How can you soothe a colicky baby?

Calling all those who have lived through the newborn stage!  What words of wisdom can you share with a new mom and dad who’s little one is so good during the day but has a crying spell of several hours somewhere around midnight each night? 

Little Rilyn is so content during the day, but so discontent for a couple of hours each night.  She doesn’t seem to have a tummy ache, her diaper is dry, she’s nursed well, she’s just unhappy at a time when mom and dad have little stamina.  They have rocked, walked, swaddled, unswaddled…you name it.

We’ve all lived through it and we’ve all likely found things that worked for our kids.  Let’s share some of that wisdom that comes only from experience for those moms (and dads!) of newborns who are tuning into today’s post.

How have you successfully soothed a colicky baby?  How have you stayed sane in the midst of a trying newborn season?

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44 Responses to How can you soothe a colicky baby?

  1. Elizabeth says:

    My second child did the same exact thing. We found that the baby swing worked for us. However, we never let him sleep in it when we were sleeping. He only used that swing for about 2 hours every night and then he was fine. Many of my friends have had similar issues. Different things worked for them. Several of them said that they would put the baby in the car seat and go for a drive. Tell them to hang in there. It does get better :)

  2. militarywifeandmomof4 says:

    Whoops, I accidently deleted my comment.

    Sometimes, putting the baby ON the dryer on a blanket or in their baby seat (standing right there)will help.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hold the baby face down so your arm is under her tummy and rock back and forth with a swaying motion and pat her on the back. This seemed to be a good position for my girls.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would recommend they try taking her to a chiropractor to get her spine checked. The birth process can be very traumatic for baby's spine and nervous system. This trauma can affect how the entire body functions. Check out this link for more information. http://icpa4kids.org/index.php?option=com_finder&view=search&Itemid=101&q=colic

    Also, mom can check her diet (if she is breast feeding) because she may be eating something in the evenings that is aggravating baby.

    Hope this helps!

  5. Anonymous says:

    research shows what moms eat isn't likely to aggravate baby– I suggest tummy squeezing– when my son was 2 months we let him rest in the exersaucer and the pressure on his tummy helped him release the air bubbles that annoyed him… if this is a chronic midnight struggle. I suggest one parent goes to bed at 6 pm and sleeps til the other one needs a break and then one can be fresh for the midnight struggle… when my kids reached three weeks we started giving them one pumped bottle each evening- I would nurse after dinner and go to bed and my hubby would feed them the bottle whenever and hold them off as long as possible and then I would have some rest before I had nighttime nursing duty.. it was so much easier to figure out problems with a few hours of rest!!

  6. Hagler Happenings says:

    The 5 s's: Suck, sway, shhhh (in her ear kinda loud), lay sideways or stomach, swaddle or skin to skin – belly to belly.
    Gettting outside helped us too… the change of environment I guess.
    I (somehow) lived through 6 months of 24/7 colic!! Good luck.

  7. Hagler Happenings says:

    Oh… and take 15 minute shifts. They all need a break – go somewhere where you can't hear her.

  8. Anonymous says:

    There have been some great suggestions posted. Did you try just turning on a light during that feeding? I remember getting up for those feedings and wanting to stay in the sleep mode as much as possible – but maybe she'd like a light on. Seems strange, I know, but it's worth a shot.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Through it all, take breaks. Somethings will help, but with all things baby related, this too shall pass. It does make be greatful to be out of the stage, remembering those times. But I so badly want to leap back in time and hold their screaming little bodies for a few hours more. Just try to relax and take time for yourself, the newborn will be on a school bus before you know it.

  10. Christina says:

    My first son was terribly colicky. I think for me the main things were watching my diet, swaddling, and shushing. My husband and I feel like war survivors after the 6 months of a colicky baby.

  11. Lindsey Hale says:

    Jill, Our oldest cried for a few hours each night before bedtime. I think it's pretty common for babies to have a time unwinding before bedtime. It was nothing compared to the colic of our 3rd, but I remember it being frustrating. I would undress him and give him a little baby massage with baby lotion or give him a nice warm bath and that would seem to do the trick. With the 3rd baby who truly had colic (he cried non-stop if he was awake) we did take him to the chiropractor and that did seem to help temporarily, however, we would have had to take him every day and sometimes that isn't really cost effective. Good luck your daughter. Before she knows it she will wake one morning and say "Remember when Rilyn used to cry for house" and that time will be gone!

  12. Karen says:

    Not everyone will agree with this, but it allowed me to get some sleep when I was desperately exhausted. I nursed babies in my bed and let them fall asleep next to me. My presence seemed to keep them content until they needed to nurse again. I've read concerns of babies being in danger because a parent may roll over on them. I wouldn't recommend this if a parent was taking pain medication. After discovering this was effective for my first child, I did this for my next 4 babies and had minimal to no problems.

