Suggestions on How to Soothe a Colicky Infant?

Received Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Opinion 4 I have a slight dilema lately and could really use some help.

Background on my job: I care for a 10 month old girl. I'm a military wife and the woman I work for is also a military wife whose husband is deployed. I know how it is when a deployment rolls around so I know the hours and the pay aren't going to match up but I don't mind helping her out and to be honest I needed a job for the money and for something to do. I work 5 days a week. Normally 3 week days and a Friday and Saturday. During the week I work 9-6 and on the weekends it's normally 1:30pm-11:30. (she has been frequently late and I plan on taking that up with her asap) and I make $150 per week. I work from my house and I have absolutely no responsibilities other than the well being and care of the baby.

On to my problem: I've been a nanny for 7 years. I've cared for every from infants to teens. I've never had any issues with children. I have glowing references and I keep in contact with every family I've ever worked for. I've never dealt with anything like this and I've seen my fair share of crying and fits. For some reason when she cries, she doesn't just cry. She screams so loud, for so long, and in such a high pitch that she literally loses her breath and can't catch it until she stops. I've never heard a child do this before unless they were seriously hurt or injured.

My husband came home early from work one day and the baby and I were playing in the living room where he was watching tv and all of a sudden she just started the crying and screaming. Nothing was done to her, she didn't get hurt, nothing. My husband was like what is going on and I had no answer. The mother never mentioned any problems and I'm at a loss for what I should try next. I've tried calming baths, I've tried soothing her, I've tried driving her around (her mother suggested that for when she's upset or fighting nap time), I've tried strolling her through the neighborhood, and more. I mean I've really tried everything I can think of and nothing is working. The screaming is so bad I've had two neighbors come over and ask me to keep it down. Is there a trick to soothing a baby who screams like that? Sometimes she just cries but mainly she has these screaming fits.

I'm sorry if this doesn't seem like a problem to anyone else but I've honestly never had to deal with an issue like this. Kids cry and throw fits and get mad but I've never had a baby who screams like this for no reason. Suggestions and advice are welcome!


Nanny who loves what she does said...

This doesn't bother me at all- I am a nanny of a 8 month old- so I know exactly what you are going through. What is sounds like- is when your husband came home is when the baby started. Sounds like stranger anxiety. The baby doesn't see your husband as much- am I right? Could it had been that and/or: sleepy baby, hungry, or teething. I go down the list with my little one and sometimes babies just cry for no reason. All you can do is go down the list and do exactly what you did and tried. And hope for the best. I feel for you and don't worry about the neighbors. Good Luck

nanny07 said...

Try talking in to her as if you were talking to an adult with not much pause between each word but plenty of expression as if you are convincing her it is ok.. doesnt matter what your actually saying though.. I tried this and it works everytime the tantrum stops and he looks at me like awe ok your calm and telling me its all good and wants to no what im going on about.. Let me know if it works...

Seriously? said...

Have you tried wearing her? Usually when I have a baby that won't calm down by regular means, putting her in a mei tai and walking around with her usually does the trick. The warmth, closeness, and rocking motion from someone that the baby trusts can do wonders.

OP Here: said...

Nanny- due to the weather and the post being closed she has seen my husband almost everyday. At first I thought that could be the issue but it happens during the day as well.

Nanny07- I swear I've tried every trick I know.

Seriously- I have no kind of carrier for her and I honestly don't plan on spending any money on this job due to the pay I'm receiving.

When her mom came last night I asked her about it and she said she cries like that at home too. She said she will wake up in the middle of the night screaming like that and she's just letting her scream it out until she falls back asleep. I understand when she first wakes up from her nap or if something is wrong but the times where everything is fine and then she just starts for no reason worry me. I really like this job but I'm not sure it's a good fit. If I can't find something that works to soothe her I'm not sure I can continue with this arrangement.

Thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Could be reflux.

She probably should take the child to a doctor or specialist to figure it out. Poor baby.

Good luck

~ Annie

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

IMO, there must be some reason for a baby to scream like you are describing. I think your best bet is to gently ask her mom to take baby to the doctor.

