Any new or seasoned mom will tell you baby colic can be an overwhelming issue to deal with as you are adjusting to daily life with your new baby whether it’s your first or third. You’ve probably heard the horror stories of colicky babies that had to be rocked or held for hours and hoped your baby would not have colic. All babies are unique and what works for some may not work for others. Knowing whether your baby has colic can also be challenging to figure out since they can’t tell you what is distressing them. Baby colic (also known as infantile colic) is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for three weeks in an otherwise healthy child between the ages of two weeks and four months. It isn’t a disease and won’t cause your baby any long-term harm, but it’s a tough thing to go through for both babies and parents.

Babies normally cry when they’re wet, hungry, frightened, gassy, tired or just want to be held but a baby with colic cries excessively, often at the same time of day (usually in the late afternoon or evening). Again, this is not a strict guideline as some babies with colic will cry at earlier times in the day. If your baby is colicky, you may notice that his cries at this time are louder and higher pitched than his normal crying and that the episodes start and end suddenly. While a gassy tummy doesn’t cause colic, it can add to your baby’s discomfort because a baby with colic often swallows air when he cries-making him extra gassy. You may notice that your colicky baby clenches his fingers, arches his back, becomes flushed, and alternately extends or pulls up his legs and passes gas as he cries. He may sometimes feel better after passing gas or having a bowel movement.

The average healthy baby with no signs of colic will cry for about 3 hours in a 24 hour period and can be soothed once they are fed, changed, burped, cuddled or falls asleep. Colic tends to peak around 6 weeks, and then improves significantly between 3 and 4 months. By 4 months of age, 80 to 90 percent of infants are over colic while the remaining small percentage might take another month. While it is good to know this won’t last forever-it can seem like an overwhelming time frame when you’re dealing with a baby with colic. The cause of colic is generally still a mystery in the medical field but talking with your pediatrician can help you figure out if your baby does have colic or if there is another issue. Your pediatrician can help you determine if your baby has colic and give you suggestions on how to soothe them.

Determining whether your baby is colicky or has discomfort from gas can be tricky and is not usually a quick fix. Most doctors will recommend making one change at a time to determine what works for your baby because many parents may think their baby is colicky when they could just be suffering from gas discomfort. It may be that a formula change, a change in a breast feeding mothers diet or a change in the type of bottle used is all that is needed if it is gas discomfort. It can be a process as you typically wait 2 weeks for baby to adjust before you determine if these changes have improved your baby’s demeanor before making another change. The consistency of baby’s bowel movements and frequency as well as urine output and growth rate are all factored in by your pediatrician when making the recommendation to switch formula or a breast feeding mothers diet.

Making the determination whether your baby is colicky or just has regular gas discomfort will take time and can take a toll on any caregiver. The general method most pediatricians follow is to try to eliminate any regular gas discomfort before determining if your baby does in fact have colic. Regular gas discomfort makes a colicky baby even fussier which means they will spend more time crying. It is important to learn how to comfort your baby as best you can and ask for help when you need it since caring for a colicky baby can be very stressful. Try to take regular breaks to maintain your own well-being. Have your partner or a friend or relative take over while you go for a walk. Even going into another room for a few minutes will give you a short but much needed mental break. Here are some suggestions for soothing a fussy baby.

The 5 S’s method: This method has been found to soothe many babies whether they are just fussy in the moment or are a colicky baby. Harvey Karp, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Southern California School of Medicine and bestselling author of “The Happiest Baby on the Block” describes the first few months after birth as the “fourth trimester.” He believes while babies are out of the womb-they aren’t ready for the world yet. The 5 S’s method helps to recreate the in utero environment of close quarters and various sounds coupled with some natural comforts to help soothe your baby. He recommends starting with step one and if baby isn’t soothed, to continue to the next step. Some babies may just need the first two steps, step #1 and #3 or all five steps. Every baby is different so what calms one may not work for another and what calms them a few times may not continue to work. As you figure out which steps soothe your baby you will find that sometimes you may leaving out or add a step each time. The five S’s are:

#1 Swaddle- This mimics the closed quarters of the womb.

#2 Side or stomach position- This position soothes some babies and is also helpful to alleviate baby’s gas.