  13. MarieL says:

    Happiest Baby on the Block! The DVD (can probably check it out at the library) is a good quick answer. The book is also good! Used that method with my third child, and worked WONDERS! Wish I had know about it with my first born!!

  14. Winnie1209 says:

    Our daughter was colicky in the evenings and we tried many things too. We turned off all the lights (of the room she was in) because the bright light seemed to make it worse. We also played quiet music in the background like lullaby music. I have heard people also use a fan for "white" noise or even turning a vacuum on. We used the music. Otherwise we swaddled and walked the hallway. Hang in there!

  15. Terri says:

    Ahhh memories! my Daughter was the same way except she cried constanty for the first four months when she was awake.. once I got her to sleep she would sleep! this sounds crazy but I use to run a hair dryer near her and it would calm her down quick. I would try one of those white noise machines now…. the hair dryer was before the invention of noise machines!
    God bless and this stage will pass and you will feel like yourself again!

  16. Julie says:

    Dr. Sears, The Fussy Baby Book http://www.amazon.com/dp/0316779164
    Swaddling
    Co-sleeping
    Colic hold (mentioned above)
    Skin to skin
    Lots of breastfeeding
    Movement, vibration
    Prayer
    TIME!!!!! (This is the 4th trimester)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Dairy in my diet definitely affected my nursing infant daughter. I forgot and ate cheese one evening (after avoiding dairy for a few weeks) and she cried for several hours that night. There are lactation websites that describe other symptoms that can indicate a dairy intolerance in infants.

  18. Jill says:

    These are all wonderful suggestions!

  19. Anonymous says:

    We have had 3 "unhappy" babies for the first few weeks of life. We love the "cradle" swings…it was a life saver. Also, "shh" in their ears. My MIL was good at getting mine settled by holding them upright and humming a low hum (Are you sleeping) and that would settle them. I was successful with holding baby upright and jostling his bottom and that was enough movement to settle him. Another one…taking a drive to Nana's house (if its close by) you get a break and Nana gets to love on baby :) Hang in there..in a short time you'll look back and say wow…we did it! Kim

  20. Schick fun ideas says:

    You might want to check into gas relief drops. Sometimes the foods that mommy eats causes extra gas for the little one. We lived on gas drops for almost 2 months! They were a life saver!!!
    You also might want to make sure that he sits up or straighter for a little after feeding as there is infant acid reflux, is he doing this after every feeding? OR just when he is laid down?

  21. Chris and Kels says:

    We are going through this right now too. I have to watch carefully what I eat-dairy, tomatoes or tomato sauce, spicy foods, and caffeine all cause tummy aches with my little guy. If he is really upset and swaddling and everything else seems to not be working I give him what I call an "air bath" where I strip him down to his diaper and let the cool air hit his skin. It seems to snap him out of it and then I slowly move his legs up to his tummy and back down until he is calm. Once he seems calm after a while, I try swaddling and feeding again. Sometimes it works, and sometimes he just wants to cry and be with someone.

  22. jtkowal says:

    The swing was a life saver for both our children. It was the only way we could get them to sleep at night at all. There is hope because eventually(after 4-6 months)they grew out of this stage and would go to sleep each night in their own rooms with no need for the swing. At the time these stages seem to go on forever, but they are such fleeting moments. Prayers for more a more peaceful evening time. Hang in there!

  23. Anonymous says:

    Swaddling helped my daughter – help from friends and family who would take turns holding & walking with her. My mom passed on the swaddling info to me.

  24. Joan says:

    My son cried day and night, so I can sympathize with your daughter. He was so happy in a Baby Bjorn or sling. Swaddling helps as well as shooshing too. I think Happiest Baby on the Block had some good suggestions.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I remember when our daughter Sarah was this way. My husband and I would take turns being up with her. I would stand and rock back and forth constantly talking in a low voice real close to her ear, going thru EVERY member of the family starting with "Daddy loves Sarah, Mommy loves Sarah" going all the way thru the cousins if need be! It calmed her down!!! Now she is a Freshman in high school and believe me….I MISS those days.

  26. Kelly says:

    I remember those moments! I loved reading through all of the comments so far. There is a lot of good advice. Each baby is so different and unique that your daughter will just have to do what is right for her and what she is comfortable with. My son is 3 now and I WISH I could go back and hold him in his little baby state one more time, crying or not. I know your daughter may think us moms are all crazy for saying that now, but one day she'll see. My son was colicky in the evening as well. We should have bought stock in baby gas relief drops. That worked wonders. We also, since day one, have used a white noise machine in his room. We bought it originally b/c our house is small and wanted something to drown out noises. Now, even at 3, he still uses it. We got it at Bed Bath and Beyond and we set it to the 'waterfall' noise. I think it really helped soothe him when he was a newborn. I have heard that having it too quiet for babies makes them irritated when they are so used to noise in utero.
    I pray she gets relief soon and finds something that works for HER and her baby! Use those motherly instincts!

