You've fed, burped, changed, and rocked your baby, but he or she is still crying. And crying. Your nerves are frayed, your sleep is wrecked, and you're losing confidence as a new parent. Now what?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's common for infants to have "fussy" periods, especially between the hours of 6 p.m. and midnight.
Some babies between 3 and 12 weeks of age cry for long stretches. At this period, there are steps in development when their sleep is less settled.
"Colicky" babies—generally, those who cry nonstop for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week—are thought to have a built-in tendency to overreact to any stimulation, be it a bowel movement or slight temperature change. In short, they don't easily adjust to the world outside the snug womb until age 4 months, when colic often disappears.
Other babies are just hard-wired to cry more. And the longer a baby cries, the harder it tends to be to get them to stop.
Once your doctor has ruled out any underlying reason for crying, give these tear-stopping techniques a try:
Wrap the baby like a burrito. Swaddling babies snugly in a soft blanket helps keeps their arms and legs from flailing and can switch on relaxation. If the weather is hot, however, beware of overheating.
Wear your baby. Babies who are carried more cry less, studies show. Skin-to-skin contact is best (and bathing together is ideal). But wearing baby in a sling for several hours a day also cuts crying and provides constant sound, temperature, and motion that signal comfort. Be sure the baby's face isn't covered and is visible at all times to you while in the sling.
Switch on a quiet, meditative noise. A running shower, a whirring fan, a white noise machine, or a recording of the vacuum cleaner (watch the volume) helps block outside stimulation and may mimic the steady sounds of the womb.
Get moving. A spin in the car, motion swings, or dancing are especially helpful at the dinner hour, when fussy babies tend to kick it up a notch.
Drape your baby. Draping your baby along your forearm with his or her head in the crook of your elbow provides warmth and pressure to relax a tense, colicky belly.
Take a stress break. Have your spouse, family, or neighbor take over while you walk, bathe and calm yourself so you can better handle crying. A colic support group can help you cope until your baby outgrows crying. (And they all do!)