old remedies for colic

19 Old Remedies For Colic That Will Calm Your Baby

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Does your little one cry inconsolably every night? Mine did too! And after medication didn’t seem to help much I’ve tried several old remedies for colic and they’ve actually done the job.

Why did I turn to old remedies for colic?

When my oldest was still a newborn she started having these insane crying outbursts. Nothing seemed to be working and we tried all kinds of medication until she turned 3 months old and just outgrow them.

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I felt sorry for having to give her such a wide range of medication at such a young age. So when baby #2 started experiencing the same episodes, I’ve decided to find and try some old remedies for colic.

And guess what, they calmed her down pretty much every time. So now that we’re finally colic-free, I’ve decided to share what worked for us.

What is colic?

As a general rule, colic is considered the reason when your 0-3 months old baby cries inconsolably for at least 3 hours for at least 3 days, and in at least 3 consecutive weeks. There are also other signs that could suggest your baby is experiencing colic such as:

  • arching their back
  • tightening the stomach muscles
  • clenching their fists
  • bending their knees towards their tummy
  • passing a lot of gas while they cry
  • crying around the same time of day/evening

According to specialists, 1 of every 5 newborns suffers from colic. However, in my experience, this number should be a lot higher since most of my acquaintances with babies claim their little ones have experienced this condition at some point.

Colic usually starts when the baby is 2-3 weeks old and continues until the 3 months mark. However, for some unfortunate few, they could last up to the 4th and even the 6th month.

While there is no exact reason for colic to appear, it is considered that the main triggers include:

  • indigestion
  • gas
  • dairy intolerance

14 old remedies for colic that actually work (all tested)

Colic can be a nightmare, especially since there's no cure. But there are old remedies for colic that can make this period a lot easier.

When your baby cries their heart out and nothing else seems to be working, it is only natural that you’re ready to try anything. I sure know I was.

So here are the old remedies for colic that worked for us and made this notorious period bearable.

Rule out other possible reasons

While the methods below are not invasive and won’t hurt your little one, you should still be sure that colic is indeed behind their cries.

For example, they won’t calm down when you lay them on their tummy if they are just hungry.

The most common triggers for a baby’s fussiness can usually be easily recognized by the mom (I guess thanks to mother nature and the mommy instinct). But before blaming it all on colics make sure that your baby:

  • is not hungry
  • is not tired
  • doesn’t need a diaper change
  • is not overstimulated
  • is not bored
  • feels comfortable (not too cold or too hot)

However, in some cases, the reason for the outburst may not be that obvious. A good example is if your baby has reflux.

Baby reflux often mimics the symptoms of colic, but it may need to be treated with medication. Luckily, there are a lot of good homeopathic options available. Your baby’s healthcare provider should be able to guide you in your choice of medication.

Warm their tummy

A warm bath is one of the centuries-old remedies for colic (and not just colic, by the way).

The ideal baby bath temperature is around 38 C (100 F). Be careful not to overheat the baby as this could have the opposite effect.

If having a bath is not an option at the moment, there are a few other things you could try.

  • A warm compress. Use a warm towel or a thermal bag of seeds. Make sure the compress is a little over body temperature but not too hot. Place it on the baby’s tummy over their clothes so that you don’t burn their skin.
  • A bottle of warm water. I don’t really recommend this for two reasons. First, bottles are uncomfortable for both baby and mom as they won’t lie flat on the tummy. And second, there is a higher risk of burning the baby by accident.
  • Your own hand. If you don’t have anything else that you could use, your own hand can sometimes do the trick as well. Rub your hands together to warm them up and place one hand directly on the baby’s tummy under the clothes. You could also apply just a little pressure. This technique helped us a lot when I tried to comfort her in bed.

Lay them on their tummy

This simple position works like a charm for us. Let me know if it calms your baby too.

Tummy time is a great exercise for your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles. But did you know it could provide them colic relief too?

Two general positions provide both close contact with mommy and tummy pressure:

  • holding them tummy-down on your bend arm and pulling them to your chest (my personal favourite)
  • laying them across your lap

Still, remember to wait at least 30 minutes after feeding before putting your baby on their tummy or they may start throwing up.

Carry them in a baby carrier

Baby carriers are known for their soothing effect. And as far as old remedies for colic goes, babywearing dates back centuries.

If you decide to carry your baby make sure to pick a quality carrier to suit all your needs. This guide by Babyliss can help you choose the right baby wrap or carrier.

