It is normal and healthy for your baby to cry. Crying is a way your baby communicates with you telling you that he is hungry, needs a diaper change, wants to be held, is uncomfortable or is tired. It’s a very effective way of communicating that there is an immediate need.
When babies cry for more than 3 hours at a time, 3+ days a week, it is sometimes said the baby is "colicky." Colic used to be considered a condition that some babies either had or didn't have. Now, these crying bouts are thought to be part of an infant's healthy development.
All babies go through a time when they cry more, usually between three and eight weeks. This stage often starts at about two weeks of age and intensifies by week four. The crying may be intense and seem impossible to soothe.
On the bright side, the crying bouts can come to an end as quickly as they start. You may notice a steady decrease or sudden ending to this stage, usually around three to four months of age.
Some Babies Cry More Than Others
Doctors and scientists have suggested that babies who cry more, the ones people call colicky, have sensitive temperaments. These babies have increased difficulty self-soothing. They take longer than others to settle into their natural rhythm. Totally normal.
This crying, formerly known as colic, was thought to be caused by gas, bowel pain, allergies, and other upsets but these have not been shown to correlate to these normal, intense crying bouts. On the contrary, the excessive crying can cause babies to swallow air and then cause tummy pain and gas. (This is not to say that all excessive crying doesn't have an underlying cause that can be remedied. You should discuss crying that's hard to soothe with your family doctor or pediatrician, just to make sure!)
How You Can Help Your “Colicky” Baby
Every baby is different, and what works for your baby today may not work tomorrow. We have a few suggestions about how you can soothe your baby, or at least feel like you are doing all that you can.
- Cover all the bases: change baby’s diaper, feed baby, check that baby is not too warm or too cold, does baby have a fever?
- Swaddle your baby.
- Hold your baby.
- Reduce stimulation: keep the lights low, use a white noise app, try to be in a calm space like the nursery
- As suggested above, use white noise.
- Soothe your baby with motion. You can try rocking, putting baby is a swing or going for a car ride.
- Try a warm bath.
- Use a pacifier or your clean finger and allow baby to be soothed by sucking.
- Remember that your baby’s crying is not your fault.
- Never shake your baby.
If you feel particularly stressed out and unable to remain calm (which is normal when your baby has been crying a lot), put your baby down in a safe place such as their crib or let someone else care for your baby. Medications and remedies for colic should be discussed with your family doctor or pediatrician before use.
It’s Normal to Need Help
Caring for a baby is hard! Pregnancy and birth drained you not too long ago, you're probably not getting the sleep you need, and your baby has needs around the clock.
Ask for and accept help whenever you can. Whether you have family or friends assist you, or you choose to hire a postpartum doula, real help can make a big difference. A postpartum doula can assist you with your baby, care for older children and help around the house, and even offers overnight care so that you can get the rest you need.
When your baby cries for long periods of time, and you are unable to help them settle, it is extremely stressful. This time will pass but until them, remember to make time to care for yourself.