Once you bring your newborn home, you can expect that you will only be seeing it peeing, eating, sleeping, and maybe crying sometimes. But, after a few weeks, your baby might start having an unhappy red face, clenched fists, flailing legs, and ear-shattering wails. You will try to calm your baby and comfort it as much as possible – but you probably won’t be successful. These stressful episodes will start repeating every night and you will probably think that it will never end. This is what colic in babies looks like and what you will probably have to deal with.
As you already know, all babies have to cry – this is the only (and the best) way for them to communicate with parents at their young age. On the other hand, parents are naturally programmed to respond to these tears and to try to understand our children’s needs. However, baby colic will make your baby to suddenly burst into tears… the problem is – there’s no cure for it.
Baby colic is not a diagnosis or a disease; it is considered a combination of strange behaviors we can’t deal with. It’s just a term we use to describe this unexplainable behavior in otherwise healthy babies. But, the problem is that the only thing you can do is waiting, there’s no solution. Also, this condition is very common, it occurs in 1 in every 5 babies. These crying, hysteric periods can go on for hours; you will probably have a lot of sleepless nights if your baby has colic. The thing that will frustrate you the most will be trying to calm your colicky baby, but not succeeding. This will only make you worry even more and you will feel exhausted.
Doctors will usually tell you that your baby suffers from baby colic if these three rules are persistent:
- Y our baby cries for at least three hours at once
- This keeps happening for at least three days every week
- The condition is present for more than three weeks in a row
Of course, since every baby is different, some babies will cry for a lot longer than three hours at a time. Reports are saying that some babies kept crying for days, and even for weeks.
However, don’t be scared after reading all of this. The good news is that this condition is not permanent. Usually, colic in babies will peak around 6 weeks after birth but will start to retreat when your baby is about 10 to 12 weeks old. Usually, when babies are 3 months old, all of the colic symptoms miraculously start disappearing and they never happen again. This “colic retreat” period is usually later in preterm babies. The condition may end gradually or stop suddenly – there will be some bad and some good days in both cases, but in the end, all colic symptoms will disappear.
So, while waiting for the symptoms to go away, the only thing you can do is to arm yourself with patience and get a little knowledge on the topic, just to put less stress on yourself.
Signs and Symptoms of Colic
Sometimes, you can’t be 100% sure that your baby is colicky. There are three main rules we mentioned above, but take a look at some other symptoms that might point to baby colic:
- Your baby will cry at the same time every day (typically early evening or late afternoon)
- There is no particular reason why your child starts crying
- Your little one may clench his fists and pull up his legs
- Your baby tends to hold its breath briefly, open its eyes very wide or keep them closed
- The bowel movement will be increased so spitting and gasses may start occurring
- Sleeping and eating get disrupted by crying. Your baby might fall asleep, just to wake up a few moments later and burst into tears, or it may ask for a nipple and then starts crying and rejecting it when the sucking begins. Both of these are signs of colic.
What Causes Colic?
As already mentioned, the exact cause of baby colic is a total mystery for all of us. However, pediatricians do know that this condition is not related to anything that happened during pregnancy. Also, it does not reflect parenting skills, either good or bad, and there is no one to blame for it. It just happens.
However, there are a couple of theories that try to explain why this condition happens, and why is it so common:
- Baby senses. As you may know, newborns have mechanisms that allow them to turn out sounds and sights around them. This helps them to eat and sleep without being disturbed by the always noisy and bright environment. However, this mechanism will disappear by the end of their first month on the Earth, leaving them exposed to all of the sounds and light for the first time in their lives. This is the reason why infants become overwhelmed by all the new sensations and react in such behavior. Babies cry to release that stress. The colic ends when a baby learns how things function without that mechanism and when it finds a routine.
- Problems with the digestive system. Your newborn has an immature digestive system in the first few months. So, the food may pass very quickly without being digested properly, which results in pain. The baby then cries because it can’t cope with the pain, but as soon as the digestive system gets a bit better, the colic goes away.
