Babies cry for many reasons, as this is their only form of communication. As a parent, you begin learning what each cry means (hungry, tired, or dirty). However, colic brings crying to a new level as your baby appears to be crying for no obvious reason. While your child is having a colic fit, it can significantly impact your overall mental health, increase postpartum depression, and induce exhaustion symptoms.
Is there anything you can do to help your colic baby sleep better? Below are Polysleep’s tips for the best sleeping position for a colic baby.
What are the signs of a colic baby?
A healthy, normal baby experience crying spells as they grow. These fits often mean they are uncomfortable, hungry, need a diaper change, or simply want to be held. However, a baby with colic often experiences bouts of crying for no obvious reason.
Doctors often diagnose these crying spells on a rule of three:
- The crying lasts at least three hours or more.
- Uncontrollable crying occurs at least three times per week.
- These fits continue for three consecutive weeks or more.
Other common signs of colic include
- A flushed face
- Clenched fists while crying
- Increased gas release
- A tight belly
Getting to the bottom of why your baby is crying can seem difficult on your own. However, colic calming techniques are available.
Why is a baby’s colic worse at night?
Many parents living with a colicky baby report experiencing worsening crying fits during the night, making colic calming techniques seem impossible. Some believe it is the result of digestive issues, while others believe colic is a normal occurrence for growing babies.
Within the first weeks to months after delivery, a baby is left to adjust to many changes without the ability to communicate with their caregivers. As a result, babies tend to feed off of the anxiety emitted from the caregiver or become easily overstimulated during wake periods.
Overstimulation occurs closer to bedtime often as the baby is trying to compress all things seen and learned throughout the day while also having the television noise, various lights, and other external factors causing them to reach their limit. Though colic fits can occur at any time of day, they are more common at night due to overstimulation.
What is the best sleeping position for a colicky baby?
Whether your baby is one week or one year old, the best sleep position is always the safest sleeping position. It is recommended to place your baby under one year of age flat on their back in a safe sleeping space free from toys, loose blankets, or pillows. Not only does this position help to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, but it also reduces the amount of gas buildup your infant has.
You may wonder if colic calming occurs with certain sleep positions? Below are the best sleeping positions for a colic baby:
- Side to stomach hold. Place your baby on his side while gently placing his little body against your stomach. Skin-to-skin contact provides a calming effect for both the caregiver and baby, while the side position and slight pressure allow trapped gases to escape.
- Allow a slight incline. The use of a bouncer seat or swing allows your baby to rest at a slight incline and has shown to be a helpful colic calming technique. Remember, do not place rolled blankets on your baby crib mattress to create an incline, and never leave a baby unattended in a swing or bouncer.
Though colic often worsens at night, making it more difficult for the whole family to rest, remember that it is only temporary and your baby will outgrow this stage.
What is the colic hold?
The colic hold or “colic carry” is a common tool used to provide colic relief for babies crying excessively. Position your little one facedown with their belly resting comfortably against your arm while maintaining an open airway. Provide gentle pats on the back to release trapped gas and soothe the baby.
What are other ways to help a colicky baby?
With limited sleeping positions considered “safe”, parents often look for other ways to help a colicky baby. Some options include:
- Implement the five S’s.
- Swaddle. Use a tightly rolled blanket to wrap your baby in (leaving it loose enough for your baby to breathe).
- Side/stomach hold. Cradle your baby on their side or stomach and gently press their body against your bare stomach.
- Shush. Soothe babies using a white noise machine or shush in their ears as they are laying down.
- Swing. Swing your baby either with your arms or in a battery-operated swing.
- Suck. Offer your baby a pacifier to suck on as this is a soothing motion.
- Reduce stimulation. Babies are overstimulated easily, especially at night. Create a soothing sleeping environment with dim lighting, a comfortable baby mattress, no television or blue light devices, and utilize a white-noise sound machine.
- Implement a nap routine. Infants should not be awake for more than 90 minutes at a time. During wake times, you should feed, change, burp, and play with your baby, then prioritize their upcoming nap after being awake for 60 to 90 minutes. Any longer can leave your baby increasingly agitated or overstimulated.
- Keep the baby upright after feeding. Many caregivers report their baby exhibits fussiness or spits up more after feeding if they are laid down after. It is recommended to keep your baby in an upright position for 15 to 30 minutes after a bottle to allow adequate time for digestion.
At Polysleep, we understand the importance of the entire family getting adequate sleep after welcoming a newborn baby. However, this can seem impossible for those who have colicky babies.
Though it can be tempting to place your baby on their stomach or side while sleeping in the crib, remember the only true safe sleeping position is flat on the back with no loose covers, pillows, or toys around. It's also always a good idea to talk to your baby's pediatrician regarding their colic symptoms.