Home Care Advice for Normal Crying or Colic
- Normal Crying: All babies cry when they are hungry. In addition, the average baby has 1 to 2 hours of unexplained crying scattered throughout the day. As long as they are happy and content when they are not crying, this is normal.
- Colic: Some babies cry excessively (over 3 hours/day) or are very difficult to comfort. If they are growing normally and have a normal medical exam, the crying is called colic. Remind yourself that colic is due to brain immaturity and has nothing to do with your parenting or any medical disease.
- Feedings: Feed your baby, if more than 2 hours since the last feeding (1½ hours for breast fed).
- Hold and Comfort:
- Hold and try to calm your baby whenever he cries without a reason. The horizontal position is usually best for helping a baby relax and go to sleep.
- Rock your child in a rocking chair, in a cradle or while standing. (Many babies calm best with rapid tiny movements like vibrations)
- Place in a windup swing or vibrating chair.
- Take for a stroller ride, outdoors or indoors.
- Do anything else you think may be comforting (such as a pacifier, massage, or warm bath).
- Caution: Avoid baby slings before 4 months of age because they have caused suffocation in some babies. (AAP 2010)
- Swaddle your Baby in a Blanket:
- Swaddling is the most helpful technique for calming crying babies. It also prevents awakenings caused by the startle reflex.
- Use a big square blanket and the “burrito-wrap” technique:
- Step 1: Have the arms straight at the sides.
- Step 2: Pull the left side of the blanket over the upper body and tuck.
- Step 3: Fold the bottom up with the knees a little flexed.
- Step 4: Pull the right side over the upper body and tuck.
- Don’t cover your baby’s head or overheat your baby.
- Best resource on how to calm fussy babies: the book or DVD entitled “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp.
- White Noise:
- Swaddling works even better when paired with a white noise on a loud volume. Examples are a CD, vacuum cleaner, fan or other monotonous sound.
- Keep the white noise on any time your baby is crying.
- When your baby is awake and not crying, keep your baby unwrapped and turn off the white noise. (Reason: so she can get used to the normal sounds of your home). (For details, view Dr. Karp’s DVD.)
- Cry to Sleep:
- If you can’t stop the crying and your baby is not hungry, let your baby cry himself to sleep.
- For some overtired babies, this is the only answer.
- Swaddle your baby snugly, place him on his back in his crib, turn on some white noise, and leave the room.
- If more than 3 hours have passed since the last nap, you can be sure your baby needs to sleep.
- Encourage Nighttime Sleep (Rather Than Daytime Sleep):
- Try to keep your child from sleeping excessively during the daytime.
- If your baby has napped 2 hours or longer, gently awaken him. Play with or feed your baby, depending on his needs. This will help to reduce the amount of time your baby is awake at night.
- Warning: Never shake a baby. It can cause bleeding on the brain and severe brain damage. Also never leave your baby with anyone who is immature or has a bad temper. If you are frustrated, put your baby down in a safe place and get help.
- Expected Course: Once you find the right technique, the crying should decrease to 1 hour per day. Colic improves after 2 months of age and is usually gone by 3 months.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Your baby starts to look or act abnormal
- Cries constantly over 2 hours using this advice
- Cannot be comforted using this advice
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.