What is colic?
Colic is when
your otherwise healthy baby cries for three or more hours a day, three or more
times a week, for at least three weeks. Symptoms usually appear during your
baby’s first three to six weeks of life. An estimated one
in 10 infants experience colic.
Your baby’s constant crying can cause stress and anxiety because nothing
seems to alleviate it. It’s important to remember that colic is only a
temporary health condition that usually improves on its own. It’s not usually a
sign of a serious medical condition.
You should call your baby’s pediatrician as soon as possible if colic
symptoms are combined with other symptoms such as high fever or bloody stools.
Your baby likely has colic if they cry for at least three hours a day and
more than three days per week. The crying generally begins at the same time of
day. Babies tend to be more colicky in the evenings as opposed to mornings and
afternoons. The symptoms can start suddenly. Your baby might be giggling one
moment and then upset the next.
They may start to kick their legs or draw their legs up appearing as though
they are trying to alleviate gas pain. Their belly may also seem swollen or
firm while they are crying.
The cause of colic is unknown. The term was developed by Dr. Morris Wessel
after he conducted a study on infant fussiness. Today, many pediatricians
believe that every infant goes through colic at some point, whether it’s over a
period of several weeks or a few days.
There is no one known cause of colic. Some doctors believe certain things
may increase the risk of colic symptoms in your baby. These potential triggers
- acid reflux (stomach acid flowing upward into the
esophagus, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD)
- presence of cow’s milk proteins in breast milk
- poor burping skills
- overfeeding the baby
- premature birth
- smoking during pregnancy
- undeveloped nervous system
One proposed way to treat and prevent colic is to hold your child as often
as possible. Holding your infant when they aren’t fussy may reduce the amount
of crying later in the day. Placing your baby in a swing while you do chores
may also help.
Sometimes taking a drive or strolling around the neighborhood can be
soothing to your baby. Playing calming music or singing to your child may also
help. You can also put on soothing music or some gentle background noise. A
pacifier may be soothing as well.
Gas may be a trigger of colic in some babies, though this hasn’t been shown
to be a proven cause. Softly rub your baby’s abdominal area and gently move their
legs to encourage intestinal flow. Over-the-counter gas-relief medications may
also help with the recommendation of your child’s pediatrician.
Holding your baby as upright as possible when you are feeding, or changing
bottles or bottle nipples can help if you think your baby is swallowing too
much air. You can potentially make some adjustments if you suspect diet is a
factor in your baby’s symptoms. If you use formula to feed your baby, and you
suspect your baby is sensitive to a particular protein in that formula, discuss
this with your doctor. Your baby’s fussiness may be related to that rather than
simply having colic.
Making some changes to your own diet if you breastfeed may help relieve symptoms
of fussiness associated with feeding. Some breastfeeding mothers have found success
by removing stimulants like caffeine and chocolate from their diet. Avoiding
those foods while breastfeeding may also help.
will colic end?
The intense crying might make it seem like your baby is going to be colicky
forever. Infants usually outgrow colic by the time they are 3 or 4 months old according
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It’s important to
stay in tune with your baby’s symptoms. If they go beyond the four-month mark,
prolonged colicky symptoms may indicate a health problem.
to seek medical help
Colic is usually not cause for concern. You should, however, consult your
pediatrician immediately if your baby’s colic is combined with one or more of the
- a fever of over 100.4˚F (38˚C)
- projectile vomiting
- persistent diarrhea
- bloody stools
- mucus in the stool
- pale skin
- decreased appetite
with your baby’s colic
Being a parent to a newborn is hard work. Many parents who try to cope with
colic in a reasonable fashion tend to get stressed in the process. Remember to
take regular breaks as needed so you don’t lose your cool when dealing with
your baby’s colic. Ask a friend or family member to watch your baby for you
while you take a quick trip to the store, walk around the block, or take a nap.
Place your baby in the crib or swing for a few minutes while you take a
break if you feel like you’re starting to lose your cool. Call for immediate
help if you ever feel like you want to harm yourself or your baby.
Don’t be afraid of spoiling your child with constant cuddling. Babies need
to be held, especially when they are going through colic.