Dealing With Colic: How to Soothe A Fussy Baby

October 3, 2023

Are you a new parent struggling to calm a fussy baby? If so, you’re not alone. Dealing with colic can be challenging, but there are ways to soothe your little one and provide some much-needed relief. In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips and techniques that can help ease your baby’s discomfort and bring them peace. Whether it’s through gentle rocking, white noise, or adjusting their diet, these simple solutions can make a world of difference for both you and your baby. So, let’s dive in and explore the world of colic and how to navigate through it with grace and patience.

Understanding Colic

What is colic?

Colic is a common condition that affects many infants during their first months of life. It is characterized by prolonged periods of intense and inconsolable crying, typically occurring in the late afternoon or evening. The exact cause of colic is unknown, but it is thought to be due to a combination of factors, including gastrointestinal discomfort, immature digestive system, and overstimulation. Colic can be distressing for both babies and parents, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to create a soothing environment and alleviate the symptoms.

Causes of colic

The causes of colic are not completely understood, but researchers believe that it may be a result of various factors, both physical and environmental. Gastrointestinal discomfort, such as gas or indigestion, is commonly associated with colic. The immaturity of a baby’s digestive system may contribute to these discomforts. Additionally, overstimulation from excessive noise, lights, or sensory input can trigger episodes of colic. It is important to note that colic is not caused by any fault of the parents and is a temporary phase that most infants outgrow by the age of three to four months.

Symptoms of colic

Recognizing the symptoms of colic can help parents differentiate between ordinary fussiness and colic. Some common signs of colic include intense and prolonged crying episodes that last for several hours, typically occurring at the same time of day. The crying is often characterized as high-pitched, and the baby may show signs of discomfort, such as clenched fists, tensed muscles, or pulled-up legs. Despite attempts to soothe, the crying may continue, which can be distressing for both the baby and parents. It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you suspect your baby may have colic to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

Creating a Soothing Environment

Managing noise and light

A calm and quiet environment can greatly help soothe a baby with colic. Avoiding loud noises, such as TV or household appliances, during colic episodes can prevent overstimulation and provide a more peaceful atmosphere. Dimming the lights or using blackout curtains can help create a serene ambiance, promoting relaxation for both you and your baby.

Using gentle motion

Babies with colic often find comfort in gentle movements. Rocking your baby in your arms or a rocking chair, using a baby swing or a vibrating bouncer can help provide rhythmic motion that has a soothing effect on your little one. Experimenting with different types of motions, such as swaying or walking, can help you discover what works best for your baby’s unique preferences.

Regulating temperature

Maintaining a comfortable temperature is essential for creating a soothing environment for your baby. Ensure that the room is not too hot or too cold, as extreme temperatures can exacerbate colic symptoms. Dress your baby appropriately for the weather and consider using a light blanket or swaddle to provide a comforting and secure feeling.

Reducing stimulation

Colic episodes can be triggered by excessive sensory input. Minimizing visual and auditory stimulation during fussy periods can help your baby calm down. Choosing simple toys with soft colors and avoiding loud or flashy toys can create a more serene environment for your little one. Limiting visitors and keeping the household activities low-key can also prevent overstimulation and support a calmer atmosphere.

Feeding Techniques

Finding the right feeding position

The position in which you hold your baby during feeding can affect their comfort and digestion. Experiment with different positions, such as the cradle hold, football hold, or side-lying position, to find the one that works best for your baby. Ensuring that your baby’s head is slightly elevated can help reduce reflux and discomfort. It is also important to support your baby’s neck and back, as their muscles are still developing.

Using paced feeding

Paced feeding is a technique that can promote a more relaxed feeding experience for your baby. It involves taking frequent breaks during feeding to allow your baby to naturally regulate their intake. By allowing your baby to pause, breathe, and digest at their own pace, you can help prevent overfeeding or gulping, which can contribute to colic symptoms. Paced feeding can also minimize the amount of air your baby swallows, reducing the likelihood of gas or discomfort.

Burping techniques

Burping your baby after feeds can help release any trapped air in their tummy, reducing the chances of colic symptoms. There are various burping techniques you can try, such as holding your baby against your shoulder and gently patting or rubbing their back, or sitting them upright on your lap and supporting their chin while patting their back. Experimenting with different techniques can help you find the most effective approach for your baby.

