Crying, from colic to calming: How to help, what to know

There are few things more distressing to new parents than to hear the plaintive crying of their infant. Besides being deeply upsetting, worries over the cause of the crying can make a stressful situation even worse.

Crying is how babies communicate urgent feelings: hunger, sleepiness, fear, the need to be held and more. In time, you’ll be able to differentiate between normal crying and cries that indicate something more problematic. And you’ll want to learn the difference between normal crying and colicky crying.

Recognizing colic

When you hear the term colicky baby, it generally refers to an infant who cries for two hours a day and at least two days a week, generally at the same time each day. Approximately one in five babies will have colic, though its causes are not well understood.

Colic crying is recognizable by its high-pitched sound, emotional intensity and seeming inability to be comforted. A baby with colic will start crying for no apparent reason, resist all attempts to soothe it and may appear angry or in pain.

Colic typically begins at 4 to 6 weeks and tapers off by the time the baby is 3 or 4 months old. While it is extremely stressful for parents, remember that colic will end — and you can still try to offer comfort as best you can.

How to calm a crying baby

If your baby seems to be crying for no reason, activate his or her calming reflex by creating an environment that reminds the infant of being in the womb.

Think of the sounds and sensations the baby is accustomed to experiencing before birth and replicate them using your voice, gentle pressure, warmth, motion and rhythmic noises. Also keep the following in mind:

Sucking — Offer the baby a pacifier or your finger to suck on. The sucking movement is deeply relaxing to the tummy, arms and legs and steadies the heart rate.

Shushing — Create some white noise that blocks out other sounds, reminding your baby of whooshing sounds they heard in the womb. Try running water, an electric fan, a clothes dryer or even the hum of a vacuum cleaner.

Singing — Try singing a lullaby, playing soft music and gently dancing around the room.

Moving — Sometimes simply being carried around can be enough to calm your baby. Other time-honored techniques include using a rocking chair, rocking cradle, stroller, swing or bouncy seat. Many babies fall asleep immediately if taken for a car ride.

Massage — Slow, gentle massage is something most babies enjoy, so don’t overlook the power of a simple caress for soothing…

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