Pretty much all new parents will experience the torture of sleep deprivation! In general, babies cry a lot and it's unlikely that you were surprised by this when you welcomed your new baby into the world. Sleep may seem like a distant dream for quite a few months when you have a colicky baby.
What is Colic?
When your baby seems perfectly healthy, has no obvious signs of distress and yet cries continually, they may be suffering from colic. Colic is prolonged bouts of excessive, frequent crying for no apparent reason, although some abdominal discomfort is thought to accompany it due to the way many babies draw their knees up when they cry which would indicate trapped wind. These episodes can be very distressing for both baby and parent, and can last for several weeks.
So what can you do to help? Here are some of our top tips…
Soothe your newborn
Colicky babies adored being kissed and soothed. Start with step #1 below and gradually add the following steps until your baby has calmed down. Here are some suggestions from Dr. Harvey Karp:
Swaddle: Colicky babies up - it helps them feel safe, mimics the womb, and helps keep the moro reflex at bay.
Shushing: Making a light “shhh” sound, or even the white noise provided by vacuum cleaners and hair dryers has been known to calm down a colicky baby.
Side/Stomach Hold: Instead of the typical cradle position, hold your little one on their side, or face down.
Swinging: Using your body to sway a baby with colic from side to side can works wonders.
Sucking: Offer a pacifier or thumb to soothe your baby via oral stimulation.
Watch how long your newborn is awake for
The maximum amount of time a newborn can stay awake between sleeps is 60-90 minutes. This means you’ve got about 45 minutes to feed your baby, and another 30-45 minutes (if that) to change their diaper, their clothes (if necessary) and play before it’s time for another nap. Keep in mind that depending on the duration of the previous nap, babies with colic are only able last 40-60 minutes between naps.
Naps during the day
A baby with colic who is between the ages of 0 and 3 months old can take 4-6 naps per day, with about 10 hours of sleep at night and 5 hours during the day. Allowing your baby to nap during the day will improve their chances of getting a more restful night's sleep and will make it easier to put them to bed. Make sure that the sleeping environment is dark, has white noise, and is free of dangerous materials. Use the calming tips above, feed your baby after their nap, rather than just before, and create an Eat-Play-Sleep routine.
Reduce Evening Stimulation
Most children, including babies without colic, experience the Witching Hour after 5 p.m. At the slightest provocation, babies will become overstimulated, causing more distress than normal. To help avoid this, avoid having the television on, dim the lights, and make sure the room you're in isn't too noisy or stimulating. Visitors should be limited during this period, and they should be encouraged to visit in the morning when your baby is more rested.
Routines & Bedtime
We can give babies social signals as early as 6-8 weeks old to help them understand what's "coming next," such as bath time, relaxing massage, and a feed in their bedroom, which can all indicate that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
Most parents are surprised it is recommended that newborns go to bed between 10 and 11 p.m but your baby is more likely to sleep for 4-6 hours at a time if you stick to this routine. Be sure to provide an evening nap to bridge the gap before bedtime. Colicky babies tend to settle better if their crib is elevated to 30 degrees or if they’re kept semi-upright and swaddled / wrapped. Feeding your colicky baby after naps rather than before will reduce the chances of any tummy upsets at sleep time.
Remember that most babies will outgrow colic by around three months of age. When you're struggling, this seems like such a long time, but it won't last forever!