Parental Techniques

Skin-to-skin contact

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, can provide immense comfort and promote bonding between you and your baby. This technique involves holding your baby against your bare chest, allowing them to feel the warmth and hear your heartbeat. Not only does skin-to-skin contact have a calming effect on babies with colic, but it can also help regulate their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing.


Swaddling is a traditional practice that involves securely wrapping your baby in a lightweight blanket. This technique mimics the feeling of being in the womb, providing a sense of security and comfort for your baby. Swaddling can help prevent startle reflexes and promote better sleep. However, it is important to ensure that the swaddle is not too tight, as this can restrict your baby’s movement or cause overheating.

Carrying techniques

Carrying your baby in a suitable carrier or wrap can be a lifesaver for parents dealing with a colicky baby. The gentle motion and close physical contact can calm your baby while allowing you to go about your daily activities. There are various types of carriers available, such as slings, wraps, or structured carriers, so it’s important to find one that suits both you and your baby’s comfort.

Using a pacifier

Pacifiers can be a useful tool for soothing a baby with colic. The sucking action can help distract your baby from discomfort and provide a sense of comfort. When selecting a pacifier, opt for a silicone or latex one-piece model that is dishwasher safe and easy to clean. However, it’s important to note that introducing a pacifier should be done with caution to avoid interfering with breastfeeding and to ensure proper oral hygiene.

Comfort Measures

Rocking and swinging

Rocking or swinging your baby gently can have a calming effect, as it mimics the rhythmic movements experienced in the womb. You can use a rocking chair, a cradle, or a baby swing for this purpose. The repetitive motion can help soothe your baby and make them feel secure. However, it’s important to monitor your baby closely to ensure their safety during these activities.

White noise and calming sounds

White noise and calming sounds can help drown out background noises and provide a soothing atmosphere for your baby. You can use a white noise machine, a fan, or even play gentle music or nature sounds. The rhythmic and consistent sounds can help mask other noises that may overstimulate your baby and promote relaxation.

Massage and aromatherapy

Gentle massage techniques can help relieve tension and promote relaxation for your baby. Using gentle, circular motions on your baby’s tummy or back can aid in digestion and provide comfort. Additionally, certain aromatherapy oils, such as lavender, chamomile, or mandarin, can have a calming effect when used in a diffuser or applied topically (always dilute essential oils according to instructions). It is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using aromatherapy with your baby.

Stress management for parents

Dealing with a colicky baby can be incredibly stressful for parents. It is important to take care of your own well-being to better deal with the challenges. Find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as practicing deep breathing exercises, engaging in regular physical activity, or seeking emotional support from loved ones. Taking breaks when needed and allowing yourself moments of self-care can make a significant difference in how you cope with the stress of colic.

Alternative Approaches

Acupuncture and acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure techniques have been used for centuries to promote healing and alleviate discomfort. Some parents find that these alternative approaches can help reduce colic symptoms in their babies. Acupuncture involves the insertion of tiny needles into specific points on the body, while acupressure applies pressure to the same points using fingers or massage tools. It is crucial to consult with a qualified healthcare professional experienced in treating infants before considering these techniques.

Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care for infants with colic focuses on gentle spinal adjustments to alleviate any misalignments that may be contributing to discomfort. Some parents report positive results from chiropractic treatments in reducing colic symptoms. However, it is vital to choose a chiropractor who specializes in treating infants and has experience in dealing with colic.

Herbal remedies

Certain herbal remedies, such as chamomile or fennel tea, have long been used to soothe gastrointestinal discomfort in babies. These herbal infusions can be given to a colicky baby in small amounts, following the guidance of a healthcare professional. It is important to note that herbal remedies should be used with caution, and the dosage should be appropriate for your baby’s age and weight.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help promote a healthy gut microbiome. Some studies suggest that supplementing infants with colic with certain strains of probiotics can improve symptoms. Probiotic supplementation should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional who can recommend appropriate strains and dosage for your baby.

Seeking Professional Help

When to consult a doctor

While colic is a common condition in infants, it is crucial to reach out to your pediatrician if you have any concerns or if the crying episodes seem excessive or out of the ordinary. Your doctor can rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the symptoms and provide guidance on how to manage colic effectively. Trust your instincts as a parent and seek professional help whenever you feel uneasy or unsure about your baby’s well-being.

