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How to Get a Colicky Baby to Sleep

by Carolyn Robbins, studioD

The world is full of medical mysteries, and a colicky baby is one of them. Up to 40 percent of newborns suffer from colic -- a condition with no known cause or consequence -- according to KidsHealth.org. Colic is defined as more than three hours of crying more than three days per week for at least three weeks. While your baby's crying may seem interminable, take heart. Colic usually begins when an infant is three to six weeks old and ends as suddenly as it started a few months later. In the meantime, a few simple tricks may help your colicky infant to sleep better and give you some much-needed rest.

Work with your doctor to determine if your baby has colic. Despite the crying, colicky babies are perfectly healthy. If your newborn has difficulty feeding, cries for more than two hours at a time, is running a fever or has diarrhea, vomiting or constipation, colic is not the problem. Additionally, babies with colic like to be held and snuggled; back arching and other signs of discomfort could signal gastrointestinal problems.

Establish a peaceful afternoon and evening routine. Bathe your baby in the morning, as water may be too stimulating right before bedtime. Avoid going out of the house after dinner. Give your newborn his last feeding in the dark, and make sure there is some sort of white noise near his crib. You can buy a white noise machine or simply run a fan. The whooshing sound creates a womb-like environment for your fussy child.

Swaddle your baby tightly in a square cotton blanket. Swaddling mimics the tight quarters of the womb and may help your little one to settle down. Many infants enjoy swaddling until they are a few months old and can self-soothe by sucking their thumb.

Burp your baby after his last feeding and lay him down in his crib. If he starts to fuss, massage his tummy gently with your fingers. Allow him a few minutes of fussing before you pick him up. Offer the breast or bottle again, in case your little one wants to cluster-feed before sleep. Repeat the process and try to soothe your child to sleep with a gentle touch.

Put your little one in a sling or swing if his fussing escalates to full-scale crying. Colicky babies are often soothed by motion. Another option is to take your infant for a car ride or walk in the stroller.

Enlist the help of friends and family. A colicky baby can be an incredible source of stress. It's important for your mental health that you take a break every once in awhile. Have grandma or a neighbor watch your little one for a few hours every week so that you can take a nap or otherwise relax.

Items you will need
  •  Swaddling blanket
  •  White noise
  •  Sling
  •  Swing


  • Some breastfed infants are sensitive to foods in their mother's diet. Try eliminating common problematic foods such as dairy, caffeine, citrus and spicy foods for a few days to see if it makes a difference.

About the Author

Carolyn Robbins began writing in 2006. Her work appears on various websites and covers various topics including neuroscience, physiology, nutrition and fitness. Robbins graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology and theology from Saint Vincent College.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images