  27. Heather "Paulsen" Patenaude says:

    someone mentioned a chiroptactic adjustment…love that! 90% of newborns need adjustments when they are born. Tell Anne to call me!!

    Also I have to remind myself all the time that motherhood is filled with season and EVERY season passes!!!! This will pass!

  28. Jenn says:

    I also would recommend the "Happiest Baby on the Block" very helpful with my third. Also, I know they are in youth ministry. Hire a trustworthy student to come over for an hour or so every afternoon. If I knew I could get a shower and nap every day (or even 3 times a week) it gave me a lot of peace of mind.

  29. Melody says:

    I agree with several of the other suggestions (especially the white noise and the swaddle) and just have one more to add. Try an earlier bedtime! My son (now 21 months) used to fuss each night from about 9-12. When he was 4 weeks old I started a bedtime routine at 7:00pm and it immediately solved the nighttime fussiness. I do the same thing with our daughter (now 11 weeks) and it works for her too. I turn on the small lamp, change the diaper, swaddle the baby, nurse in the rocking chair and then transfer the baby to the bassinet (sometimes awake, sometimes asleep). No fancy routine, but the same every nap and at night- it seems to work like a charm!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I had a colicky one. It really is ok to let her cry for a bit in her crib if you just need a break from all the crying. Turn on the shower and sit in the bathroom for a few minutes. Go in another room and turn on a fan for a bit. A few moments of perspective. Take turns with her. It gets soooo frustrating when you just want her to sleep. Buy some good earplugs! And take some tylenol – for you – not baby :)

  31. Anonymous says:

    When my son had his crying fits, often between 10 and 2 at night, we found that he calmed down to:
    -being outside for a bit and feeling the wind on his cheeks
    -running the bathroom faucet
    -Happiest Baby on the Block DVD has good suggestions but what worked best for us was the Baby Sounds CD that it came with, we just put it on repeat and it worked wonders!

  32. MarieL says:

    The Baby sounds CD, with the Happiest Baby on the Block it GREAT! Or any type of "white noise." Babies are used to a lot of noise when in utero. And then suddenly we try to be really quiet for them. The sound of an air purifier, a fan, or a white noise CD. For some friends of mine, it was the sound of a vacuum. http://www.purewhitenoise.com

  33. AmydeVallejo says:

    If landon was in a crying fit, running the bath water ALWAYS made him stop crying. Swaddling, not with a receiving blanket but with a velcro one, I've got a kiddopotamus (sp?) he couldn't break out of it and you could get it pretty snug!, nuk pacifiers saved my life, baby swings, White noise (if either Matt or Anne has a iphone you can download a cheap app), and if I really couldn't get him calmed down at night i would put him in my 'kangaroo pouch.' They can be a little pricey but they are worth EVERY penny, google "moby wrap" or my favorite is the sleepywrap: http://www.sleepywrap.com/
    Hope they find something that works for them!!!

  34. Heather Finnegan says:

    Had 2 fussy babies…#1 was the night-time fusser. We found that he got over stimulated VERY easily. Had to find ways to reduce his stimulation in the afternoon (he was older 6-12 weeks).
    Baby #2 (now 24 months old) has tried to ensure that he will NEVER be a big brother. He cried whenever I put him down, even in the hospital. I am NOT an attachment parenting mom, but wearing him in a Moby wrap and co-sleeping saved my sanity! We bought a co-sleeper for our bed (one that goes on top) to keep him safe there. He then only slept if my hand was resting on his chest. I breastfed and had to eliminate dairy (for 16 months). Also check if mom is drinking OJ, the acid can upset some babies. The other thing to watch is reflux. My youngest had that too (I could hear him gagging on it every night as he tried to sleep).
    I also agree with the white noise, swaddling, and baby swings. My 2 kids were started on pacifiers in the hospital and never had a problem with breastfeeding.
    God Bless-it's really hard in the middle of it, but it will pass quickly!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Excellent ideas already… our first child sounds a bit like Rilyn… the 2 hrs of crying just started a bit earlier in the evening. After about 6 weeks, I eliminated dairy & citrus, onions & "italian" spices from my diet and that helped alot.(Have Anne think of any foods she may have craved/still craves, seems to eat more of, and see if eliminating them helps… I met one gal who switched to very bland foods i.e plain turkey sandwiches & it made a huge diff) The swing and the front carrier were lifesavers here. My first wanted to be held alot– BUT, one evening during the crying, I laid her down on her back and placed an A-frame Sesame Street baby toy over her and as she frantically moved her arms, she happened to swing one of the hanging figures and she STOPPED crying to watch it. Another time, I began reciting a baby board book- Moo, Baa, La, La, La (Boynton) in a soft sing-song voice and she stopped to listen. Some babies are just more sensitive to this "new" atmosphere outside the womb and they cry to release the stress- BUT- it becomes a crying "jag" that is difficult to stop without distraction… I would aim for gentle, quiet, distractions. For the record, our oldest has grown into a lovely young adult with a very tender spirit & a food sensitivity to garlic, so in our case there is a correlation. Susan T