It could be reflux, teething, general discontent, the lack of calm/loving response from her mom when she screams leading her to simply assume no one is going to help her, anything. I doubt it's colic, since that usually peaks at 2 - 3 months and disappears by 4 months. And I don't know if I buy into the idea that she's having a tantrum at 10 months old. :-)

Sounds like you are doing all you can do. Only other suggestion I have is to keep a log book of when she screams, the situation she was in when she started, what you tried to do to soothe her, and how long she screamed. If you do that for a week or so, then show it to mom, she might be more inclined to take the baby to the doctor.

Good luck!

Seriously? said...

OP: Do you know how to sew, or know anyone who can? A mei tai is easy enough to make on your own with simple materials.

I do second (third?) having the baby taken to the doctor, though. It sounds like there may be something else going on with the poor thing. :(

ericsmom said...

I agree with the above posters. It could be gas or reflux. Best bet like the others mentioned is for the baby to go to her pediatrician. Then if needed the ped. can recommend a gastroenterologist if needed. Maybe, certain foods are irritating her GI tract.

In the SAME boat... said...

I FEEL for you OP. I am in the SAME boat with the 6 month old I nanny. HE SCREAMS bloody murder for no apparent reason (even if I hold him ALLLLLLL day)... So much so, that the neighbor comes and knocks on the door to "see if the baby is okay". It can be VERY frustrating but I am looking forward to when he "grows up" and out of the colick!!! So far, his Dr. has found NO REASON for it either... Just have to deal with it until he figures it out... Which is unfortunately the case sometimes =(

OP Here said...

Thank you all for your advice!
I think I am going to start keeping the log in hopes of finding out what's going on.
I didn't use colic or colicky so I'm not sure where that came from.

One thing I've noticed also is that her poops are always liquidy. I'm not sure if that's another sign that something is wrong but I think by keeping the log i can have solid reason for asking her mom if something is up. I don't want to offend the mom by saying she should take her to the doctor. I also know that sometimes letting them cry it out isnt a bad thing so I understand why the mom doesn't rush to her in the middle of the night (she is trying to break the sleeping in bed with her habit). If I hold the baby while she naps she wakes up fine. If she wakes up in her pack and play, the stroller, carseat, or anywhere other than in my arms I've noticed that's what sets off the first screaming fit. I definitely can't hold her during her naps and Im trying to follow the moms direction of having her sleep on her own.

Again thank you for all your advice & suggestions.

JustPeachy said...

I had a similar situation, which turned out to be something serious, but it is porbably rare. The baby I was watching was a fussy one, and would cry or scream like you describe for what appeared to be no reason. The only comfort I found for him was to carry him in a football hold or lay him on his belly, which got hard as he got bigger. We assumed it was just a sensetive stomach, and his doctor agreed. Gas drops and reflux medicines didn't do much to soothe him. Then, when he was about 11 months, the screaming fits got even worse, and about a week later he suddenly became lethargic (not at all like him) and ill within a couple hours. I was so concerned, we rushed him to the hospital, and they determined he had an intestinal problem called Intussusception. Basically his intestines foldeded in on themselves and became blocked. He ended up having emergency surgery to repair the issue, and after he got home, he was such a differnt baby. He rarley ever cried and I can't recall him having another screaming fit after that. I don't know if it was his tummy and that problem all along, or if it was just coincidence, but trust your gut. If her sreaming does not seem normal, ask the mom to take her to the doctor for some evaluations.

FrogBabyNanny said...

I am in almost the EXACT same situation!! I have been nannying for a baby who is now 11 months old for 7 months. I have worked with countless babies and in a daycare center and I have NEVER heard a baby scream like this. I too have tried all of the typical solutions and nothing works. The baby did get switched to a nonfussy/gassy formula at about 6 months but it didn't really help. He will just start screaming bloody murder after smiling 2 seconds ago and he can't calm down. It does sound to me like somethings wrong but the mom won't listen. I think she thinks it's normal. He was born prematurely and has developmental delays and low muscle tone, so I don't know if this is related or if there are other undiagnosed problems, but it sure sounds like he's in pain (or being murdered.) good luck, unfortunately I don't know what to tell you. :(

nycmom said...

