Tips for travelling with a colicky baby

by | May 15, 2020

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Perinatal educator Sister Des Meyer provides some insight into what colic is, and how to cope with it especially when you need to travel with your little one.

Infantile colic comprises crying episodes that last for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week and for three consecutive weeks. Colic episodes often occur in the evening; however, the child otherwise appears healthy and is feeding and growing well.

What causes colic?

Usually colic begins at around two to three weeks of age; peaks at six weeks and is over by 12 weeks or so. The cause of colic is unknown, but there are a number of theories about the conditions that lead to colicky symptoms.

All infants cry more in the first three months of life than at any other age. It is normal for babies to cry for up to two hours a day for reasons such as:

  • being over-tired
  • being over-stimulated
  • end-of-day gassiness
  • trying to wind themselves down
  • hunger
  • food sensitivities
  • pain or reflux

Colic episodes are characterised by an excessive amount of crying that:

  • has a definite beginning and end
  • is inconsolable
  • is out of the blue; baby could be quite content before the crying starts
  • may sometimes be helped by the passing of gas or a bowel movement


Travelling with a colicky baby

Many medications prescribed for colic and windiness don’t help at all – probably because it’s impossible to prescribe a treatment for which the cause is unknown.  Many babies who have colic are very gassy, and the thinking is that due to all the crying the baby gulps extra air. If you need to travel with your baby and you think she has colic, here are some considerations to make the experience as pleasant as possible under the circumstances.

Take advantage of the mode of travel

Many parents will agree that the motion and vibration of a motor vehicle is soothing to babies. Travelling during the time of day you expect your baby to have a colic episode may help to soothe your little one’s discomfort. Or consider travelling after the episode has passed and baby is likely to sleep a good amount of time during the trip. I’ve had babies and toddlers that shrieked in their car seats, so whenever we needed to travel a good length of time, we would leave at two or three in the morning. The roads are quieter and so is the baby!

If you’re travelling to a far destination and plan to hire a car, try to take along your own car seat or pram. It smells more familiar and won’t add to your baby’s discomfort.

Plan frequent stops. Look ahead on the map and pinpoint safe places to get out of the car and stretch. It will help with your own travel fatigue and you will be more tolerant of a fussy baby if you’re less tired. Remember to factor in the extra travelling time.

A comfy destination

Opt for a B&B rather than a hotel so that you’re more private as a family. Alternatively, try family-friendly hotels and restaurants. Other parents will be more tolerant of a crying baby and it will be less stressful for you. If your baby starts with a colic episode, consider a picnic or even room service during mealtimes.

If you’re sightseeing at your destination, wear your baby! Not only will she feel closer to you and more comforted, but the motion of you walking around while sightseeing may ease your baby’s reflux and colic symptoms.

Flying with a colicky baby

While some babies will miraculously sleep for long stretches of time on an aeroplane, it’s unlikely that your colicky baby will go unannounced on your flight. If possible, try to avoid flights that will coincide with a crying episode, and give yourself plenty of time if you need a connecting flight. It will take extra time to get your baggage and your baby’s extras (pram, car seat, etc.), and if you have to madly dash across the airport, it will just increase overstimulation and everyone’s stress and is likely to set your baby off.

During take-off, landing and possible turbulence, it will help to breast- or bottle feed your baby, as suckling helps to equalise her ear pressure. Carry your breastfeeding pillow on board with you to prop your baby up nicely on your lap to let her sleep. Your breastfeeding apron or breathable blanket can be placed over her to dim the light and reduce stimulation.

Keep baby comfortable. Both of you should wear loose comfy clothing. Layer your clothes so that you can stay cool or warm at any destination.

Timing is everything

Try to stick to baby’s routine if possible. Don’t interrupt her sleep schedule, but also set realistic expectations. Usually parents and baby just have to wait for the colic to pass. Life goes on and so can your normal routine.

Bon Voyage!