Babies cry- some more than others. But it can be stressful, especially when you are getting to know your baby & still learning her cues.
We've all heard of colic -colic is not a medical condition. The NHS defines it as "All babies cry, but your baby may have colic if they cry more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least one week."
It is no coincidence that most crying episodes occur from mid-afternoon to late evening when your baby is tired! Babies do not know how to fall asleep on their own.
As cortisol rises, they need an adult's comfort to regulate them. Because colic is NOT a medical condition, there is no treatment for colic, just coping mechanisms & tips to help you & your baby feel more comfortable & hopefully reduce the episode of crying. For the past 12 years, I've supported families, offering gentle techniques to help deal with crying. I also had a very "colic-y" baby & understand first hand how stressful it can get! Here are some tips I have shared with new families over the years…
Hunger: you already fed your baby, yet they still appear hungry? Feed again! Babies' appetites vary!
It is NORMAL for your baby to cluster feed if you are breastfeeding.
An empty breast refills quicker than full breasts... and breasts are never entirely empty!
Cluster feeding in the evening can take a while, especially if your baby is exhausted.
Wet/ dirty nappy?
Burp: a windy baby will cry/ suck their hand to relieve discomfort. Pick up your baby, keep her upright and walk around as you stroke her back up and down gently.
Too hot? Too cold?
Uncomfortable: is the nappy too tight? Are they wearing pants or tights? Elasticated waistbands can be really uncomfortable for a baby!
Sickness? Unwell? Has a cold? Cannot breathe properly due to a blocked nose (Feed upright, it helps!)
You have eliminated all of the above, yet your baby is still crying?
Back to the beginning: strip your baby naked & skin to skin
Baby is looking for the breast, then feed again.
Your body will regulate your baby's temperature, heart rate and breathing.
Breast is more than food, and it is comfort, and no, you are not spoiling your baby or creating a rod for your own back when breastfeeding/ feeding to sleep. It is normal, biological, what babies want!
Is my baby too hot ?
Heat: you went through your bedtime routine, bathed your baby (in warm water in a very warm bathroom), quickly wrapped up your baby (in a very warm towel), dressed your baby in all of her (warm) layers. You have fed your baby (dressed in her warm clothes against your warm body), she is fussing, crying, pushing you away, she is fighting you... Stop feeding, hold her tightly, and try to calm her down by cuddling her against your (warm or even hot/ flustered) body. Do you see where I am going: your baby is getting too hot to be able to fall asleep. To fall asleep, babies (and all humans) need to drop their body temperature. A baby who is too hot will struggle to fall asleep.
After the bath, let your baby kick off naked to lower their body temperature; a few minutes are enough. Review how many layers your baby is wearing, how many layers you are wearing as you do the bedtime, how warm is the room to avoid the overheating situation.
Baby is still crying: try the bathroom trick
Bring your baby in the dark/ low lit bathroom, turn on the tap/shower and let the water run (sorry environment, or play water sound in a dark room). This simply calms your baby's nervous system; a change of room will also help your baby calm down (this is particularly true for babies who start screaming the minute you bring them into the room they sleep and start trying to put them to sleep).
Bath together: we are playing once again on the senses. Water/ darkness helps calm down the nervous system. Think of a spa and what is put in place to offer complete relaxation.
Feed on the move (with fewer clothes on)
Your baby is fighting you to sleep, latch and go! Sometimes movement, as you either walk or gently bounce on a gym ball, can help your baby calm down.
If your baby is crying too much to latch at the breast, squeeze some milk on your finger and offer to suck with the pad of your finger to their palate. Once calm, try to feed again.
Wear your baby: some babies are just happier carried, close to mum/ dad/ human person. Remember that you count as a layer when baby is wearing, so dress your baby in fewer layers.
Go for a walk: when all fail, step out; sometimes everybody needs a sense of scenery, especially if there is a green space near you. Nature helps regulate the nervous system and offer plenty of benefits. Take some deep breaths in. This activates the vagus nerve of the parasympathetic system and counteracts stress.
IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT YOUR BABY IS CRYING!
She is just trying to communicate, and I know it really feels like a guessing game, but you will understand more as days go by!
Imagine you are your baby. What would help you calm down?
Do you feel "triggered" when your baby cries?
It is not unusual for adults to feel triggered and panic when their baby cries. It is often a response from our own experience with our parents. Were you always told to stop crying when you were a child or shamed for crying? Some adults cannot cope with other people's emotions (and their own), making it really difficult to soothe a baby or child. It is always helpful to revisit our childhood and how our emotions were handled. Remember, you made that little person. You have most of the answers within you!
Stephanie is the founder of Holistic Babies London. For the past 12 years she has been supporting and empowering parents on their journey. With a background in midwifery, lactation, holistic sleep and holistic therapies, she uses her knowledge and expertise to guide parents towards a more mindful approach to parenting, from conception to toddler years.