What Is Colic In Babies And How Do I Deal With It?

Baby Crying

What is colic in babies? Unfortunately, doctors have no easy answer to this question. Colic is commonly defined as crying and fussiness that goes on for more than three hours a day for three or more days a week. It typically lasts anywhere from three to four months, although in some cases a baby may suffer from this condition for as long as a year.

Colic is an inherent condition that is present in a baby at birth. Gender, family medical history and the type of feeding a baby has (i.e. breast feeding, bottle feeding or a combination of the two) have no bearing on whether a baby will be colicky or not, or how long the colic will endure.

While I realize it is not comforting to hear that doctors do not know much about this condition, you can take comfort in the fact that colic does not denote a serious medical problem. It also helps to bear in mind that colic is quite common; in fact, it has been estimated that up to 25% of all babies suffer from colic.

Possible Causes of Colic

As was noted above, doctors do not know for sure why some babies are colicky while others are not. However, there are numerous possible causes that have been given as to why babies cry and fuss without an apparent reason:

Cause 1 Intolerance to lactose (found in certain types of baby formulas)

Cause 2 Intolerance to certain foods a breastfeeding mother is eating (Common culprits include chocolate, legumes, milk products and soy)

Cause 3 Reflux (heartburn caused when stomach acid and/or milk flow back up the windpipe)

Cause 4 A developing digestive system

Cause 5 Gas

Cause 6 Sensitivity to light and/or noise

Cause 7 Moodiness

Cause 8 Imbalance of melatonin and serotonin in the brain

Some doctors view colic as a natural adjustment phase to life outside the womb. Babies, who have lived their entire lives in a closed, dark, warm environment, are thrust into the big wide world with no advanced warning. There are a lot of adjustments to make, so it is natural that babies would have feelings of frustration and insecurity, or simply feel overwhelmed by it all.

What to do about Colic

Unfortunately, it is impossible to fully understand why some babies are happy and peaceful while others cry for hours on end. It can also be frustrating to discover that doctors have no cure for colic. There are no medicines or treatments available for colicky babies; however, there are a number of things you can and should do if your baby seems to be suffering from colic.

See a Doctor

I know it sounds counterproductive to see a doctor if there is nothing a doctor can do to ease your baby’s colic. However, it is important to see the doctor to make sure that what your baby has, in fact, colic. While colic is a common condition, it is not the only thing that can make your baby cry. Some other reasons your baby may be crying include:

Reason 1 Ear infection

Reason 2 Urinary tract infection

Reason 3 Eye problems

Reason 4 Irregular heartbeat

Reason 5 Bone and/or muscle injury

Reason 6 Reflux

Reason 7 Allergy reaction

Reason 8 Hernia

A good pediatrician will be able to tell you if colic is the only problem or if something else is wrong with the baby. The above mentioned problems can be treated and in some cases may result in a happy, peaceful baby. At the same time, some babies who have one of these problems will suffer from colic even after the problem has been diagnosed and treated.

I would also like to note that the above mentioned problems are not uncommon. Generally speaking, they are not brought about by something a parent has or has not done.

Adjust Feedings

I would also suggest that you make changes to your baby’s feeding habits if he or she suffers from colic, particularly if the baby gets very fussy right after eating. Bear in mind that a baby’s digestive system is not fully developed; as such, it is all too easy for a baby to be irritated by something in the breast milk or formula.

Change 1 Change from one formula to another. Ask your pediatrician to recommend a formula that does not contain cow’s milk or soy, as these are common irritants.

Change 2 Cut allergens from your diet. These include milk products, eggs, wheat products and nuts. However, these may not be the only things causing an allergic reaction in your baby. If you as a parent were allergic to anything as a child, chances are your baby may be allergic to it as well. Common culprits include chocolate, citrus fruits and tomatoes.

Change 3 Eliminate foods that cause gas from your diet. Caffeine, chocolate, beans, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage pass into the breast milk and can cause discomfort even in non-colicky babies.

Change 4 Burp your baby after every feeding.

Change 5 Examine bottle nipples to makes sure the hole is not too big. A large hole will cause your baby to swallow milk too quickly, which causes gas.

