Trapped gas bubbles after eating, tummy upset, painful bowel movements, and acid reflux are all contributors to the discomfort your inconsolable baby experiences with colic. As the digestive system matures, colic tends to disappear between 3 and 9 months. Of the 25% of babies with colic, 90% are free of it by 9 months. With numerous medicinals, swaddling techniques, and “guaranteed” colic remedies circulating in parent lore, its amazing what a simple baby carrier can do to eliminate your baby’s colic.
How Do I Know If My Baby Has Colic?
- The Rule of 3s: The Mayo Clinic defines colic as 3+ hours of crying a day, 3+ days per week, for 3 weeks or more (in an otherwise healthy, well-fed baby)
- What Colic Looks Like: Flush-faced baby, curled up legs, clenched fists, strained/tightened abdominals. Gas or a bowel movement usually come at the end of a colic episode.
- What Colic Sounds Like: You’ll know! Colicky infants usually scream at around the same time each day. In our house, we called this the “Baby Witching Hour.” If you have a colicky baby, you know how valuable a sense of humor can become. For us, it was 6PM to around 3AM for the first couple weeks, then 6-8 PM, every night for two more months. Unlike the cry of our baby waking or feeling hungry, the colic cry was a screech, loud and persistent. We likened it to what we imagined the infernal scream of a prehistoric Teradactyl must have sounded like.
What Do Parents Usually Try?
- Books: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp. Though the concept of a missing “forth trimester” theory was a bit weird, his techniques worked. It includes placing your swaddled baby tummy down on your forearm, walking, gently jiggling baby, and loudly “shhhhhh-ing” baby (in the womb, your baby was used to sounds louder than the average vacuum cleaner, so this mimics it). Swaddling worked pretty well, but as started well after our baby was a month old, it wasn’t as effective as it could have been.
- Medicine: Always check with your doctor to make sure baby is healthy, with no additional health problems or undiagnosed concerns. Our doctor recommended some simethicone drops, which we used occasionally. Make sure your doctor recommends them, as well as the proper dosage, before using.
- Homeopathics: Under many names, a substance called Gripe Water, the most widely marketed of which is called Colic Calm, claims to calm intestinal distress. We bought another brand of gripe water and found that it had no appreciable effect. But if it works for you, great! As any parent of a colicky infant will tell you, whatever works, do it. Be it gripe water, loud shushing, swaddling, or standing on your head while singing the Beatles.
- Rocking, Driving, Walkin’g: The key word here is movement. In a glider or a rocking chair, in a car, or wearing a circular path in the carpet of your house at 3:00 AM. Each of these has its plusses and minuses – again, whatever works is what you’ll end up recommending to others when you’re in the relative bliss of the terrible twos – but it comes down to movement. Baby was in motion for ten months in the womb, she wants to continue moving!
Why Walking With Baby in a Carrier Works
Like I’ve been saying, it all comes down to movement.
As a Dad, I’d come home from work a couple hours before baby started her daily colic (joy oh joy.) That’s what made me think about a baby carrier in the first place. Reading Karp’s book, and on the recommendation of another parent, I bought a baby carrier and began taking our little screamer for walks at the appointed time. About five steps out of the house, she calmed down, and within five minutes she was sleeping, nestled on my chest. I was hooked.
Your baby wants to be held, you want a little exercise. Your baby won’t stop crying unless her head is resting against your chest, you have a headache, and both need immediate solutions. A baby carrier is a no-brainer.
Here’s some specifics to help you understand which carriers and baby positions are best known for alleviating colic.
Any Particular Colic-Reducing Carrier or Hold/Position?
Infants 2-4 months: Wraps like the Moby or tie-carriers like the Mei-Tai. Why? You want baby upright, in a vertical position on the front of you (I used a Baby Bjorn, but then, I’m, a guy, and she was 3 months old when I tried it.) Facing in is best for infants this young. Light walking around the block will create the consistent movement that can release the gas in baby’s tummy or provide the prenatal soothing she’s used to.
Infants 4-6 months: Same as above, but also add Ergo, front carrier with or without infant insert. The BabyBjorn classic model is also a good choice here, as it’s fool-proof and keeps baby in the most vertical, yet comfortable position possible with lots of back and neck support. Baby should be tummy to tummy. A side hold or sling hold will crunch up baby’s abdominal muscles, intensifying colic symptoms.
Babies 6-9 months: (By then, colic should be over, but if not …) The BabyBjorn, facing in or out, Moby facing in or out, and even the Ergo, facing in or on back in the piggy-back style, which allows baby’s spine to naturally curve parallel to yours, relaxing all the baby’s core muscles, alleviating colic symptoms as you walk, stroll, or even as you shuffle from foot to foot, checking your email on your laptop in the kitchen.
Why Baby Carriers Work to Reduce Colic
- Baby stays upright (don’t use a sling or put baby in a cradle-hold)
- Gentle walking or bouncing while baby is carried releases painful gas bubbles and keeps bowels moving.
- Babies prone to reflux benefit from upright carrying, as stomach acid doesn’t creep up the esophagus.
The overall movement and swaddle-feel of most carriers resembles the womb.
The compelling case for carriers reducing colic is simply this: They are the closest thing to the womb since the womb. The best source of comfort a baby can hope for when his tummy his upset. Though baby carriers is not a “cure”, as the title suggests, it’s a welcome break for everybody involved, baby almost always falls asleep, and, for us at least, we got her “screaming hours” down to about two a night from six. Having a carrier was definitely worth it – that and keeping up a sense of humor!
(Trust me, one day, you’ll almost forget those long, sleepless nights of despair, helplessness, and earplugs.)