Colic is a condition in which there are repeated episodes of excessive crying in a healthy baby. The doctors use definition is: a baby cries for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week, for at least three weeks. Colic is common and worrisome. It usually goes away at the age of 3-4 months. Ways to help relieve colic in some cases, and some tips on how to cope, are given below.
On this page
- A typical colicky baby
- Variations on a Theme
- What causes colic?
- How is it diagnosed?
- Helping colicky babies and their parents
- Councils, but not proven-
- A possible new treatment
- His feelings
A typical colicky baby
Colic is common. A healthy newborn baby can experience bouts of crying. For no apparent reason he or she cries as if in pain. The usual methods of comfort not work very well. He or she will not eat, and can lift your knees. Sometimes the baby's abdomen (tummy) seems to rumble. Crying may sound different and sharper than normal. He or she may seem to be the solution when suddenly another crying fit occurs. This can be turned on and off for several hours until it snaps and falls asleep.
The rest of the time he or she is well. However, episodes of colic occur regularly, usually every night, but can occur at any time. Colic attacks gradually become less frequent, and have been in most babies at the age of 3-4 months.
Variations on a Theme
In some babies, a period of restlessness at night may be all you notice. In some babies with severe colic, crying can last for many hours during the day (and / or night). However, babies with colic are well between attacks of colic. They eat well, grow well and show no other signs of illness.
What causes colic?
The cause is unclear. The term colic is used because it is thought that the baby has pain in the abdomen. Research suggests that this may be related to a change in the level of hormones that control movement of the intestinal muscles. Another theory is that babies with colic may have an abnormal balance of bacteria in your gut, that gradually corrected in a few weeks. Another theory is an intolerance to lactose found in milk. Smoking during pregnancy and be in an environment of smoke (passive smoking) appear to increase the risk. It can be a mixture of these or other unknown causes. Some parents feel they have done something wrong somehow. This is not the case.
How is it diagnosed?
Colic is diagnosed by exclusion of other causes of persistent crying. In most babies cry a lot, no disease can be found and colic is often the cause of this. Remember that a baby with colic will have spells when they are perfectly fine between bouts of crying. Conditions sometimes mistaken for colic include:
- Severe diaper rash.
- Scratches on the eyes as baby's nails are too long.
- A twist in the intestines (volvulus).
- A part of the small telescope itself (intussusception).
- Strangulated hernia.
- A twisted testicle.
- Non-accidental injury (child abuse).
If you are unsure of the cause of a distressed or crying baby, then go to the doctor.
Helping colicky babies and their parents
There is no treatment to cure colic. Every parent has their own way of coping and may find different things useful. Try not to despair. Remember that there is nothing you have done to cause colic. Also, that colic usually disappears by 3-4 months of age, often much sooner.
One or more of the following may help.
Check for causes of discomfort
Make sure the baby is not cold, not hungry, and often changes.
The reduction of anxiety
Even newborns can experience anxiety. This can make things worse. Try to create a relaxed atmosphere. If possible, have a rest and lunch before the cramping starts (usually at night). The more rested and relaxed you are, the better you will be able to cope.
Colic occurs more often when the mother has postnatal depression or feeling very down after the baby was born. If this is the case, ask your doctor for help.
It is natural to try to calm a crying baby. Holding a baby through the crying episode can help soothe. However, a colicky baby may simply not be consoled or calmed. At such times, it is acceptable to leave a baby to mourn for a short time if you are convinced that he or she is not hungry, too cold, too hot, wet or poorly. Remember – never shake a baby. If you need a break from the crying, or if you feel at the end of your rope, gently place the baby in his crib and leave the room for about 10 minutes. Then you can do something that can help – maybe have a cup of tea, a snack or a friend's phone.
Friends or other family members may be willing to help. However, try to avoid several people complain immediately, as it can cause anxiety. It may be wise to leave the cap of a person at a time. Take it to turn if you have help. If possible, it is good to have time and let someone else take care of your baby for a few hours.
If you have a partner, it may be worth taking it in turns to do the "night shift." Many moms, even with its partners, always try to make themselves nights. This can be exhausting. It may be sensible to take turns to sleep well at night. If you are breastfeeding, you may be able to extract enough milk in the day for food to be given at night by her partner.
Research suggests that some babies with colic may be lactose intolerant. Changing milk cow milk which is free of, or low in, lactose can be treated (for example, soybean milk or milk casein hydrolyzate). These formulas are sometimes called hypoallergenic. Another method you can try is to add lactase drops of milk, which breaks down lactose. Once things settle down you should try the baby with ordinary milk, as lactose may play a role in keeping the gut healthy in the long run.
The diet of lactating mothers
If the chest, there is some evidence that it may help if you do not have cow's milk, dairy products, eggs, wheat, nuts and caffeine (which can also be found in some painkillers). Some women are cutting the spices and garlic is also helpful, although there is little scientific support for this. If no improvement after making changes for a week, back to your normal diet.
What about drugs?
If simple things do not work, you can try a medicine called simethicone. Dicycloverine used to be used, but is now considered unsafe. Some people find it helpful gripe water, but their use is not supported by research.
Councils, but not proven-
The following tips are often given. However, the advice is based on individual experiences and no research has shown to help. Therefore, it may or may not help.
Some people say that white noise helps soothe colicky babies. White noise is background noise nonspecific, as performed by vacuum cleaners, washing machines, etc. You can even buy CDs of white noise that seek calm crying babies. There is a lack of research that shows that it works in most babies, but may be worth a try.
Tours and carry
Crying babies may settle in car trips. It is possibly the white noise of the car engine and the gentle movements of the car that does the trick. Car ride seems good too – may be the move that helps soothe some babies. Or, just walk with the baby in a sling or baby carrier can help soothe.
Complementary and Alternative Remedies
Many alternative therapies are promoted and advertised for colic. Apart from a technique called minimal acupuncture (which implies a slight pressure on the backs of the hands of children) none has proven effective with research studies, and can be expensive. Note: not all alternative therapies are free of risk. For example, some herbal products such as star anise, have caused severe reactions in some babies, and are not recommended.
A possible new treatment
There is some evidence that taking certain probiotics can help relieve symptoms in some babies with colic. Probiotics are dietary supplements that contain good bacteria. That is, the bacteria that normally live in the intestine and appears to be beneficial. The theory is that there may be a relationship between the normal balance of bacteria in the gut and colic.
In particular, a study published in 2010 (cited at the end) gave some interesting results. In this study, 50 infants with colic were given every day or a few drops containing the bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri or placebo (fake) drops. After three weeks of treatment, babies cried drops took treatment for an average of about half an hour a day. This compared to infants who received placebo were crying, on average, for an hour and a half each day. At baseline, both groups of babies were crying for five to six hours a day. Therefore, this study suggests that colic became a minor problem in babies taking drops containing Lactobacillus reuteri. This is just a small trial and more research is needed to confirm the results. However, it seems to be a promising new treatment possible.
Sometimes parents get angry, tearful, or angry with a colicky baby. These are normal and common emotions. Crying may seem painful, unbearable and very frustrating.
If you are finding it difficult to cope then do see your health visitor or doctor, or call the CRY-SIS for advice.
Helpline: 08451 228 669 – 9.00 am to 10.00 pm, 365 days a year.
This is a support group and helpline for families with excess mourn, sleep, and demanding babies and children.