My 4-week-old daughter suffers from extreme gas pain that leaves her spending very few waking hours in a content, attentive state. Our lives for the past month have literally been about near-constant soothing over 90% of the time she's awake. Through generous application of the 5 S techniques from Dr. Karp's "Happiest Baby on the Block" we are able to keep her below the 3-hours-a-day 3-times-a-week qualification to officially declare her as colicky, but if we weren't constantly soothing her, I'm sure that she'd qualify.

I'd like to do everything I can to give her every advantage. One component of that should be reading to her regularly. However, with constant pain and the related crying/soothing there seems to be no opportunities left to read to her. The amount of time she spends in a quiet, attentive state each day measures in a handful of minutes. We're spending those moments talking to her, getting face-to-face time, and occasionally introducing high-contrast visual stimuli.

When should we become concerned about not having enough time spent reading? Is there any benefit to reading to her while she is sleeping?

I'm not so much worried about the time spent right now, but if this continues for 3, 6, or 9 months (as we've heard could be the case), then I'm concerned that the only word she'll know is "Shhhhhhh"

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    At 4 weeks, she won't really appreciate the fine nuances of Tolstoy, so it is not really worth it. Just talk to her in a soothing voice. (And, it does pass.) Commented Jun 21, 2015 at 11:56
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    Colic usually starts at 2-4 weeks and stops spontaneously by 4-5 months of age. I wouldn't start worrying about her language development at this point - concentrate on getting her and yourselves through the colicy period with your sanity intact. Btw, here is a good systematic review about the efficiency of different proposed treatments for colic: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907620. The bad news is nothing really works well enough to make any conclusions. Keep doing what you feel works for you. :-)
    – SiljeLB
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 8:13

2 Answers 2


Reading should be an enjoyable experience. The child revels in the lilt and nuances of words being said, particularly because the child is typically cuddled up with mom/dad and looking at pictures. Its multi-sensory, while also developing a love of books and reading. However, if its not enjoyable and soothing (to both baby and parent), don't beat yourself up. 4 weeks is quite young and the only thing you need to be focusing on is loving and providing for your child. Nothing else matters, nor will your child 'fall behind' for not having been read to at an ultra-early age.

Incidentally, there is this homeopathic 'medicine' called Gripe Water, that does wonders for gas/colic. My daughter was also colicky, and giving her Gripe Water helped, as did spending considerable amounts of time burping her, even when it seemed like she was done burping. Another thing to consider is baby's diet. If breast-fed, then you can track mom's eating habits to see if it is something specific that flares up the gas more. Same goes for formula.

  • That has sort of been my thought: that she wouldn't get anything out of it in her current state. Thanks for the suggestions about colic as well. Gripe water is one of our agenda items for the one-month checkup. We are finishing out a round of elimination diet tests which yielded no improvement. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 23:11
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    @JeffreyBlake - This is a great answer (+1 to vermachili!) with a lot of good points. The only caution I would offer is that if you choose to try Gripe Water, to be careful that the product you buy is not made with alcohol (some are), and sugar should best be avoided as well. You might want to buy a product made in the US, or where there is some regulatory oversight in the country of origin. Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 1:49
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    I would be wary of any advice recommending homeopathic remedies. There is no evidence that homeopathy has any effect beyond placebo.
    – SiljeLB
    Commented Jun 26, 2015 at 8:02
  • @SiljeLjoslandBakke I agree, but (here in the UK at least) Gripe Water is not homeopathic - it has actual active ingredients.
    – A E
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:12
  • ("contains oil of Dill herb and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate") boots.com/en/Woodwards-Gripe-Water-150ml_1816
    – A E
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 12:22

Ouch. You're reminding me of long nights with our oldest when she was an infant.

What worked well for us - or at least, it helped - was wearing her in a sling for large amounts of time each day.

We used a close-to-the-body cuddly fabric sling where the baby faces the parent (not a rigid structured sling where the baby faces 'outwards'), so you can wrap her up close to you and walk around with her and she can feel held/enclosed and rocked and warm, and ideally she can even hear your heartbeat - a bit like being back in the womb. At the same time it keeps her upright, which also helps the colic. So this all helps her get off to sleep, which is good for both of you.

See: Babywearing - the Dr Sears books are good on this.

As far as reading is concerned: I wouldn't worry. She's very young yet and she's learning language by hearing adult conversation as well as by what's directly said to her.

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