Nightly crying spells in a baby can frustrate and worry exhausted new parents. Crying spells may just be your baby's way of releasing tension or may be a sign of colic, a harmless condition characterized by long bouts of crying. Although it may not be possible to stop the spells, making your baby more comfortable might help reduce crying.
Crying is the way babies communicate. While they can't talk, they can let their caregivers know if they're hungry, tired, wet or bored with their cries. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that fussy periods are common between 6 p.m. and midnight, with these crying spells peaking at about 3 hours a day by six weeks of age and declining to 1 or 2 hours per day by three to four months. The Academy advises that nightly crying spells aren't a reason for concern if the baby is relatively peaceful during the day and becomes calm after a few hours of crying.
Doctors classify crying spells as colic when a baby cries over 3 hours per day, 3 or more days per week for longer than 3 weeks. Colic generally stops when the baby is three or four months old, but in some cases, it can last as long as 6 months. If your baby has colic, he may experience frequent crying spells during the day and night, with the spells peaking during the evening. During these spells, nothing you do will comfort him or reduce the crying. When your baby cries, he may swallow air, which can cause gas. If he has gas, his stomach will appear bloated and firm, he may pull his legs tight against his body and you may hear or smell him pass gas.
Although colic may just be a normal response of a nervous system that hasn't quite matured yet, in some cases, it may occur if your baby is sensitive to certain foods you eat if you are breastfeeding. Avoid caffeine, milk products, cabbage and onions if you think your diet may be contributing to the problem. If any of these foods are contributing to colic, you will notice a gradual reduction in crying spells.
Soothing Your Child
Soothing your child requires some experimentation, as not all babies respond to the same methods. Some babies enjoy the security and warmth of being swaddled in a blanket, while others may find comfort in a pacifier. Changing the way you feed your baby may help reduce crying spells. FamilyDoctor.org suggests feeding your baby if more than two hours have passed since the last feeding, and feeding your baby more often with less food at a time. Some babies find certain sounds calming, including the sounds made by clothes dryers or vacuum cleaners. Others enjoy the feeling of motion and may enjoy car rides or the gentle motion of a baby swing.