Change 6 Adjust your baby’s feeding schedule. Experts recommend nursing a baby every two hours or giving him or her a bottle every three hours. However, babies are individuals and do not watch the clock to determine when they should eat. Try feeding your baby a bit more often if he or she seems to be hungry; alternatively, those who are feeding baby more often than outlined above may want to try other things before offering baby the breast or a bottle.

Comfort

As previously stated, some babies are colicky because they are having a hard time dealing with life in the big wide world. Thankfully, there are some techniques you as parents can utilize to comfort your little one and make him or her feel secure and safe.

Technique 1 Swaddle your baby. While some doctors are opposed to this age old practice, it is a known fact that wrapping a baby tightly in a blanket will make him or her feel safe, secure and at peace. This practice works particularly well for newborns, as older babies who have more muscle control than newborns may enjoy having their arms and/or legs free.

Technique 2 Carry baby in a front baby carrier

Technique 3 Take baby for a ride in the car

Technique 4 Give your baby a massage (just make sure the room is warm enough so baby does not get a chill)

Technique 5 Play “white noise” in the background when trying to put baby to sleep. Contrary to popular misconception, the womb is not a quiet place. Baby is used to hearing your stomach and intestines at work, as well as hearing your heartbeat. Soft background music or a heartbeat tape can help a baby not feel so overwhelmed.

Technique 6 Give baby a pacifier

Technique 7 Avoid overstimulation. Small babies cannot handle large, crowded areas for long periods of time. Avoid taking your baby to a club, loud restaurant, shopping mall, supermarket or bustling family get-together if he or she seems to have problems with colic. While some babies are able to sleep through lots of noise, others are simply unable to process what is going on.

Dealing with Yourself

Colic is not only a baby’s problem. It also causes problems for parents. New parents may blame themselves and feel that their incompetence is causing their new little one to suffer. A baby crying at all hours of the day or night can cause a parent to feel exhausted, frustrated or even upset. Sadly, some parents snap and cause injury to a baby simply because they are unable to take the crying anymore.

I would strongly suggest that parents who have a colicky baby get as much help as possible. Ask trusted friends and family members to come and stay with you for a day or longer and help you rock, cajole, swing and soothe the baby.

Alternatively, you may want to hire a part time or full time maid to help you clean house and cook while you give your full attention to your baby. Remember, you are not just recovering from the physical stress of giving birth (or having a C-section) but also the emotional stress brought on by hormonal changes in your body.

If you find yourself alone and are unable to handle your baby’s crying any longer, leave the baby in the crib and take a five to ten minute break. It may seem extremely mean to leave your crying baby on his or her own, but it can prevent you from injuring your baby out of sheer frustration. Once you regain control over your feelings, you will be able to better soothe your little one.

In Summary

Babies are born with different personalities. While some are calm and peaceful, others find it difficult to relax and get comfortable. Still others may cry at all hours of the day and/or night, no matter what parents do or do not do. When a baby cries for more than three hours a day for three or more days out of the week, he or she is described as having colic.

There are many possible reasons for colic and a colicky baby may have one or more underlying reasons for being fussy and irritable. I would advise parents who have a colicky baby to start by taking the baby to the doctor to make sure that the baby is not suffering from an infection or some other treatable medical condition. At the same time, do not be surprised if the doctor finds nothing wrong and simply advises you to go home and just try your best to make baby happy.

The good news is that there are various things you can do to ease your baby’s discomfort. However, be prepared to try a number of tactics. You may even need to come up with your own ways of helping baby deal with colic, as what works well for one baby may not work well for you. Make adjustments to how, when and what your baby is being fed and try various comfort methods to see what your little one likes best. Once you find something that works, stick to it.

Dealing with a colicky baby can be very difficult, so do not feel bad if you need help or simply have to give yourself a break from time to time. If you feel overwhelmed and like you have reached the end of your rope, give yourself a time out to regain control over your feelings. When you do, remind yourself that colic is not a permanent condition. Every single baby gets over it in time. You simply want to know what is colic in babies, try your best to deal with it and give baby time to develop into a happy, healthy infant.

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