As a parent of a baby, just hearing the word “colic” can cause anxiety. A baby with colic can cry for a minimum of three hours a day, and more than three days a week. It’s so difficult for parents who are often already sleep-deprived and experiencing stress.
It’s also estimated that as many as one in five new babies have colic.
If you can learn more about colic, what causes colic and rule out other issues, then you can be more proactive in dealing with this situation with your new baby.
What Is Colic?
Sometimes the word colic is used as a blanket term to describe a fussy baby, but that’s not always accurate. When a healthy baby cries or is fussy for an extended period of time, it may be because of colic. As was mentioned, colic is regular crying more than three hours a day, several days a week.
Colic tends to begin a few weeks after birth, and the peak of symptoms can be between four and six weeks. Most babies’ colic symptoms will start to subside somewhere around three to four months old.
Colic is crying that occurs without any clear or apparent reason. For example, a baby may cry even though he or she isn’t hungry and doesn’t need a diaper change. Along with crying for no reason, other symptoms of colic can include:
- Crying that occurs at the same time of day every day, which is usually near the end of the day
- Clenched fists
- Curling up of the legs
- A cry that sounds like the baby is in pain
- Turning bright red
What Are the Causes of Colic?
Ultimately, doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes colic, but they do have some theories, which include:
- Gas pain
- An underdeveloped digestive system
- Underfeeding or overfeeding
- Sensitivity to either breast milk or formula
- Too much stimulation
- Early childhood migraines
- Emotional reactions to fear or excitement
A doctor can diagnose colic, but since the reasons aren’t entirely understood, a diagnosis of colic is usually focused around ruling out other problems.
It’s a good idea to start a journal of when your baby seems to be the fussiest. This can be something you can show your doctor, and it can also help you start pinpointing possible causes.
While there’s not necessarily a treatment or cure for colic, there are certain things you can do to mitigate the crying. Sometimes you may have to experiment and find what works best for your baby.
- Think about what you’re eating if you’re nursing. The foods and drinks you have can be passed to your baby and may affect their behavior. As an example, having caffeine may mean it’s then passed to your baby, which could cause them to be fussy.
- If you’re using formula, you might want to try different brands because some babies have a sensitivity to certain proteins. You could also think about feeding your baby smaller amounts, but doing so more often. Sometimes babies feed too quickly, which can cause symptoms of colic.
- Try different ways of holding your baby. You could hold your baby on your lap and rub their back, or hold your baby upright. You might also consider using an infant swing or holding your baby while you walk and see if that helps.
- Try different ways to comfort your baby. Swaddling, skin-to-skin contact or a warm bath or warm towel on the stomach may help. Some babies like white noise or you could try driving your baby in their car seat at the time of day they tend to struggle with colic the most.
- Some parents try gripe water, which is a liquid supplement available over-the-counter. It often includes sodium bicarbonate and certain herbs. It may help soothe gas and the digestive system.
- Simethicone drops can help alleviate gas and remove trapped air in a baby’s stomach. Some parents, under the guidance of their pediatrician, will give their child a few drops after each time they nurse or have a bottle.
- Check the tips of your bottles if you use them. If they’re too small, it can lead to your baby swallowing a lot of air each time they take a bottle.
Along with trying to help your baby, make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Having a colicky baby can take a tremendous emotional toll. Give yourself time to do something you enjoy each day, even if it’s only briefly. Be patient and know that it will pass.