What is Colic?

A baby crying

How to Handle a Colicky Baby

When a baby gets colic, signs usually appear with the first month after birth, and disappear before six months of age. This disorder is characterized by frequent crying with a grimacing facial expression, which could indicate that the baby is in pain. Colic should be diagnosed by a pediatrician to rule out other conditions.

What is Colic?

Colic occurs in both male and female babies, and in both bottle-fed and breast-fed babies. Some doctors think it’s the result of a baby’s digestive system still developing after birth, or a type of early childhood migraine.

Symptoms of a Colicky Baby

Common symptoms include frequent and long-lasting crying and fussing. This usually means crying for three weeks or more, several days a week, for about three hours per day. This crying isn’t soothed by tactics such as a diaper change or a bottle. Caretakers often say the infant’s cries sound like screams, and the child might be red in the face and have tense, stiff limbs and torso muscles. Episodes often occur in the evening.

A colicky baby may cause other issues for parents and family members as well. It can contribute to postpartum depression, frustration, guilt, and extreme fatigue, as well as the many side effects of a lack of sleep. Therefore, treating colic is important for the entire family.

Treating Colic

Fortunately, colicky babies don’t seem prone to other health problems. However, the stress of baby colic on a family’s sleep schedule and overall health makes it important to seek treatment.

Colic treatments include various soothing techniques. For example, taking the baby for a car ride, wrapping the baby up snugly, or rubbing the baby’s back and/or stomach. All of these can help during a colic episode. Other options for coping with colic include creating a pleasant environment by using soft lighting, and playing white noise or a recording of soothing sleep sounds.

Health care providers recognize that the whole family benefits from stress management while coping with colic. Techniques like meditation can help, as can more direct approaches such as taking a tag-team approach to infant care. Arranging for a babysitter is also an option to help ensure you can get some much needed sleep.

Preventing Infantile Colic

Doctors aren’t sure about what exactly causes colic in babies.

It may be triggered by food allergies, which often cause other symptoms like rashes and vomiting, as well as acid reflux. Breastfeeding mothers can try an elimination diet to identify foods that might be causing problems. Food allergies triggered by wheat and dairy are often culprits. Your baby may be intolerant of proteins in typical formula, which is another cause of gas and acid reflux, but there are several easy-to-digest formulas on the market.

Gas is another potential cause of infantile colic. Some babies need to be burped frequently, both during feeding and after. It can help to hold the baby in an upright position during feeding, or you can try using a specially designed bottle that inhibits air ingestion. Additionally, some babies swallow air during crying fits, and relieving that gas can help ease the baby’s overall discomfort. Overfeeding, underfeeding, and stress are also possible causes for baby colic.