You bring your newborn baby home, and for weeks you just admire and marvel at this new beauty of life. At this stage your baby does little more than sleep, eat, dirty a nappy and cry.
Then, a few weeks later, your baby erupts in prolonged, ear shattering cries complete with clenched fists and an unhappy red face. No matter what you try, you just can’t seem to comfort your crying baby and what makes it even worse, this crying turns into a pattern at the same time that seems to last forever – Welcome to the world of colic. Here is what to symptoms to look for, what to expect and what you can do about it.
What is Colic?
All babies cry, in fact it is the only way they communicate at this age. During the first 3 months, they cry more than at any other time. Colic is a special pattern of crying. Babies with colic are healthy, eating and growing well but cry in spells. The spells happen at the same time of day (mostly the crying starts in the early evening) Colic is not a disease of diagnosis but a combination of behaviors.
A baby would have high-pitched crying or screaming, can have a red face or pale skin around the mouth, may pull in legs and stiffen arms with clenched fists. And its common, this occurs in 1 in 5 infants.
Doctors usually 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
- Persist for at least three weeks in a row
The good news is that colic does not last forever. Starting when baby is about 2 – 3 weeks old or later when baby was born prematurely. Colic almost always goes away on its own by 3 or 4 months of age. It can happen regardless of your baby’s gender, birth order or whether your baby was breast- or bottle-fed. Kids who had colic grow up no differently from those who didn’t.
What causes colic?
While the exact cause of colic is a mystery, experts do know it’s not the result of genetics or anything that happened during pregnancy or childbirth. Doctor’s don’t know exactly what causes colic. Some theories include:
- A growing digestive system with muscles that often spasm
- Hormones that cause belly pain or crankiness
- A sensitivity to light, noise, etc., or too much stimulation
- A developing nervous system
- An early form of childhood migraine
- Fear, frustration, or excitement
Many health conditions can look like colic. If you’re worried about your baby, your doctor can do a full exam to rule out problems such as:
- An infection
- Acid reflux or stomach problems
- Eating too much or not enough
- A sensitivity to formula or breast milk
- Pressure or inflammation in their brain and nervous system
- Eye trouble, like a scratch or increased pressure
- Uneven heartbeat
- Injury to bones, muscles, or fingers
Symptoms and signs of colic:
How do you know for sure if your baby’s colicky? In addition to the rules of three, here are a few further colic signs and symptoms:
- Crying occurs at the same time every day (usually in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can vary).
- Crying seems to occur for no reason (not because baby has a dirty diaper or is hungry or tired).
- Baby may pull up his legs, clench his fists and generally move his legs and arms more.
- He also often will close his eyes or open them very wide, furrow his brow, even hold his breath briefly.
- Bowel activity may increase, and he may pass gas or spit up.
- Eating and sleeping are disrupted by the crying — baby frantically seeks a nipple only to reject it once sucking has begun, or dozes for a few moments only to wake up screaming.
How to treat colic?
Because there’s no clear cause of colic, there’s no clear treatment. Your child’s doctor will recommend some things that might calm them down. Try them one at a time. If one doesn’t work after a few days, try another.
Colic will get better on its own. You may just have to wait for the fussiness to improve when your baby is about 4 months old.
Some steps to soothe your baby include:
- Make sure your baby isn’t hungry.
- Make sure your baby has a clean diaper.
- Try burping your baby more often during feedings.
- If you bottle-feed, try other bottles to see if they help your baby swallow less air (Check out our Twistshake Anti-Colic Range here)
- Ask your doctor if changing formula could help.
- Some nursing moms find that cutting caffeine, dairy, soy, egg, or wheat from their diet helps. Talk to your doctor before doing this and stop only one thing at a time.
- Rock or walk with the baby.
- Sing or talk to your baby.
- Offer the baby a pacifier.
- Take the baby for a ride in a stroller.
- Hold your baby close against your body and take calm, slow breaths.
- Give the baby a warm bath.
- Pat or rub the baby’s back.
- Place your baby across your lap on his or her belly and rub your baby’s back.
- Put your baby in a swing or vibrating seat. The motion may be soothing.
- Put your baby in an infant car seat in the back of the car and go for a ride. Often, the movement of the car is calming.
- Play music — some babies calm down with sound as well as movement.
Some babies need less stimulation. Babies 2 months and younger may do well swaddled, lying on their back in the crib with the lights very dim or dark. Make sure the swaddle isn’t too tight. Stop swaddling when the baby is starting to be able to roll over.
Tips for coping with colic
Though it can safely be said that even hours and hours of daily crying doesn’t seem to hurt a baby, it certainly does leave its mark on parents.
To cope with colicky crying that just won’t quit, try the following:
- Break it up. A fresh set of arms sometimes induces calm in a crying baby. If there are two parents at home during baby’s witching hours, make sure colic duty is divided up equally between the two of you.
- Take a break. It’s important to respond to crying, which is an infant’s only way to communicate. But every once in a while, taking a 10- to 15- minute break during a particularly trying crying marathon won’t hurt.
- Talk about it. Do a little crying yourself — on a willing shoulder: your spouse’s, the pediatrician’s, a family member’s, a friend’s. Just knowing you’re not alone in the world of inconsolable babies can make a world of difference.
- Get help. If you’re at the end of your rope, don’t hesitate ask for help — whether from your partner, mother, friend or babysitter.