Babies cry, right? After all, how else can then communicate that they are uncomfortable, hungry, tired cold etc. But what if your baby does not stop crying? What can you do and what could be the reason behind it? One possible reason could be colic.
Colic is a term used to describe excessive crying in infants where there is no specific medical condition to explain the same. It is a common problem and can be distressing for both for the baby and the parent. As a parent you obviously want to do everything possible to keep your baby safe, happy and well. But, when the reasons for your baby being constantly upset cannot be identified this can be distressing for you too.
Colic will generally be diagnosed where a baby cries for more than three hours a day, three days a week, for three consecutive weeks. Symptoms include:
- Intense crying that seems to be a higher, more high-pitched cry. Like an screaming or an expression of pain.
- Crying for no obvious reason. Babies cry when they are cold, hungry, tired or need their nappy to be changed. But, what if you have tried to resolve all of these common complaints and nothing works?
- Extreme fussiness even when not crying
- Intense crying usually at the same time of day (normally evening).
- Flushed or blushing skin
- Clenching of fists
- Arching of the back
- Tense and bloated abdomen
- Burping of passing a lot of gas. Although it is believed that the reason for such excess gas is not colic itself but rather caused by swallowing a lot of air whilst crying
Although the exact cause of colic is not known, experts have a few theories about why it happens:
- Trouble adjusting to new surroundings – Babies need to get used to loud noises, light and other environmental factors. It is a big and noisy world out there and some babies have difficulty in adjusting to the same. Crying could be a way of showing their feelings whilst getting used to their surroundings.
- Trouble calming themselves – Some newborn babies are unable to self-soothe as their nervous system is still developing. As baby grows they will be able to better control their nervous system. Once they are able to do this it is likely that the colic will go away.
- Sensitivity to gas – Whilst there is a common belief that gas is to blame for colic pain in babies, experts are not of the same view. Whilst a colicky baby may seem to pass more gas than other babies this is likely to be because he swallows more air whilst crying for prolonged periods.
- Having a milk allergy or intolerance – Whilst it is true that babies who have a milk allergy or intolerance will suffer from belly pain, this would most likely also be accompanied by diarrheoa. Experts have found no proof that changing to a non-milk formula has any effect on colic.
When Should I Call The Doctor?
It is important that you do not self-diagnose your baby and assume that he or she has colic. If your baby has any of the following symptoms call your healthcare provider who will be able to properly examine you child.
- Not sucking or drinking a bottle well
- Feeding less than usual
- Suffering from diarrhoea
- Become more irritable when held or touched
- Has a strange-sounding cry
- Has trouble breathing or a change in breathing rate
- Is sleepier than usual
- Has a fever of 38°C or higher
Here are some tips which can help soothe your baby’s colicky symptoms but always talk to your baby’s midwife, GP or healthcare provider for expert advice:
- If you are bottle feeding your baby, try using a curved bottle which will let you hold the baby in an upright position. Also try speaking with your midwife, GP or healthcare provider about whether changing the baby formula could help ease your baby’s colic pain.
- Speak to your healthcare provider about whether your own diet could be having an effect on your baby’s symptoms if you are breastfeeding your baby. They may advise you not to have milk, eggs, nuts or wheat for some time to see if this helps ease baby’s symptoms.
- Burp your baby often to help reduce the amount of air being swallowed whilst feeding.
- Make sure that your baby is not hungry but also do not force feed your baby if he or she is not interested in the bottle or breast. If you are having trouble feeding your baby always speak to your midwife, GP or other healthcare provider.
- Try different soothing techniques such as rocking, swaddling, and white noise.
- Change your baby’s position to see if this will calm them down.
- Take your baby for a walk in a stroller or wear them in a baby carrier.
- Give your baby interesting things to look at to distract them.
- Give your baby a warm bath.
- Consider a gentle tummy massage or a warm bath to help relieve any discomfort. Check out BabyCentre for baby massage tips and techniques.
- Place your baby on an infant swing on a low setting.
- Go for a drive. The motion of the car can often soothe babies and help them fall asleep.
- Don’t be afraid to hold and cuddle your baby. They will not be spoiled by too much attention.
- Try using a dummy/pacifier.
Coping with Colic
Caring for a colicky baby can be overwhelming for parents or caregivers too, but there are ways to manage the stress.
- Take turns with your partner to look after your little one to give each other breaks. There is no point in both parents or caregivers tiring themselves out at the same time! If your little one is struggling because of colic you may find yourself getting little or no sleep. Relay parent with your partner to give yourselves a chance to rest.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a support group. A good support network is invaluable in parenting especially when you are having a hard time of it with a colicky baby.
- Be sure to make time for yourself. If you don’t look after your own health and well-being you will be ill equipped to care for a poorly little one! Consider yoga, meditation, tapping, havening, all of will help you deal with the added stresses of a colicky baby.
Remember, colic is a temporary condition that usually improves by the time your baby is three months. If you have concerns about your baby’s crying or health, consult your doctor, midwife or pediatrician.