Two out of 3 of my kids were like this. They were just difficult babies. They would cry for many hours of every day. They woke up numerous times each night. Neither slept through reliably until 3-4yo. They gave up all naps before 2yo. They wanted to be held and in motion all the time. They didn't have reflux or food allergies. My other child was so easy and peaceful, I found myself checking on him just because he hadn't been crying in so long!

For my difficult kids, it was physical contact and motion that soothed them. My son wanted to only sleep on top of someone or in their arms. He had no interest in being alone, ever. He would nap in the swing, stroller, or in motion in the baby bjorn carrier (perhaps mom would buy a used swing or carrier on Craigslist?). That's it. My daughter wanted to move in a certain way even when awake to the point that we literally set up shifts with my husband, myself, and our nanny to trade off carrying her around.

Now, I understand the point of view that you shouldn't "give in" to these needs, but I really don't think you can spoil a little baby. As far as sleep training, it never worked for these kids. I tried it religiously, in desperation. It failed and they were sleeping worse at the end of the 2 weeek trial that at the start. They would sit up in their crib, screaming, shaking, fall asleep, wake up, vomit. After that failure, and my other easy baby, is when I realized that some kids are just temperamentally difficult. They have different needs. The good news is they do grow out of the crying. Trying to remember, but I think by 12mths there was a big improvement and by 3yo they were great fun. Good luck!

Becky and Mike Mooers said...

my child did this, and after years of working with infants and toddlers I knew it wasn't "normal". I took him to the Dr and he was diagnosed with reflux - given medicine and he hasn't screamed since. The Dr. said the pain of the reflux combined with the cramping of the bowels that is associated with it was causing his pain.
Definitely go to the Dr.

a mom said...

this pretty much describes how my first child was like. He screamed and cried pretty much non-stop for the first two months of his life unless someone was holding him in a certain position. Even my nanny at the time said he was like no other child she cared for. To this day, I don't know what it was - but he is 9 yrs old now and still has issues with controlling his temper and can't seem to tolerate doing things he doesn't want to do. It got markedly better when he started talking around age 2 (he was a bit delayed in speech but that was the only thing he was ever diagnosed with. For me the worst thing was the guilt as a first time mom with not much experience with babies - that I was doing something wrong. Around 1 yo, I could put him in the stroller for a walk as long as we stayed outside. Going inside anywhere with him in the stroller resulted in full blown tantrum that drew stares from people like I was beating him. Around 2 1/2, he was much better- so if you can hang in there for another year, things might improve like they did for me.

a mom again said...

weird, just read nycmoms post and my oldest didn't sleep through the night til about 2 1/2 either. Same story, he's scream for hours on end, fall asleep for 2 hours wake up and scream for another 45 mins. I thought I was going to lose my mind. When my husband and I debated having a 2nd child we came to the conclusion that no baby could be as difficult as he was and felt we wanted to have another just to experience that 'joy' that everyone else seemed to get from their babies.

Anonymous said...

I would talk to her doctor about bacteria in her gut. If she doesn't have enough good bacteria, she could have rotting food in her intestines which gives off gas and HURTS. Too many babies go untreated.

It may be the cause of colic, but a medical study has not been done. Some Ph.D. candidate out there needs to do their dissertation on colic in babies, and the use of probiotics. It could be ground breaking stuff.

Adults can get healthy bacteria over the counter with ease, but I would never give it to a baby without a doctor's consent and supervision.

A nanny who cares said...

This seems like reflux to me because she is fine when sleeping on you, so I'm assuming that means she is propped up, which helps reflux. I would also suggest she take the baby to the doctor. Also, Dr. Browns bottles have worked miracles for me in the past. Is the baby formula fed? If so, try pre mixing her formula in a pitcher for the day which reduces the bubbles in the formula which could be contributing to the reflux.

Good luck! I know this can be a very stressful thing!

another nanny said...

I think keeping the log is a good idea...make it as detailed as possible, so you can see if there's a pattern (like 30 minutes after eating she starts screaming, etc). If and when Mom agrees to go to the doctor, it will give him or her more to work with as far as diagnosis.
I also think baby bjorns are magic.

Mom and former nanny said...

In my opinion, as a mother and a former nanny, the worst thing you can do is to NOT tell the mother about the crying. You need to tell her just to cover yourself.

