Colicky Baby Won’t Sleep

Our 3 week old daughter has been diagnosed with colic. She screams and cries almost every evening for hours. She has been staying up until 2 in the morning, and then is so exhausted that she crashes for the rest of the night. Is there anything I can do to help her fall asleep during her colicky hours so she can sleep through some of it?

There are a number of reasons why babies cry. We understand now that up to about 3 months of age babies reach the peak of their crying. What can be considered excessive crying or colic can persist for the first 4 months of an infant’s life. You need to rule out any medical problems like allergies, reflux, or infections, such as ear infections.

If your daughter does not have any of those problems, I would need to know more about your daughter’s sleep patterns over the course of the day. She may have had little sleep during the day and by the evening may be over-stimulated and not able to shut out the stimuli so that she can relax and fall asleep.

Ways to Calm Your Colicky Baby

If you had a sling or a front pack and could put your baby in it and be in a dark and quiet place that might help to calm her. If you warm a receiving blanket (in the microwave) and touch it to your cheek so that you ensure it is not too hot you could wrap it around her and that might help to calm her.

Some babies respond well to swaddling to help them calm down. That is wrapping your baby tightly in a receiving blanket with their arms and legs tucked in. If you do swaddle your baby, make sure that she has only a light shirt on and a diaper. You do not want her to become overheated. Also, make sure that you place her on her back to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

You can use the swaddling technique to help her settle and go to sleep in the evening when she is crying but I would not use it every time you put her down to sleep. She can learn to rely on swaddling to go to sleep and then find it difficult as she gets older without being swaddled. It also interferes with bringing their hands to their mouths to calm themselves. Older babies often dislike swaddling because they want to get their hands to their mouths and calm themselves down.

*Answers by sleep expert, Dr. Wendy Hall, PhD. Should you need individualized help or advice regarding your baby’s sleep, please consult an infant sleep consultant.