What is Colic and what are the symptoms of it?
You are so excited to have your baby home, he's the most beautiful baby and such a good baby. But fast forward a couple of weeks and you start to wonder if something is wrong because he starts crying with no apparent reasons and just won't stop! To top it off, he does that in the middle of the night, every night for hours.
Maybe you should check with your pediatrician, just to be on the safe side, but most probably what your baby has is colic. A lot of parents dread that, not just because of the crying but because you get to watch your baby sob and writhe in pain and you feel helpless and you wonder if you're doing something wrong.
Well, the first thing you need to know is that you're not alone, A lot of parents around the world are going through the same with their babies. Second, baby colic generally is not a sign of something serious and the good news is that it will go away eventually.
We want to help you cope with this stressful situation so that you can manage it and keep your sanity because we promise it will go away eventually. In the meantime, keep reading this article because we'll tell you all about colic: what is it? what are the symptoms? And most importantly what can you do to soothe your baby and make him/ her feel better.
What is Colic?
There's a medical definition of colic: a common condition in which babies have an inconsolable crying fit, suffering from what seems to be abdominal discomfort and pain.
If you're a mom, you know that your baby cries (and that's normal) because it's his only way to communicate his needs and you're pre-programmed to respond to those needs. When your baby is colicky the crying starts with no apparent reason.
Facts about baby colic
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
About 40 years ago Dr. Morris Wessel conducted a study on excessively fussy children, he chose a definition for a colicky baby, and that definition has stuck. His definition is referred to as "The Rule of 3's": a baby who cried for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks.
You may have a different definition, maybe a condition that tortures moms and threatens their sanity? Well, dear moms, you'll need a lot of patience and some knowledge too, so keep reading some other facts about baby colic.
- Colic happens to about 20-25% of babies (1 in 5). So take comfort in this fact, it's a common problem.
- Colic has it's peeking at 6-8 weeks after birth.
- Colic ends in 50% of babies when they reach 3 months old, and in 90% of babies when they reach 9 months old. Something to look forward!
What are the Symptoms of Colic?
If your baby's crying reaches the Rule of 3's criteria but you still want to be sure that he has colic, then here are a number of symptoms to support the diagnostics:
- A colicky baby's crying is often worse in the evening hours.
- When a baby is colicky he tends to pull up his legs or extend them, he clenches his fists and passes gas,
- A colicky baby's crying may seem discomforting, intense and it may seem as if your baby is in pain.
- The baby doesn't need a diaper change, he's not sleepy or hungry but still, the crying continues
- Your baby will close his eyes or open them very wide, he will furrow his brows and he could hold his breath briefly.
- His bowel activity may increase, he will pass gas or spit up.
- He may sleep and eat, but the crying will continue. He may seek a feed but when he starts sucking he will reject it and start crying again. Happy times uh?
You may want to do something to prevent your baby from having colic, well that may be kind of difficult because the exact cause of colic is a mystery. What you need to know, and that is backed by the experts, is that colic is not the result of genetics or anything that happened during your pregnancy or childbirth.
You can be sure that it's not any reflection of your parenting skills, it's no one's fault. Be sure to drill that into your head.
Possible causes of baby colic
Doctors and experts have some theories about the possible causes of baby colic.
- A digestive system that's not fully developed. Food may pass through without breaking down completely and the result would be a pain the intestines due to gas.
- An imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
- Food allergies or sensitivity. If your baby is formula-fed he could be having colic as a result of an allergy to milk protein (lactose intolerance), these allergies cause tummy pain and that could be the setter for a colicky behavior.
- Overfeeding or underfeeding your baby, also not burping him after each feeding or burping him in an incorrect position.
- Some babies have an early form of childhood migraine, the rates of colic are higher with this condition.
Ruling out baby reflux
Photo by Echo Grid on Unsplash
Infant acid reflux can be another possible cause of baby colic, so you need to rule it out.
Infant GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is the result of an underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter, that's the muscle that doesn't permit acid flowing back up into the throat or mouth. When a baby has GERD his esophagus es constantly irritated and that is the colic trigger.
The symptoms mimic some of the same symptoms of baby colic, so check with your doctor to be sure. Your baby will outgrow GERD after his first year. That's good news!
Natural baby colic remedies
Treating baby colic is kind of difficult. Once you have check that indeed your baby has colic you should try these simple and natural baby colic remedies. They may help reduce or in some cases eliminate the symptoms.
1. Check for anatomical issues
If you're breastfeeding your baby, maybe check with a lactation consultant, as sometimes there are anatomical issues that could cause your baby to have colic symptoms.
2. Explore different milk formula
If you're feeding your baby using a formula, you could change the formula and ask your pediatrician what would be best given the situation.
3. Give your baby comfort and rest
Make sure your baby is well rested. A well-rested baby is a happy baby.
Create closeness with your baby, sometimes swaddling can help with the symptoms as it mimics the warmth they had in the womb. Offer your baby comfort - a pacifier, a bath in warm water, or place a warm bottle on his tummy could potentially soothe the discomfort.
4. Try some white noise
Create noise, some moms have said that the sound of the blow dryer worked magic with their babies, or the washing machine, or playing some music. Or even with those fancy white noise apps available for download for smart devices. Maybe you should give all that a try.
5. Explore carry options
Try a different position when he's upset because of colic symptoms, check where your baby is most comfortable. Maybe cradle in your arms, or tummy down or he likes and upright position better.
Old fashioned relief for Baby Colic
Gripe water has been around for a long time, it became popular in the 1850's with parents and nannies in England. Gripe water is an old-fashioned relief for baby colic that is still very popular with a lot of parents today. There are a lot of brands, but in general is a mixture of herbs including ginger, fennel and lemon balm.
Before using it consult your pediatrician.
Medicine based baby colic remedies
Photo by Shelbey Miller on Unsplash
There are some medicine based remedies for baby colic that could help soothe your baby.
Simethicone helps to reduce the amount of gas in a baby's stomach. It is used based on the assumption that baby colic is due to swallowed air. You should know though that in studies giving simethicone to colicky babies didn't help in reducing the discomfort.
Herbal remedies (like chamomile tea) have been used to treat baby colic for centuries. Some have a calming effect. You can use single herbs or a combination, in the market there's a lot of brands to choose from.
Other medicines used to treat a colicky baby are Antihistamines, because of their sedative properties. Antispasmodics to prevent spams (assuming baby colic is due to that).
Before using any medication always consult your pediatrician.
Photo by Chelsea fern on Unsplash
As you now know, baby colic could be frustrating. You also know that it will pass and that there are some things that you can do to help your baby feel better. So patience dear moms and take comfort that you are not alone during this trying time. Before you know it, everything will be OK and your baby will be sharing plenty of laughter and smiles with you again.