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It's 4 a.m. Your sweet, beautiful baby is a month old but won't stop crying. It's been almost an hour now, and nothing you do seems to calm her down. You've gotten about three hours of sleep at this point, and in just a few hours it'll be time to start getting ready for work.
What is colic?
Know the feeling? Seemingly "unsoothable" babies aren't uncommon. In fact, 20 to 25 percent of babies are considered to have colic - which the American Pregnancy Associations defines as "inconsolable crying in an infant".
When parents and doctors have tried everything to calm down their crying baby, doctors will typically diagnosis the baby with colic. Unfortunately, there's seemingly no instant cure, and doctors just encourage mothers to weather the storm until their babies outgrow their colic fits.
However, Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and child development expert, has devoted his life to helping families raise happy and healthy children and may offer a cure for your colicky child.
In 1981, he learned about an indigenous tribe in the southern Africa Kalahari Desert whose mothers can calm their fussy babies in under a minute. Unlike babies in American and Western European cultures, the babies in the !Kung San tribe don't struggle with colic.
So, what's the secret cure?
Dr. Karp studied the !Kung San mothers and continued in his own child development studies before coming up with five steps for curing colic: swaddle, side or stomach, shush, swing and suck.
He realized that while human pregnancy has three trimesters, babies need a "fourth trimester" of womb simulation. These five S's help a baby to receive the same sensations they felt in the womb and help them revert to that stage of comfort and quiet.
Swaddling your baby recreates the snug comfort they felt in the womb. To swaddle correctly, wrap your baby's arms snugly at their sides, but leave their hips and legs loose. Remember: Babies shouldn't be swaddled all day, just while fussing and when they are sleeping.
2. Side or stomach position
The back is the safest position possible for sleeping, but it's the worst for fussiness. After swaddling your baby, hold them on their side or stomach, and you'll watch them calm down almost instantly.
Have you ever noticed how your baby seems to like the sound of the vacuum or your hair dryer? It's because these sounds are actually very similar to the sounds they heard in the womb. While holding your baby on their side or stomach, hold them close and make loud "shushing" noises in their ear to calm them down.
Life in the womb was very jiggly. While you were pregnant, your baby grew accustom to your active life. Use small, fast back and forth movements with your baby to calm them down. Imagine your baby bopping up and down in your womb while you walked down the stairs and try to gently mimic that movement.
Note: Never shake your baby aggressively.
Most babies sucked their thumbs in the womb, so sucking on their pacifier is another way to help them get back to the tranquil state they felt before birth. Here's a video of this step (and the 4 others) in action:
It can take some time to perfect the five S's, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't work the first time you try it. To get more guidance and detail about Dr. Karp's method, check out a copy of his book, The Happiest Baby on the Block.
You can buy it on Amazon for $10.87