#3 Shush- The constant shushing sound mimics the swooshing sounds of mommy’s body heard in utero.

#4 Swing – Swinging or rocking is soothing to many babies.

#5 Sucking- The sucking motion is comforting to many babies whether it is a thumb or pacifier.

Mylicon Infant Gas Drops( or generic version): These are predominantly the first recommendation from most pediatricians because if they work, it helps to determine if it’s just a gas issue or is in fact, Infantile Colic. The active ingredient in these (and any generic version) is Simethicone, which reduces gas bubbles in the intestines. While some parents have reported an improvement, others saw no change in their baby’s fussiness.

Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow Bottles: They are designed to cut down on your baby’s air intake during bottle feeding. These contain an internal vent system that eliminates air and vacuum which allows baby to feed comfortably. It also reduces air bubble oxidation of the milk to help preserve vitamins and lipids, key nutrients to baby’s health. While they do contain more parts to wash (or lose)-any parent that sees an improved from hours of crying do not mind the extra few minutes a day of bottle cleaning.

White Noise: White noise such as a vacuum, hair dryer or static from the radio can quickly stop a baby from crying but may not put them to sleep which means they continue to cry once it’s turned off. There are various white noise sound machines and even white noise apps for your phone that can help soothe your baby. They work in the same way they do for many adults who find the sound of ocean waves or waterfalls has a calming effect and may help them to sleep better.

Vibration: Whether it is vibration from a swing, bouncy seat, car ride or your legs- it can be soothing to babies. Many babies can be calmed with a ride in the car which is why the makers of swings and bouncy seats added the vibration feature to their products.

Baby Massage: Baby massage with some lotion may help calm your baby. It is a temporary effect but can provide you and baby a 30 minute a day break from crying as well as a chance to bond with your otherwise fussy and uncomfortable baby. You can both relax and enjoy the cooing, you make even get a smile or two.
Baby Exercise: This is an age old exercise that helps a baby work out any gas discomfort as well as a bowel movement if necessary. Pumping baby’s legs in a circular motion similar to riding a bicycle may help baby with his discomfort.

Happi Tummi Band: The Happi Tummi Band is designed to help with colic and gas relief. It consists of a washable waistband that has a small pocket in it for the herbal pouch containing lavender, chamomile, lemon grass, peppermint, spearmint, wheat and flax seed. The pouch boasts “20 uses” which refers to the aromatherapy aspect as the pouch can still be used a heating pad for much longer. When placed over baby’s clothes on their stomach, it combines heat which can help with stomach ache, gas and bloating with relaxing aromatherapy that can relax mommy and baby. A reheatable rice filled heating pad would have the same effect but without the aromatherapy. It is important to note that these should never be placed directly on a baby’s stomach, should only be heated to barely warm (15 seconds in most microwaves) and should never come in contact with medal buttons or clasps on baby’s clothing that could heat up and burn them.

Mommy’s Bliss Gripe Water: This is another safe and natural way to help soothe gas and colic symptoms. There are various brands and the active ingredients are ginger and fennel extract and is said to have a calming effect on many babies and alleviate stomach ache and hiccups as well.

Tummy Calm: Tummy Calm also contains homeopathic ingredients such as chamomilla and calcarea phosphorica and is the first FDA regulated homeopathic anti-gas drops for children in the US. It is said to relieve gas discomfort, hiccups, bloating, upset stomach and teething pain. It is a little on the pricier side but has a high success rate of relieving baby’s discomfort. Once shaken, the correct dosage (by weight) can be given to baby directly or added to your baby’s bottle.

Colic Calm Gripe Water: Colic Calm is by the same makers of Tummy Calm and also has a high success rate at relieving baby’s discomfort. It too is homeopathic and claims to help with reflux discomfort, colic and gas discomfort. This is also on the pricier side ($15 per bottle) and is dispensed in the same way as Tummy Calm. It also boasts a Money Back Guarantee if it does not work for you.

Again, what works for one baby may not work for another but it is important to discuss gas discomfort or colic with your pediatrician and figure out what works for your baby. Once you find what works for you and baby- you can enjoy a much calmer happier baby. Hang in there and good luck!