How to Calm a Colicky Baby with Tips and Tools from Dr. Deena, Colic Expert

Did you know that most babies cry more during the first three months of life than at any other time in the first year? You may find yourself wondering where your calm, peaceful baby went and who is this baby crying inconsolably? You may question if something is “wrong” with your baby or if you're not parenting “the right way.” The good news is that what you are experiencing is universal across all babies this age.

We sat down with renowned Colic Expert and newest 3am Club advisor, Dr. Deena Blanchard, MD, MPH, to learn tips and tools new parents can use to help soothe their colicky babies.

3am Club: Hi Dr. Deena! First off, we understand that beyond your professional life, you’ve had personal experience with colic signs and colicky babies.

Dr. Deena: That’s right. With two of my three boys having colic, I understand how stressful it is for parents and the family. The first thing to do is see your pediatrician to rule out any underlying condition as the cause for your baby’s increased crying. Once you have done that, it is important to remind yourself that babies with increased crying/colic are still healthy, growing well, and meeting developmental milestones.

3am Club: We’re sure that’s a relief for so many new parents to hear. For parents in the middle of it, what tips do you have to help them reduce their baby’s colic?

Dr. Deena: One thing parents can do is change their baby bottles, as colic-free bottles can help decrease gassiness and fussiness, which are believed to be causes of colic. A study found that infants fed with an anti-vacuum bottle spent more time content during waking hours than infants fed with a conventional bottle. The NUK® Smooth Flow™ Pro Anti-Colic Bottle uses an advanced venting system to reduce air and bubbles. Air is sent to the bottom of the bottle instead of through the milk. This reduces your little one swallowing air and provides a more comfortable feeding. And as an added bonus, the nipple and ring are integrated instead of two separate parts, which prevents leaking and makes it much easier to clean—a huge time saver!

3am Club: What other colic remedies can parents try?

Dr. Deena:

Change your little one’s formula.

  • Even in babies without an allergy to cow’s milk protein, studies have shown that colicky babies tend to cry less with a hypoallergenic formula. If you are breastfeeding, have mom eliminate dairy or possibly other common allergenic foods from her diet. This can be worth a try, however, if there is no difference in the amount of crying after a week of maternal diet changes, there is no reason for a breastfeeding mom to stay on a restrictive diet. It is important to talk with your baby’s pediatrician before making formula or diet changes. Do not rush to make big feeding changes, as in most cases the formula, or what a breastfeeding mom is eating, will not change much. Your pediatrician can help advise you on making sure that there is no other reason for concern and how to reintroduce foods or a more standard formula back into your little one’s diet after twelve weeks of age.

Start a probiotic.

  • Studies have shown that giving your little one a daily probiotic is associated with less crying.

Prevent overstimulation.

  • Infants this age can be easily overstimulated. They can also get easily over-tired and quite fussy, causing them to cry more and swallow more air. Try to keep the environment calm and quiet and avoid lots of external stimuli such as loud music, bright lights, and a very active household.

Work on accepting the uncertainty and completely random behavior of babies this age.

  • We have an inherent desire for order rather than chaos. Trying to find the ability to allow yourself space and treat yourself with kindness can be powerful. This is not an easy task when you are feeling exhausted and faced with a crying baby. There will be times you will be able to be more grounded than others. Try to show yourself the same grace and cut yourself the same slack you would your friends and family.

Take breaks!

  • Parenting an infant is hard at baseline. Add to that a colicky baby and it gets even harder. Try to take breaks and let other caregivers help during particularly fussy periods. Feelings of frustration, exhaustion, failure, guilt, and helplessness are all normal. You do not need to do this alone. Asking for help when you need a break is a gift to you, your family, and to your little one.

3am Club: And what about parents with a baby having a colic episode right now?

Dr. Deena: There are baby calming techniques parents can try in the moment and learn how to soothe a baby with colic. There’ll be times when these soothing techniques work great, and times when they don’t. Please remember, though it may sound like your child is in pain, crying is part of normal infant behavior at this age. You’re doing the best you can and that is really all you can ask from yourself!

  • Give baby something to suck on, like a clean finger or a pacifier

  • Try gently rocking or bouncing your little one

  • Go for a walk in the stroller or hold your baby and walk around the house in an infant carrier

  • Provide white noise. Each baby may prefer a different type of white noise and your infant’s preferences may change over time. There are white noise apps that you can download and play in the background. There are also white noise machines. It is important to use the lowest volume possible and place the white noise machines away from your baby to protect their hearing.

  • Place baby in an infant swing or bouncer with vibrations