Burp them after feeding

As obvious as it sounds, this is a must after every feeding. Burping helps relieve the gas before it is able to cause any discomfort.

To burp the baby, place it on your shoulder or hold it in a standing position. Then rub or pat their back gently.

Hold them in a standing position after feeds

Remaining a few minutes in a standing position after burping can also save the baby a lot of discomforts.

Just hold the baby upright immediately after feeding. This helps the food remain in their tummy and prevents acid reflux.

Keep them in motion

Repetitive motions can do miracles when it comes to calming a fussy baby. There are several ways you can do this so choose the one you and your baby feel most comfortable with:

  • Carry and rock your baby around. Everyone does that, it just comes naturally. But if you’re not a fan of it, there are other options you could try.
  • Mommy’s rocking chair. Hold the baby tight against your chest and let the chair do all the work. The motion is really soothing for you both. Alternatively, you can use your backyard hammock. That’s what I do since I don’t have a rocking chair. Baby calms down 90% of the time.
  • Baby rocker. You can get a manual one, or an automatic one. In either case it provides the same soothing repetitive motion.

Perform anti-colic massage

Massaging your baby’s tummy helps digestion and passing those extra gases.

To perform the massage rub some baby, coconut, or olive oil into your palms and make sure they are warm enough so you don’t cause any discomfort to your little one.

Peppermint oil also has a calming effect, however, be sure to add just a drop mixed with your regular oil or the scent will be too strong for your baby’s sensitive nose.

You can see some of the most popular massaging techniques explained in detail by Healthline. I especially enjoy performing the “I love you” massage. It just makes me smile every time and the baby seems to like it too.

Riding a bike exercise

Some baby exercises also help let the gas out. An easy and effective example is the co-called pedalling or “riding a bike” exercise.

To perform it, put the baby on their back and hold their knees. Push one leg to their tummy, hold it for a couple of seconds then pull it back and push the other one. Just like the movement when riding a bike.

As a side note, however, if your baby resists this exercise, don’t push them. Instead, try a massage or another one of the listed options.

Homemade tea

Homemade herb teas can be very effective. However be sure to consult your pediatrician before offering anything outside your baby's milk diet.

Other popular old remedies for colic include making your own homemade tea.

There are different types of tea that are known to aid digestion and are safe for a little baby. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, however, you may want to refrain from offering tea in a bottle.

The most popular herbs used for baby tea include:

  • Fennel seeds
  • Chamomile
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Anise

To prepare the tea just put the herbs in a pot with some water, boil it, strain it, and offer the tea to the baby when it cools down while it’s still fresh.

I would not recommend purchasing ready-made tea mixes because they may be hidden ingredients and the herbs could have been treated with various chemicals.

Instead, get a live plant and grow it at home or get it from a known source. Personally, I grow my own fennel and basil and replenish my fennel seeds stash every year (baby or no baby).

I would recommend contacting your baby’s doctor before offering them anything outside their milk diet. If your baby shows any negative reaction to the herbs like constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, or extra fussiness stop giving them more until you have consulted your baby’s healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding: Watch your diet

You know that when you’re breastfeeding, everything you consume affects your breast milk. To reduce your baby’s colic, try to avoid the following:

  • dairy products
  • spicy foods
  • caffeine
  • citrus fruits
  • gluten

Formula-feeding: Try a different formula

Formula-fed babies react differently to the different types and brands of formula.

If you believe your formula may be part of the issue, discuss your options with your pediatrician and switch to a different type or brand.

Our little one’s colic outbursts were greatly reduced when we switched from regular to anti-colic formula.

Formula-feeding: Use anti-colic bottles

There are now feeding bottles designed specifically with colicky babies in mind. They help the baby swallow less air and thus reduce the discomfort before it has built up.

We use Tommee Tippie’s anti-colic plus bottles but you could try different brands to find the one your baby likes the most.

Remain calm

Babies can easily sense the mood of others around them. To calm them down, it is extremely important that you are calm yourself.

When your baby is crying for hours, however, this is easier said than done.

Just remember one thing. Never, under any circumstances, shake or hit your baby.

If you feel your frustration, anxiety, or feeling of helplessness building up, leave your baby in a safe place for a minute and take a breath. Otherwise, you may unconsciously harm your baby.

Remember that colic is just a phase and it will soon pass, no matter how bad it feels right now.

