situation, it's not, as there are bedtime routines for colicky babies that actually work.
When trying different sleep techniques, it’s important to remember that nothing a parent does or doesn’t do is contributing to the baby’s colic. It’s not your fault. It’s not your baby’s fault. Some babies are just colicky, and doctors aren’t entirely sure why. Colic typically develops around two-weeks old, and eventually goes away on its own at around three or four months, according to Web MD. The medical site lists some theories about what causes colic which include an immature digestive system, gas, oversensitivity to light or noise, and a developing nervous system.
Because doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes colic, it’s impossible to cure. But it's not impossible to treat a colicky baby. They can be calmed and soothed to sleep. Every baby is different, so you might have to try a few tricks to before finding what works best for your baby. But finding a bedtime routine for a colicky baby that actually works can go a long way towards happiness and much needed rest for everyone. Here are nine things to try.
1. Give A Warm Bath Every Night Before Bed
Think about how warm baths can be used to relax adults. The same thinking applies here for colicky babies. According to the Baby Center site, warm water may relax and possibly distract a colicky baby if they're in the middle of a crying episode. The site also notes that if you have a hand nozzle, it might feel good on the baby's back. And just like at a spa for adults, the sound of trickling water may help calm and relax a colicky baby, setting everyone up for some blissful Zs.
2. Place Warm Wash Cloth On Your Baby's Belly
If you don't have time for a bath, Parents magazine recommends placing a warm wash cloth on your baby's belly. You could even have your baby lay on you, with the warm cloth placed in between you. Just be careful about the temperature, because what feels OK for you may not for your baby.
3. Give Your Baby A Massage
Massages feel good to mostly everyone on the planet and babies are no exception. Baby Center emphasizes that a gentle massage can really help soothe a baby. My colicky baby loved belly massages, and once I realized that she relaxed every time I rubbed her belly, I made it part of our bedtime routine. The site recommended that parents really pay attention to how their baby is responding to the massage. Sometimes, a massage can be too much stimulation for a very sensitive baby.
4. Put Your Baby In Motion Before Bed
It doesn't matter really how you do it, as long as you're moving. An article on the Child Development Institute website says motion may remind your baby of being in the womb, which can be comforting. The swing I bought for my baby was a life saver. It rocked and vibrated, and was the only thing that would get her to relax. If she was really fussy at bedtime I'd put her in the swing to start and move her once she was asleep. Besides swings you can try a stroller walk before bed or even a car ride to calm your baby. Sometimes simply rocking your baby in your arms gently can help.
5. Use The "Colic Carry" When Rocking
Basically you hold your baby like a football. I mastered this hold early on when my pediatrician suggested it because it seemed to calm my colicky baby almost instantly. I would rock my baby in this position before bed. Between the rocking and the position, it did the trick.
The right way to do "colic carry," according to Web MD, is to position your baby so that its stomach is on your forearm, and the head is supported in the crook of your arm or the palm of your hand. Placing your baby in this position can help relieve gas as well.
6. Swaddle Your Baby For Bed
When a nurse showed me how to swaddle my baby, I thought it looked uncomfortable for the baby. But Web MD noted that being tightly wrapped, mimics that feeling of being back in the womb. The site suggested that the swaddle needs to be tight enough so that the baby can't wiggle their arms or legs free. Once the baby is in their pajamas, you can swaddle them, rock them (or whatever you do next), and place them where ever they sleep.
7. Get A Little Noisy
Banging on drums is probably not a good idea. But, low, constant white noise might help. I used a fan in my colicky baby's bedroom every night. I didn't point it directly at her, I pointed it away. But the dull noise seemed to keep her content and asleep for longer periods.
8. Give Your Baby A Pacifier Before Bed
Some parents are completely against using pacifiers and that's OK. But, if you're open to their benefits you may want to think about trying one. According to the Healthy Children site, pacifiers can really help in soothing babies that want to suck all of the time. This includes colicky babies. The site says your baby isn't going to be dependent on them forever. You just need to make sure you're offering a pacifier at the right times (i.e. not when your baby is hungry.)
9. Take A Time Out If You Get Frustrated
Dealing with a colicky baby every single night can really take a toll on parents. I remember getting to the point where I was so upset that I would cry myself. The second I broke down, I realized I needed a time out. If my husband was around, I passed him the baby. And if he wasn't around, I placed my baby down in her crib for a few minutes while I walked away and cooled off. Basically I cried in my closet. After my cleansing cry I went back to my colicky baby, and was able to relax her.
Parents dealing with colicky babies are just trying to get through it. They're surviving on little sleep (and probably little patience). Trying different bedtime routines will help you feel like you're trying something, anything, to help your baby. Which just trying alone can go along way when you're plagued by the awful feeling of helplessness. The good news is that it will pass soon. You will sleep again and so will your baby.