  36. The Stuemke's says:

    Bouncing up and down on the excercise ball right in front of the TV always worked for my fussy baby boy. We discovered it after getting exhausted of walking and bouncing. It instantly quieted him and worked immediately every time after that.

    It is truly unbelievable the solutions that we find to get us through these frustrating moments.

    Congrats and Good luck!

  37. Cathy says:

    My son was colicky and he would stop crying when we took him outside (can't be done in the middle of the night, but works well for evenings). I thought maybe it was a claustrophobia kind of thing. Bouncing him while sitting on an exercise ball worked well too and was easier on the adult. Using Dr. Brown's bottles helped a lot (when doing formula) and the mom cutting out dairy, broccoli, tomatoes and other gassy food helped when breastfeeding.

  38. Anonymous says:

    I don't know if this applies, but we have triplet girls and two of them had trouble with seeming to be upset at different times of the day. Our pediatrician suggested trying camomile tea. We made the tea, added another cup of water to dilute it, then kept it in the refrigerator. We added 1 ounce of tea either to a bottle or to 2 ounces of water and gave it to our upset girls. It worked wonders!! They are now 10 months old and we are still using it. Hope you find something that works:)

  39. The Smith's says:

    Turn on the vacuum. Sounds weird but it sounds like the womb and calmed both of our fussy newborns instantly. We even tape recorded the running vacuum so that we could play it in the car which also calmed them down as they hated their car seats and then would sleep. Another trick our pediatrician taught us who also had a colicky child was take a paci, wet the end of it, and dip it in a little bit of sugar to help the baby want it and suck on it. Sucking helps them relax their tummy muscles which are usually tense in colicky babies. It's such a hard time, I cried with my babies as I felt helpless and being tired doesn't help. I was breastfeeding and I didn't find much difference eliminating things from my diet, that just added more stress on me. It will get better and she will become a much stronger woman after surviving this. Keep looking Up… He's right there with her at all hours of the night!

  40. Anonymous says:

    I received the best advice about this from my mother-in-law who raised 9 children; and it worked for me for my second little girl who was colicky as a newborn. I cut out raw tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, pears, peaches and strawberries from my diet during the first few months I was nursing. It absolutely worked for my mother-in-law for her 8th baby; and for my daughter, too. I wish her the very best!

  41. Anonymous says:

    My son was sooo colicky the first seven weeks of his life. He screamed for six hours a day. I finally cut all chocolate and caffein out of my diet and things got a lot better. I have a two month old daughter now, from the moment she was born I said 'bye bye' to diet coke and chocolate. :( But in the evenings she is only mildly fussy, for my family this has really helped. Also, I recommend Dr. Sears books…he is a Christian, a pediatrician, has like 8 kids and his wife is a nurse. I love their books! I think it is so important for Mom & Dad to tag-team in the evening, too. Most stressful time of day for everyone when there is a new baby in the house.

  42. ARK says:

    We used the infant gas medicane with ours…and lots of holding. And prayer of course too. I will be praying for the new family as everyone adjusts to life..a new!

  43. Anonymous says:

    I always think, 'poor kid, you just want to get back in, don't you?' My now 9 yr old was sensitive to soy and milk, so I ended up nursing for 2 1/2 yrs and drank rice milk. He also had horrible reflux. If the baby is projectile vomiting when he spits up, or if he spits up a lot every time he nurses, I would consider talking to the doctor.
    Having him in a comfortable sling made all the difference for us. Also, a nursing pillow, which keeps the baby flat when nursing or taking a bottle, seems to ease the gas.
    Another issue could be sensory needs. All babies have different sensory needs. Check websites on infant sensory needs.

  44. Shalene says:

    My last of 5 had colic really bad. The pediatrician (who didn't ordinarily suggest such things) suggested we try a probiotic called BioGaia. It worked wonders!!! It did take about a week and a half before I saw the full benefits, but after 2-3 days I began to see the changes. It's a little on the pricey side about $45 for 25 day supply but it was so worth it to get the rest I needed and for him to be relieved of the pain. Nothing I knew to do from the other 4 children worked but this did! You can find it online. They have it for all age ranges. Hope if things are not already better that they get there. It's never easy to go through. Blessings to you!