5 Ways to Survive Baby Colic

Does your baby get really cranky or is struggling with colic on a daily basis? Mighty Mommy has 5 expert tips on how to eliminate some of the stress when dealing with a colicky baby.

Cheryl Butler
5-minute read
Episode #192

The newborn weeks are often a blur. You come home from the hospital sore, exhausted, and if you’re a first-time parent, you’re filled with anxieties about being able to care for your precious bundle all alone without a hospital staff to help you. Many parenting experts will coax you into getting on a schedule very early on so that you and your baby will find a rhythm that offers you the most rest and the least tension as you and your partner start to bond and fall in love with all things baby. Sounds easy enough, right?.

5 Ways to Survive Baby Colic

Mighty Mommy knows that it’s not always that easy. Babies do not come with instruction manuals and are not born with built-in schedules to please their very tired parents—quite the contrary in fact. They are full of unexpected surprises! You might be cruising along in newborn heaven for the first few weeks of your baby’s life, and suddenly, all that comes to a screeching halt (literally!) when for no underlying medical reason, your baby starts crying uncontrollably for longer than 3 hours a day, sometimes every day! A colicky baby is a parent's dreaded nightmare and it can become so tense that parents suffer from everything from increased blood pressure to nearly losing their minds or worse, some even have violent thoughts against the baby. 

Recently, my colleague House Call Doctor discussed the medical aspects of newborns and colic. Today, I’m going to focus on the stress that colic causes to new parents and share 5 tips on how you can keep your sanity and survive the colicky days:

Tip #1: “S” Strategies

My fourth baby had colic for two very long months. He began getting fussy at 3 PM and by 4 PM he was in full-blown crying mode. Within the next 3-4 hours, he only took a few moments to catch his adorable breath so he could continue screeching. Although he did cry practically non-stop, the intensity of his crying did drop when we practiced the “S” Strategies.

Swaddle—Most babies love the security of being tightly swaddled in a cozy blanket. Wrap your infant in a comfy blanket from the neck down, not too tight, and hold him close so his arms and legs can’t flail and add to the tension.

Swing—Swinging your baby, either in your arms, in a stroller, cradle, baby bouncer seat, or infant car seat can be very effective. 

Stomach Carry—Many babies get a lot calmer if carried belly down. It may be the pressure of your arms against his stomach is soothing and sometimes helps to release painful gas.

Tip #2: Ask for Help

Although colic is just dreadful for both you and the baby, remember that it will pass. Don’t try to be a hero and handle these exhausting crying bouts alone. If possible, you and your partner will need to take turns with the baby, but if you’re both at your wits end, don’t be afraid to ask grandparents, neighbors, or even older siblings for help. Even if it’s just an hour each afternoon, you can use that time to spend with your other children, take a walk around the block, hide in your bedroom with a hot fudge sundae, or even take a soothing shower and have a good cry.

Tip #3: Find Your Song or Mantra

I was told to always “stay calm” when my son had colic. While that’s great advice, it’s very difficult to relax and stay calm when you have a tiny baby who is rigid and screaming for hours on end. I devised a routine that offered me comfort and preserved my sanity as well as my family’s.  First, I held tightly onto my mantra of “this too shall pass.” Second, I listened to a mix of songs that were melodic and inspiring to me. I would sing some of the tunes while I rocked my son and it helped relax me because I knew the crying would come to an end within a few hours, and best of all, my three younger children saw how my husband and I were reacting under this pressure so they didn’t get worried that something was really wrong with their new brother.

Tip #4: Get in the Car and Drive

One of the most successful remedies we experienced during our son’s colicky days was buckling him up in his infant car seat and taking a good, long drive. He would cry for the first ten minutes of the drive, but over 90% of the time the car would lull him to sleep. Sometimes my husband and I would go together, other times just one of us would drive and the other would stay home and have a peaceful dinner with the older kids. This was also a great time to relax and listen to my favorite podcasts and books on tape! 

Tip #5: Get your Home Prepared Before the Colic Starts

One thing many parents can count on with colic is that it starts in the late afternoon and usually lasts for a few hours into the evening. I used to make sure I had everything done in advance before that first wail began. Prepare snacks for yourself and other family members. Have your favorite pillows and magazines nearby, make a list of funny movies or TV shows you’d like to catch up on and see if you can at least have a couple of good laughs during your baby’s colicky hours.   If you have younger children, prepare their bedtime needs after lunch if you must. If you work, try and get everything ready the night before or before you head out the door that morning. Don’t try to do anything extra during this stressful time. Keep it simple with meal planning and any other commitments that you have.   The more prepared you are in the other areas of your life, the easier it will be to handle the stressful hours of colic that you’ll be enduring each day. It’s not going to be perfect, but try stay focused on what you can do to help yourself and your baby through this with as much patience as possible,

If for some reason, however, you are struggling to the point that you’re having violent thoughts about your baby, get intervention immediately! Call a friend, your spouse, a neighbor, even your pediatrician (many hospitals usually have a Warmline for new parents) and get help so that you don’t harm your baby or yourself in a fit of despair.

Check back next week for more Mighty Mommy tips. If you have a question or a suggestion for a future Mighty Mommy episode, please e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.   

Check out the Mighty Mommy Facebook page where I share lots of quick parenting tips all week long.    You can also follow me on Twitter @MightyMommy or join me on Pinterest.com where you can visit all of my family-friendly boards.

Despite the stressful bouts of colic, embrace your bundle of joy with lots of love because this too shall pass! Until next time—Happy Parenting!

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.