What Is Colic, And Can It Be Treated?
Colic is the term given to babies who cry for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. It is not a disease or illness and it occurs in babies who have been determined to be otherwise healthy. Colic usually begins around the time the baby is 2-3 weeks old and can last for several months.
It will usually start out with shorter periods of crying and then peak to long amounts of crying before it starts to taper off and go away. The bouts of crying usually happen around the same time each day, most commonly in the evening and early night.
Their excessive crying is usually accompanied by a hard stomach, clenched fists, tucked in knees and an arched back. Babies who are determined to have colic usually meet the criteria of crying for 3 hours or more a day for 3 or more days a week for longer than 3 weeks.
What Causes Colic?
The causes of colic have been under debate for many years. There has been no scientific conclusion as to why these babies go through this stage in their first months of life. There are arguments that colic can be a normal part of a baby’s development and some scientists attribute other factors to an increased chance of colic.
Some of the possible reasons that are currently being researched are as follows:
- Gas trapped in the baby’s tummy causing pain and/or pressure
- A lack of Lactobacillus acidophilus – the healthy gut flora/bacteria found in our stomachs
- An immature digestive system
- The baby’s temperament
- Environmental factors such as over-stimulation (too much noise, interaction, etc)
Immature nervous system
- Gastrointestinal reflux – some babies are born with immature lower esophageal spinchter that fails to close properly. This causes excessive spit up in babies
- Food allergies or Lactose intolerance or overload
Can Colic Be Treated?
Because there is no documented cause of colic, the treatment of this condition is very hard to determine. Based on the above possible causes, there are some methods that you can try. They will not harm the baby, so it can’t hurt to try them out to see if it offers your baby any comfort or relief.
- Probiotics – Ask your doctor about giving your baby Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements. It is usually found in yogurt, but is also available in the vitamin section. Check to see what amounts are correct for your baby first.
- Calming methods – You can try rocking or bouncing your baby or using a bouncy chair or swing. You could also try using a pacifier as some babies use sucking to help calm themselves. Try putting on some soothing music such as lullabies or nature sounds. Keeping yourself relaxed will also help as babies can sense tension and stress in their parents.
- If you suspect they are gassy – Try some gas drops (in moderation) or Gripe Water. You can also rock the baby in your arms while they are laying on their tummies. This can help relieve some pressure and pain. Also, make sure to burp them at least twice during each feeding, in the middle and at the end. This should help prevent any gas buildup.
It can be a very frustrating period of time for parents, especially if you are first time parents and haven’t experienced this before. You may feel that you are doing something wrong or failing as a good parent. It can be very stressful to listen to a baby cry for hours and not be able to find an effective way to help soothe them. It can cause lack of sleep and tension between you and your spouse/partner.
In fact, a lot of cases of Shaken Baby Syndrome have arisen from cases of colic, as parents get frustrated with the crying and act out in anger. It is very important that as parents, you find a safe and healthy way to cope with these bouts of crying.
The best thing you can do is try to be patient and remember that colic is a self-limiting phase, which means that the baby will grow out of it in a few short months. Sharing in the responsibility of caring for a baby with colic can be very helpful. If you take turns, it will give you quiet time away to help calm your nerves and relieve some of the associated stress.
If you are a single parent or your spouse/partner is away or working, see if you can get another relative or a close friend to help you out.
Take a look at the related video on colic in which medical profesionals give further advice on colic.