Other old remedies for colic I did NOT try

Some old remedies for colic I've only heard about but haven't tried. Let me know if you have any experience with them.

The following remedies I’ve only heard about but haven’t tried personally. Before turning to any one of the below old remedies for colics, I would advise to first consult your pediatrician.

Baby Bowen therapy

A lot of parents swear that the Baby Bowen therapy is the magical cure that put an end to their baby’s crying outburst. To be honest, the only reason I haven’t tried it is because there are no practitioners in my area.

It is claimed, that it treats conditions such as:

  • colic
  • reflux
  • birth trauma
  • feeding/sucking problems
  • respiratory problems, and many more

If you want to learn more about the procedure, Perth Bowen Clinic is a good place to start.

Feeding more often

They say that breastfeeding more often soothes babies, i.e. small amounts every 30-60 minutes. However, this is only valid if you’re breastfeeding.

Formula-fed babies need to have a rest between feedings or you may get the opposite effect.

Unfortunately, both my kids were formula-fed soon after birth (not by choice), so I haven’t tried this one either.

Removing dairy products from the baby’s diet

Some babies are intolerant to milk protein. If this is the case, you will have to remove all dairy products from your baby’s diet and switch to a specially developed formula.

However, this condition must be confirmed by a specialist before proceeding with such drastic measures.

Adding rice cereal to the bottle

They say that adding rice cereal to the baby’s bottle thickens the milk and thus reduces the air they swallow during feeding.

To be honest I wouldn’t recommend this for two reasons. First off, it presents a choking hazard and personally, I wouldn’t risk it. And second, if you want to thicken the formula, you may as well just purchase one of the anti-reflux formulas available on the market that are noticeably thicker than regular formulas.

Gripe water

In many countries, offering gripe water is a popular method to control colic. However, we don’t have them around here.

Still, for what I know, as an over-the-counter product, gripe water is often unregulated. In other words, there may be ingredients that are missing from the label.

And personally, I prefer to know exactly what I’m giving to my newborn baby.

Other ways to calm a fussy baby

How to calm your fussy baby when they're not in a colic outburst

In some cases, your baby may just be fussy for just any reason. Especially if you have a newborn.

So before heading to the drug store, make sure you’ve tried the easy way first.

Provide a proper environment

Babies can’t tell you if they’re hot or cold. They can only complain by crying. So make sure you’ve set a nice environment for your little one first.

The ideal room temperature for a baby is about 20-22 C (or 68-72 F).

Also, try to avoid exposing your baby to any screens. No, it will not ruin their eyes or whatever was believed back in the day. It will just overstimulate them which will make them fussy without any other obvious reason.

Swaddle them

Newborn babies love being swaddled because it makes them feel warm and cosy, just like in the womb.

Swaddling, however, could be tricky. Luckily, the American Academy of Pediatrics explains exactly how to swaddle your baby and when you have to stop doing it (hint: soon after the second month).

Use a white noise machine

White noises remind the baby of the time they were cuddled in your womb (supposedly, the bloodstream makes the same noise). Today there are plenty of amazing white noise machines available on the market.

But if you don’t want to invest in one, you can just as easily play a YouTube recording made specifically for calming babies. Just make sure the baby is not exposed to the screen. They need the audio and not the video.

As an alternative, you could use some of your home appliances. Hairdryers, clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners, and fans all produce white noise. Just remember not to leave the hairdryer in the crib or point the fan directly to the baby.

Give them a pacifier

Some parents refrain from offering a pacifier because they are afraid the baby will become addicted and will eventually have a hard time giving it up.

However, with my younger baby, I have another issue with pacifiers. Every night she calls for me like 5 times because she dropped her paci.

My oldest never used a pacifier and we didn’t have this problem. She has been sleeping soundly through the night ever since she was about 3 months old.

Aside from the night wakings, however, pacifiers satisfy the baby’s sucking reflex and thus do miracles when it comes to soothing a fussy baby.

When to call your healthcare provider?

Colics usually happen in the evening hours. If you notice your baby starts crying with the same intensity throughout the day you need to consult your pediatrician because there may be other issues you were not aware of.

If you decide to try any of the above listed old remedies for colic you need to watch your baby closely in the first few days. If you notice any changes in your baby’s behaviour like becoming restless or sleepless, or if they start experiencing constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, or high temperature, please contact the baby’s healthcare provider immediately.

Although the listed old remedies for colics are all natural and have been tested, all babies are different and thus react differently.

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