Moms Columns & Blogs

Calming a colicky baby

This week, I read about a University of California, San Francisco study of mothers and their babies showing that mothers who suffer migraine headaches are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic, as compared with mothers who don’t suffer from migraines. As some readers might know, my son suffered from terrible colic and I also suffer severe migraines – which is one of the reasons I discovered the Dunstan Baby language. The pain of my son’s cries made me even more sound-sensitive. I wonder now if I’d used some of my migraine-soothing techniques on him, might it have helped his colic? Here are some suggestions for de-stressing the colicky baby, via the senses.

Caring, reassuring gentle touch is crucial for all babies, but especially meaningful for your tactile child. These babies are the ones who won’t be put down, and insist upon being as physically close to you as possible. They will love motion, and if they are unable to feel the rocking back and forth or side to side as a loved one carries them, they will settle begrudgingly for the motion of a stroller, a drive in the car or a mechanical swing. Regular massaging and skin on skin time is very beneficial, as too are any sort of baby sling or harness that keep baby close, while allowing mom and dad free hands.

Auditory babies respond best to calming sounds, and the regular household sounds familiar to them from the womb. This may simply be the chatter of their siblings, the sound of reruns of Oprah, or your favorite music. As auditory babies tend to startle more than the other senses, it’s important that you take care to add or change sound gradually rather than using the on/off switch. They will respond best to the sound of your voice, either talking cooing or singing. If upset, calm your baby down by making the sound of the sea in a gentle, rhythmic shhhhh shhhhhh shhhhhh.

Visual babies can tend to get overstimulated in our very visual world. Lights, the flashes from the TV, the blinking from the cell phone and computer can make for a visually overwhelming environment. Consider creating a visually calming area, just for your visual baby. It might have plain walls, few or no electrical devices, and would be free from brightly colored toys and mobiles. The stroller can be a stimulating location for your visual baby – so much to see. Draping a cheesecloth or plain receiving blanket over the front of the stroller can help calm their visual hyper-arousal. (Just make sure it is secured at the top, can’t wrap around your baby and that the sides are open for ventilation.)

Taste and smell babies are very sensitive to anything in excess. So apply all of the above, by being careful of bright visuals, loud noises and being left on their own. In addition, these babies are sensitive to smell, so drop the perfume or aromatherapy, and use hypoallergenic, unscented washing powder. Some taste and smell babies can actually be overwhelmed by too many kind arms wanting to hold them. Stick to a plan of simple sound, touch and vision and remember that these babies (more than any other) pick up on your own stress, so do your best to remain calm.

Colic is an exhausting process for both the parents and the baby. Trying calming methods, in addition to the classic colic holds and remedies, may help solve your little one’s problems.

Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at