The Fussy Baby Site

Coping with the Stress of Colic

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., P.T

Hormones, sleep deprivation, recovering from delivery, being responsible for the life of your beautiful new baby…There are many reasons for emotional distress for a new mom.

Add fussy baby to the list and you have a recipe for stress. I speak not only as a psychologist but also as a recovered mom of a fussy baby.

You see, my first child had colic. That is, cry-for-15-hours-a-day colic. And, yes, I tried the different remedies:

  • Change what I was eating when I was breastfeeding (no help)
  • Change to formula (no help)
  • Try different types of formula (no help)
  • Swaddling (that sort of worked)
  • Driving in the car (made her scream louder; MHSL for short)
  • Put her in her carrier and sit it on the washing machine (MHSL)

Each day I would search the Internet and purchase whatever I could find to appease this screaming child. I even bought something called an Amby Bed. It cost a couple hundred dollars and was not returnable (I should have known then) but I snatched it up anyway. I mean, if it said it would cure my baby’s colic, I needed it. When it arrived, it was basically a swinging hammock. After finally getting it put together, I placed my fussy baby right in. Can you guess what happened? Yep. MHSL.

That is not to say there is nothing you can do to help a fussy baby. There is. And this is a great website to help you with that.

5 Ways to Cope with a Fussy Baby

The sound of a loud vacuum cleaner coupled with Dr. Karp’s 5 “S”s was somewhat helpful for my child. But what really helped was when I started to address my own stress, my own emotional roller coaster. Here are 5 things that I learned through much trial and tribulation.

Give yourself a break

There are some things you can do and others that you cannot. Babies cry and are fussy. Some more than others. Accepting that can relieve some burden. I remember when I first became a mom, I thought “I have to be there perfect mother.” Obviously that is not possible. When I changed my thinking to “I will do the best I can for my baby,” I started to feel less stressed.

Take time out for yourself

Consider what the airlines tell you to do in the event of a crash: “Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others.” When my child had colic, I definitely felt like we had experienced a trauma. When I took time out for me (e.g., taking a shower ever day, getting an occasional massage, working out), I felt much better. And I was so much better able to care for my child when I had taken a time out.

Take time out for couple time

This does not necessarily mean s-e-x. I mean, I can remember when I got the “OK” from my OB for intercourse, I looked at her like she was insane. (Come on, you know what I am talking about!) But, it is important to continue couple time, now and forever. If you two do not feel connected, there will be much more stress. There can be more arguments and conflicts between the two of you.

I often compare it to trying to fight the Civil War (conflict between you and your mate) AND a Revolution (tension caring for your baby). OK, I know your child is not a war. But coping with a fussy baby can sometimes feel like a battle.

Take a time out as a couple and you will be better able to cope with your fussy baby.

Accept (and even request) help from others

It used to be that a mother had help. Lots of help. The entire village (or at least extended family) was not only willing to help but saw it as part of their regular duty. This is not often the case in today’s world. Where families are smaller, busier and often far away, mothers are often “on their own.”

If a friend or family member who you trust says, “what can I do to help?” give them something to do. Watch the baby for 10 minutes while you shower or longer so you can go get a pedicure.

And, while you may know your baby best, there are lots of other mommies out there who have learned a few tricks that you might never have considered. We hired a babysitter from El Salvador to help us out. She had some interesting remedies (running water over my daughter’s hand and then elevating them above her head to get rid of hiccups, for example) but they were safe and some of them actually worked.

I had a good friend whose first baby (with colic) caused such a strain on her marriage that when the second child came, she hired a night nanny. She explained, “I know a night nanny is expensive, but it is cheaper than the marital therapy we paid for” after her first baby.


I realize this may be difficult with a fussy baby. But I highly recommend you take time to do some relaxation. It will decrease your stress and help you better cope with your fussy baby. And everything else going on in your life.

Most of all, remember, a fussy baby is not forever. Before you know it, she will be begging to go on a date or he will want the keys to the car. That is when the real stress starts!

Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S, P.T. is a psychologist, physical therapist and mother of two daughters, ages 2 and 4 years.