Medical intervention options

In some cases, medical intervention may be necessary to address severe colic symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage your baby’s discomfort or recommend specialized formulas for babies with digestive issues. It is essential to closely follow your healthcare professional’s guidance and medication instructions to ensure the safety and well-being of your baby.

Support groups and counseling

Dealing with a colicky baby can be emotionally and physically draining for parents. Seeking support from a support group or counselor who specializes in infant care can provide valuable advice, understanding, and reassurance. Connecting with other parents who are going through the same challenges can help you feel less alone and provide a safe space to share experiences and strategies.

Self-Care for Parents

Taking breaks and seeking support

Caring for a colicky baby can be exhausting, so it is important to prioritize self-care. Take breaks whenever possible and ask for support from friends, family, or hired help. Allowing someone else to care for your baby for a short while can provide you with much-needed rest and rejuvenation.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Prioritizing your own well-being is crucial when dealing with a colicky baby. Eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting regular exercise can help boost your energy levels and manage stress. Additionally, establishing a healthy sleep routine for yourself can improve your ability to cope with the challenges of colic.

Managing stress and emotions

Dealing with colic can be emotionally challenging for parents, and it is important to acknowledge and manage your own stress and emotions. Engaging in stress-relieving activities, such as meditation, yoga, or journaling, can help you process your feelings and find inner peace. Seeking emotional support from friends, family, or professional counselors can also provide a safe space to vent, seek guidance, and receive validation for your emotions.

Importance of Routine

Establishing a consistent routine

Babies thrive on routine, and establishing a consistent daily schedule can help reduce colic symptoms. Aim to create a predictable routine for feeding, sleeping, and playtime. Consistency can provide a sense of security and help regulate your baby’s biological clock, reducing irritability and promoting better sleep patterns.

Creating a calm bedtime routine

A soothing bedtime routine can help set the stage for a peaceful night’s sleep for your baby. Prioritize activities that promote relaxation, such as a warm bath, gentle massage, or lullabies. Dim the lights, minimize stimulation, and ensure the environment is quiet and conducive to sleep. Creating a calm and predictable routine before bedtime can signal to your baby that it is time to unwind and prepare for sleep.

Additional Resources

Books and literature on colic

There is a wealth of literature available to help parents understand and navigate the challenges of colic. Books such as “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp or “Colic Solved” by Bryan Vartabedian can provide valuable insights, tips, and strategies for soothing a fussy baby. Consulting pediatricians or healthcare professionals can also provide recommended reading materials specific to your baby’s condition.

Online communities and forums for support

The internet offers a vast array of online communities and forums where parents can connect with others who are experiencing or have experienced colic. These platforms provide a safe and supportive space to share experiences, seek advice, and find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Just remember to verify the credibility of the information shared and consult with healthcare professionals for any medical concerns.

Consulting with pediatric specialists

If your baby’s colic symptoms persist or worsen despite your best efforts, it may be beneficial to consult with pediatric specialists who have expertise in managing colic. Pediatric gastroenterologists, allergists, or nutritionists can provide specialized insights and recommendations tailored to your baby’s needs. Seeking professional help can offer a comprehensive approach to managing colic and ensure the well-being of both you and your baby.

In conclusion, colic can be a challenging phase for both babies and parents, but with understanding, patience, and the right strategies, it is possible to create a soothing environment and alleviate the symptoms. By creating a calm and supportive atmosphere, implementing feeding techniques, exploring parental techniques, and exploring alternative approaches, you can provide comfort and relief for your colicky baby. Remember to prioritize self-care, seek professional help when needed, establish a consistent routine, and utilize additional resources available to support you and your baby during this time. With time and perseverance, colic will eventually pass, and both you and your baby will be able to enjoy a more peaceful and joyful journey together.

Sandra McNeil, PhD.
Sandra McNeil, PhD.

Sandra has over 13 years of experience as a child psychologist, both as a practitioner and researcher. She has a Bachelor's in child psychology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and then she did her master's in Psychology in Education (focused on Children & Families) at Columbia University, NY. She has been writing for health and child-related publications for over 5 years now.

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