That being said, some infants cry a whole lot. All you can do is be patient and walk with them. I wish I could be of more help. Good luck!

Cameo Rose said...

I worked as an Occupational Therapist a million years ago, and did developmental evaluations on infants and young children. There are a number of genetic diseases that involve unusual-sounding screams and cries. This child needs to be seen by her pediatrician, and possibly referred to a specialty clinic. You need to help the mother realize that she shouldn't be passive in this situation.

Many cultures use a flat length of cloth to tie a child onto a caregiver's chest or back. There may be a demo on U-Tube or instructions on Wikipedia. Sorry, I can't look it up now.

Best wishes.

OP Here said...

A nanny who cares- she uses Dr.Brown bottles. It's the only bottles she ever has in the diaper bag.

Thank you all so much. First it's nice to know I'm not alone. Since I've never had a baby cry like that or scream like that especially for no real reason it worried me.

I'm definitely going to start the log tomorrow (today was my day off) and keep track of what happens, when it happens, and for how long it happens.

I think some of might be attention related or separation anxiety. I've noticed sometimes when she's playing and I'm doing something else (fixing her lunch, making a bottle, packing up the diaper bag) it triggers some crying & screaming. I'm also going to try propping her up during naps because sometimes laying her down for a diaper change triggers screaming.

It could be a number of things and I appreciate all the help I've received. Sorry I didn't have enough time to include everything in my first letter, I was in a rush.

Again thank you all!

Marypoppin'pills said...

Colicky is a word used to describe an infant that cries inconsolably for apparently no known reason.

My son was the same exact way. It turned out to be reflux and it would start within an hour of eating.

If you keep a log and notice a pattern of crying please mention it to the mother. You would be doing this child a world of good.

world's best nanny said...

I'm old school. Try the washing machine on spin, a vacuum, or a hairdryer.

Marypoppin'pills said...

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood,
I agree with you in that I wouldn't think it was colic because of the child's age but my poor son was almost 5mo before he was diagnosed. So although colic is usually seen in babies 2-3mo, if it is reflux, gas or some kind of spasm... it was just meant as a catch all phrase.

Bottom line is this baby should be checked for a gastrointestinal problem.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

MPP, I think of colic as something that's NOT "fixable", i.e., there is not specific diagnosis. Reflux is an issue that can be fixed/helped, thank goodness!

Regardless, this baby definitely needs to see the doctor! good luck OP!

Dr. Doctor said...

I agree with those who said the mother needs to take the child to the doctor immediately.

I have seen babies with both reflux, formula, and severe milk reactions that cause the child intense pain. Crying is a form of communication - heed it.

nycmom said...


Funny. My most difficult was my first child also, our only daughter. I also figured it couldn't get any worse so went for #2. Though #3 is giving #1 a run for her money!

Funny that our dd is 10yo now and also a fairly difficult child. She has a temper and also wants things her way. She is and always has been much harder than my second child. There are lots of studies on temperament that show it persists from infancy so I think we just got (un)lucky with the high needs difficult babies first! My youngest son, #3 baby, is also a poor sleeper and needs to be carried, but he is much happier overall with a better sense of humor at 3.4yo so I'm praying he grows into a more easygoing personality.

Marypoppin'pills said...

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood,
Not knowing what is wrong with this infant I used the term colic because of the extreme amount of crying the OP reported.

Even though this child is older, I hope readers will understand I meant the term loosely. But colic does have a definition:

Marypoppin'pills said...

One more thing I would like to add and I hope I can explain this well... is that even though colic tends to show in infants under 6mo of age, if a child is still crying inconsolably at 10mo of age and has not been treated or diagnosed, I would still say it was colicky.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

MPP, I think I may have come off as if I were nitpicking, which isn't what I was doing at all! Sorry if I "sounded" persnickity!

I think colic is definitely the commonly used term, and having cared for a baby with (Doctor dismissed) "colic" who actually had severe reflux I tend to be overly specific. That baby is 11 years old on Sunday, and the memory of her 4 months of agony is still fresh!


Marypoppin'pills said...

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood,
Trust me, I feel your pain! But I do appreciate your opinions... and we don't always have to agree... what would be the fun in that? ;-)