Is your infant crying for hours and none of your efforts to soothe those tears is working?
A few weeks after bringing your bundle of joy home, he erupts in unending wails, accompanied with clenched fists, flailing legs and an unhappy red face.
These heartbreaking, stressful episodes happen every night at the same time and seem to take forever.
You might be dealing with a colic baby.
What is colic?
All babies cry and this is the only way they communicate.
But with colic babies, the crying starts suddenly for no apparent reason … and has no apparent cure.
Colic is not a disease but a combination of bewildering behaviours.
It is excessive crying in otherwise healthy babies — with no solution to it besides the passing of time.
It’s a common occurrence in roughly 1 in 5 infants.
Doctors diagnose infant colic based on the “rules of three.” Your baby’s crying:
- Totals at least three hours a day
- Occurs at least three days a week
- Persists for at least three weeks in a row
When does colic start and end?
Colic doesn’t last forever.
Most bouts start when the baby is about 2 to 3 weeks old (later in premature infants), peaks at around 6 weeks and then typically begins to thin out by 10 to 12 weeks.
At 3 months, most colicky infants seem to be miraculously cured.
The colic may stop abruptly — or end gradually, oscillating between good and bad days until the stage passes.
A little knowledge and a lot of patience will help you survive this period
How do you know you are dealing with a colic baby?
Here are some signs of colic to look out for:
- Though repetitive, colic follows a “rules of three” pattern: The crying lasts a total of at least three hours a day, at least three days a week and for at least three consecutive weeks.
- Crying happens at around the same time every day (usually in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can vary).
- There seem to be no triggers for the cries
- Fist clenching, Fist moving his legs and arms more.
- Your baby often closes their eyes or open them very wide, furrow his brow and even holds their breath briefly.
- Increase of bowel movements, passing of gas and spit ups.
- Baby frantically seeks a nipple, to reject it once sucking has begun, or dozes for a few moments only to wake up screaming.
What causes colic in babies?
While the exact cause of colic is still unknown, it’s not the result of genetics or anything that happened during pregnancy or childbirth.
Theories on possible causes of colicky crying:
- Overstimulated senses.
Newborns have a built-in mechanism for tuning out sights and sounds around them, which allows them to sleep and eat without being disturbed by their environment.
Near the end of the first month, however, this mechanism disappears — leaving babies sensitive to their surroundings.
With the change, some infants become overwhelmed, often at the end of the day.
To release that stress, they cry and cry.
- An immature digestive system.
Food digestion is a big task for a baby’s brand new gastrointestinal system.
This may result in food passing through too quickly and not breaking down completely, resulting in pain from gas in the intestines.
- Infant acid reflux.
Research has found that infant GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can trigger episodes in colicky babies, though it doesn’t cause colic.
Infant GERD is often the result of an underdeveloped lower oesophagal sphincter, the muscle that keeps stomach acid from flowing back up into the throat and mouth, which can irritate the oesophagus.
Symptoms include frequent spitting up, poor eating and irritability during and after feedings.
Most babies outgrow GERD by month 1
- Food allergies or sensitivity.
Some experts believe that colic is the result of an allergy to cow’s milk proteins (or lactose intolerance) in formula-fed babies.
Less often, colic may be a reaction to specific foods in Mom’s diet in breastfed babies. Either way, these allergies or sensitivity can cause tummy pain that may set off colicky behaviour.
Baby colic remedies
The frustration that comes with soothing a fussy baby can weigh you down.
These tips may help ease the strain until colic passes.
Kindly give each a fair shot before switching to another (don’t pull out too many tricks at one time, or you’ll overload baby’s circuits — and step up the crying you’re trying to stop).
Talk to your doctor for tips and possible causes of your baby’s colic too.
They cry you come running to his side — powerful stuff when you’re otherwise utterly powerless.
Studies show that responding promptly to your baby’s cries will reduce his crying in the long run.
- Exercise excitement.
Limit visitors and stop exposing your baby to new experiences in stimulating environments, especially in the late afternoon and early evening.
Watch how your baby responds to certain triggers — and stay away from any that seem to offend.
- Create calm.
Trying to make your baby’s environment peaceful might help them relax.
Dim the lights, speak or sing in soothing tones (or don’t speak at all) and keep other noise and distractions to a minimum.
- Apply pressure to baby’s tummy.
Some colicky babies find relief when pressure is placed on the abdomen — and the power of touch alone can be very soothing for both parent and child.
Place your infant face-down on your lap or upright with his tummy against your shoulder, or try the “colic carry,” where your little one lies face-down with his belly resting on your arm.
Then gently rub or pat his back as you hold him.
- Try burping your baby.
If your baby is inconsolable due to gas, sometimes burping him will help relieve the pain.
- Use antigas drops.
Ask your pediatrician about trying gas drops made with simethicone, which works by breaking up gas bubbles and can relieve your baby’s symptoms.
Though research hasn’t yet shown that this treatment definitively helps with colic, your doctor may think it’s worth a try.
- Consider probiotics.
Probiotic drops may curb the crying in some colicky babies, probably because they ease tummy troubles (probiotic bacteria grow naturally in the digestive tract and help promote intestinal health).
Again, check with your pediatrician to see if you should give it a go.
- Watch what you eat.
If you’re breastfeeding, talk to your doctor about whether you should try temporarily eliminating any foods from your diet that can cause tummy troubles for your baby, such as gas-causing cruciferous veggies (cabbage, cauliflower), acidic citrus fruits, or allergenic foods (dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish).
Other calming remedies for colicky babies:
- Get close.
Cuddling, wearing or carrying your baby gives them the pleasure of security and physical closeness to you (and after 9 months of constant closeness, that may be just what baby’s crying for), but it may help you tune in better to his needs.
- Play soothing music.
Some babies might also respond to the quiet singing of a lullaby or softly playing classical music.
Other infants enjoy the sounds of nature or the whir of a fan.
Repeating “shh” or “ahh” to your little one can also help. Experiment to find something your baby seems to like.
- Get in motion.
Try swinging or rocking. Newborns find gentle movement comforting since it feels like what they experienced in the womb.
- Get out of the house.
At times just a change to an outdoor location will magically change a baby’s mood.
Movement can help too.
Gripe water and colic
Some parents swear by gripe water as a way to calm a colicky baby, but no reliable studies have shown its effectiveness in relieving colic symptoms.
Gripe water can also be a wild card in terms of what’s actually in it and in what quantities.
Always check with your paediatrician before giving your baby gripe water or any other treatment marketed as baby colic drops.