- Acid reflux. Some pediatricians suggest that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be a trigger for colic in babies. GERD in infants is a result of the underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter. This is the muscle that prevents the acid in our stomachs to go back up into mouth and throat. So, an underdeveloped muscle won’t function properly and the acid might irritate the esophagus. Poor eating, frequent spitting up, and irritability after and during feedings are some of the symptoms. However, babies usually outgrow GERD after their first birthday.
- Food allergies. Some pediatricians believe that baby colic is the result of lactose intolerance (or an allergy to milk protein) in infants that make baby formula. In some rare cases, colic may also be a reaction to some specific food in Mom’s diet if the baby is breastfed. Any of these allergies may cause pain in our child’s belly and that might trigger colicky behavior.
- Exposure to tobacco. Some pediatricians think that smoking moms (either during or after pregnancy) are much more likely to have infants with the colic condition. However, it is still unclear why cigarette smoke is related to babies having these symptoms, but the link is there. You shouldn’t smoke, or let anyone else smoke, around your baby for many more significant health reasons.
Remedy for Colic
In addition to exhaustion and frustration, you will probably experience feelings of guilt and inadequacy as you keep trying to calm your baby. As you probably already know, keeping your baby calm is a lot easier said than done, but there are a few strategies you can use that might help your baby with colic. Try a few methods mentioned below to figure out if your baby has a positive response to any of them.
If you suspect your baby’s senses are overstimulated:
Be there for your child. Baby has to cry to communicate its needs. Also, this is the only way it can cope with a bewildering and vast new environment. Be there for your child if it cries – sometimes it will help and sometimes it won’t. However, if you respond correctly to your baby cries, you might notice reduced crying in the long run.
Limit exposing your baby to new experiences and visitors in certain environments, especially in the early evening and late afternoon. Pay attention to how your child responds to certain situations and if there’s any particular thing that triggers your baby to cry – stop doing it.
Make the environment for your baby as peaceful as possible. Dim the lights, sing or speak to your child (or just keep quiet) and keep other distractions and noise at a minimum.
If you suspect your baby has gastrointestinal issues:
Pediatricians say that some babies with colic feel relieved when pressured on the belly. The touch is always soothing for both the child and the mother. You want to put your baby upright with its tummy against your shoulder or place it face-down on your lap. Also, you can try the “colic position” – position your little one face-down on your arm and gently pat or rub its back as you hold it.
Sometimes the cause of pain in your baby may be gas, so burping is often a great solution. However, consult with your doctor or with friends and family that already had babies to be sure you are burping your baby effectively.
Another way to reduce gas is to try using gas drops. Consult with your pediatrician about trying out simethicone gas drops. This can help in relieving your baby’s symptoms by breaking up gas bubbles. Your doctor might think that this option is worth a try even though this treatment is not proven by any research yet.
Using baby probiotics may also help prevent colic for some children. Probiotic bacteria are found naturally in our digestive tracts and it helps our digestive system a lot. Some colicky babies will feel relief after taking probiotics because they ease tummy troubles. Again, consult with your pediatrician to see if this is a good solution for you since there’s no formal research backing this theory up.
If you notice your baby has colic and you’re a breastfeeding mom, try consulting with your pediatrician about temporarily removing some food from your diet. Peanuts, fish, eggs, wheat, soy, dairy, acidic citrus fruits, cauliflower, and cabbage are all known for causing gases. So, maybe some of these ingredients are causing tummy troubles for your child and you can maybe stop that by temporarily eliminating that ingredient from your diet.
Baby Planet Overview
You shouldn’t be surprised if your baby shows signs of colic. This condition is very common and it won’t leave any negative impact on your child. It usually lasts for a few weeks, so be prepared for a lot of restless nights if your baby happens to develop some symptoms. But that’s okay, since being a parent will require you to be restless all the time, so you will just be getting used to parenting!
If you notice your child has colic symptoms, try using some of the methods mentioned above to at least soothe it as much as you can. Some methods will work, others won’t, but at the end of the day, keeping your child calm and happy is the only important thing!
- Infant Colic and Treatment, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov