Why is my baby crying so much? 5 proven tips to help a baby with colic stop crying and get to sleep.
For many parents, a screaming baby is a completely normal thing. But what if that screaming doesn’t stop, they rarely sleep, and you don’t either? 😩
Here’s how we finally solved our babies “colic” problem and returned beautiful silence back to our home.
A few days after our baby girl came home from the hospital, she starting making these little snorting sounds. We thought they were cute, and she did them so often that we called her our “little piggy.”
At the time, we thought she just had some leftover fluid in her sinuses from the birth (which can happen), but after a week the snorts turned into gurlgling, which turned into screams.
To be clear, I don’t mean that she just cried a lot (all babies cry), I mean she was screaming without end, and nothing we did seemed to sooth or calm her.
She screamed after eating and spitting up most of her milk. She woke up countless times during the night with an alarming cry that wouldn’t end. Everyone, including our 6 year old son, was sleep deprived because of it.
It was obvious that she was in pain, but we weren’t sure what was going on.
I was worried that something in my breastmilk was causing her to vomit, but even removing dairy from my diet didn’t make a difference.
We were becoming desperate to fix her pain, and ours. I mean, have you ever had a baby scream directly into your face for an hour? I don’t care how much you love that baby, it is very distressing and overwhelming!
So off to the doctor we went.
At the appointment, I began to describe our little girl’s symptoms, and the doctor held up his hand mid-sentence and said, “I’m just going to stop you there. It’s reflux.”
We breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, an answer!
He was so kind, and took the time to explain everything to us, using an image like the one below. We left with a prescription for Zantac and optimistic smiles on our faces that our little girl would finally feel better – and we’d be able to sleep! 😴
So what is reflux? Gastroesophageal (ie- acid) reflux is when the contents of the stomach (ie- food and acid) freely flow back up the esophagus, causing a very uncomfortable burning sensation. It effects a shocking 6 out of 10 babies, and is caused by an underdeveloped muscle, the “lower esophageal sphincter,” which plays an essential role in keeping food trapped in the stomach.
One mom I know described it as “the feeling of a hedgehog running up your chest.” Ouch! Not fun. 😬
Prescription antacid will often help reduce the pain your baby experiences, but the fluid backing up won’t stop until that valve muscle is fully developed (usually between 3 months and a year).
Here are some common symptoms: :
“Repeated vomiting, effortless spitting up, coughing, gurgling, and wheezing. Inconsolable crying, refusing food, crying for food and then pulling off the bottle or breast only to cry for it again, failure to gain adequate weight, bad breath, and burping.”
Sound familiar? 👆
In a mild case, reflux is just something that you must get through until the baby’s body develops more, and it doesn’t really cause any harm except for the crying… and sleeplessness nights, irritability in the marriage, attention seeking behavior from your other children, and overall loss of mental sanity. 😏
But as it turns out, there is no magic pill, and we actually got better results by following these game-changing tips:
1. Keep the baby upright during and after eating.
Let gravity help that food stay down at the bottom of the stomach so it is less likely to flow back up through that underdeveloped sphincter muscle. It’s tempting to hold the baby in the crook of your arm while feeding her, but that’s basically feeding the baby while she is laying down.
Instead, you can prop up your arm with some pillows, or support her head and neck with your hand while you feed her a bottle. If you are breastfeeding, experiment with comfortable positions that help your baby sit up a little straighter while nursing.
When the baby’s done eating, hold her upright for 10-15 minutes. You can sit her on your lap and support her back with your arm, rest her in her bouncy chair, and if she wants to sleep, lay her head on your shoulder. If you lay a reflux baby down right after eating, she will surely spit up her food and experience pain from it.
2. Burp the baby every couple of minutes while feeding.
Whether babies are nursing or drinking from a bottle, they can’t help but swallow some air while eating. If you let a big burp build up, there’s a good chance some milk is going to come up with it. That will cause pain. If you burp every couple of minutes, the burps will be smaller and the milk will be more likely to stay in the stomach, where it belongs.
3. Add some rice cereal to the bottle.
I know this is going to be a controversial tip, because the official advice is that babies should have nothing but breastmilk or formula until 6 months old. However, at the advice of our doctor, we added about 1 teaspoon of rice cereal to every 2 ounces of breastmilk in a bottle.
It helps weigh the liquid down in the baby’s stomach, which helps it stay down in the stomach better. We feed our baby a combination of breast milk in bottles and breast milk directly from the boob. If she is feeding from the boob, I don’t worry about giving her any extra rice cereal, I just make sure to keep up with our other strategies to help the food stay down.
4. Elevate the head of the baby’s mattress.
Raising the head of your baby’s mattress will help keep her food down. You can do this by placing a pillow, a stack of towels, or a special wedge under their mattress. Take care to observe how your baby behaves with an inclined mattress, because you don’t want the incline to be so high that she can easily slide down to the bottom of the bed.
We found that our little girl benefitted from a small incline, so we purchased a wedge pillow that we put under her bassinet mattress. This particular wedge pillow has a gradual incline with a longer length, so she does not usually slide down to the end of her bassinet.
5. Tap out if you need to.
It is easy to become overwhelmed when caring for a screaming baby. There is no shame in passing the baby off to your spouse. friend, or family member while you take a break for a while.
Nobody wins a parent award for holding a screaming baby the longest. If you are alone on a particularly bad day and you feel too overwhelmed, lay your baby down in a safe place and go to another room to take a breather.
In the past, parents used to label every fussy baby as “a colicky baby.” A general term given to any kid that screams and cries for hour or so, for unknown reasons.
We now know that many “colicky babies” are probably suffering from reflux, and are restless for good reason.
If your baby is crying for hours on end, I encourage you to try out some of the strategies we laid out in this blog to help relieve their discomfort. It was a game changer for us, and we hope it works for you as well.
Keep in mind that colic and reflux are problems that eventually end, so you don’t need to worry that your beautiful baby will scream at you for the rest of its life.
If I have learned anything from parenthood, it’s that just as one phase ends, another begins, and you never know exactly what you are doing the whole time. Just do your best 😊
Note: Aside from the pain, the greater concern of reflux is that your baby will not get the necessary nutrition they need to grow and thrive. You should really see your doctor immediately if you are not seeing wet and poopy diapers, or if your baby is not gaining weight. I say this as an observant mother, not as a doctor or medical professional, as I am neither of those things.
👇 Do you have any of your own tried and true strategies that can help with reflux or general discomfort? Please let us know in the comments!
Hi, my name is Katie. I’m a busy working mom, fit foodie, and lover of life. While there is no instruction manual for being a great parent, I hope is that the stories and information I share inspire your day, and help you show up strong for yourself and your family. Cheers!
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