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THE SECRETS OF COPING WITH A COLICKY BABY

No matter the cause, a colicky baby is probably one of the most difficult of situations for parents. Despite all the speculation, there is no cure.

Parents of colicky babies, however, may draw optimism from this: The worst should be over by the time the baby is 3 or 4 months old.

In the meantime, here are some sound coping strategies developed by the experts:

If your baby cries for more than a couple of hours a day and is inconsolable, see your pediatrician. The doctor will take a history of the baby's symptoms and may want to observe the baby in a crying jag. Parents need 24-hour accessibility to a pediatrician who knows the baby, so the infant can be reassessed whenever concerns about health arise.

Apply soothing measures promptly once a crying bout begins. Sometimes it helps to have a ritual during which parents try a laundry list of soothing techniques.

Among the maneuvers to try are rocking, secure swaddling, rhythmic rolling back and forth in a stroller, car rides, a pacifier, carrying baby in a snuggly or backpack, monotonous noise such as a vacuum or running shower, wind-up swings, patting baby's back and various holding positions.

Be responsive to the baby's cues. If the baby starts to cry, one of the first things to consider is hunger. Parents may find that feeding the baby without a lot of interruptions and in a restful manner helps to keep the baby calm.

Be aware of your stress level. Even the most experienced and devoted parents become exhausted and tense from the demands of a colicky baby. The infant senses parents' tension and reacts to it with more crying.

If possible, have a contingency plan in which a relative, friend or the other parent can take over immediately when the needs of the infant mount and threaten to get overwhelming.

Schedule free time. Coping with the needs of a colicky baby is easier if a parent knows a break will come from a care-giver. The care-giver needs to know parents will return when promised to enable him to withstand the stress of dealing with a colicky baby.

If the laundry list of maneuvers for soothing the baby has been tried and backup people are unavailable, parents can justifiably put the baby in the crib and get away to somewhere else for 25 minutes. Try to find a place in the house where the crying is not so audible (a loud shower works), then come back to the baby.

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