It's the middle of the night and your baby has been crying- and you've wanted to cry- for three hours. Mother’s instinct is telling you this isn't a hungry or tired cry, so something has to be wrong. When crying episodes become chronic, it might be colic, which is more common than you think.
It's the middle of the night and your baby has been crying- and you've wanted to cry- for three hours. Mother’s instinct is telling you this isn't a hungry or tired cry, so something has to be wrong. When crying episodes become chronic, it might be colic, which is more common than you think. Colic is the case in at least one out of 10 babies.
Here's what you need to know about colic to help you and your baby through it.
What is colic?
Baby colic, also known as infantile colic, is defined as episodes of crying for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for three weeks in an otherwise healthy baby. It often starts when a baby is just a few weeks old. Often the crying occurs in the evening. Although it is very distressing for parents to watch, it typically does not result in long-term problems.
The causes are still not completely understood. While colic will usually resolve on its own by the time your baby is three to five months old, it’s always important to seek medical advice as it can be extremely distressing for parents.
Signs of colic
Fussing and crying are normal for infants, and a fussy baby doesn’t necessarily have colic. However, there are some very clear signs that your little one may have the condition. In an otherwise healthy, thriving child, these include:
- Predictable crying episodes. A baby who has colic usually cries at the same time every day – either in the late afternoon or evening. Colic episodes may last from a few minutes, three hours or more on any given day.
- Inconsolable crying. Colic crying is intense, sounds distressed and is often high pitched. You will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to comfort your baby.
- Crying that occurs for no obvious reason. It’s normal for babies to cry, but this is usually a signal that your baby needs something such as food, a nappy change or even a cuddle. Crying that’s associated with colic occurs with no clear reason and attending to her usual needs does not console your baby.
- Posture changes. Curled up legs, clenched fists and tensed abdominal muscles are common during colic episodes.
A medical history and physical examination are important when it comes to diagnosing colic.
Regardless of how upset you may be when you simply can’t console your child, try to take note of the following during the next episode so you can let your doctor know when your baby cries and for how long, whether it’s a high-pitched or unusually loud cry, what seems to make her fussy and what, if anything, calms her down.
Your doctor will also want to know how often and what your baby eats, and what her stools look like (big or small, loose or hard).
Other potential causes of unrelenting crying need to be excluded, such as:
- Gastro-oesophageal reflux
- Food allergies or sensitivities to something in your diet if you breastfeed
- Discomfort, like being too hot or too cold
- Hunger or fatigue
- Pain due to injury
- Pain due to an illness
Due to limited knowledge about the causes of colic, treatment is often hit or miss and there is a wide range of treatment options
offered by medical professionals. It is really about finding what works for your little one, some options include-
If you’re breastfeeding, you may be advised to avoid cow’s milk and dairy products
, and to take adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals to see if this will improve your little one’s colic.
Formulas: If your baby is bottle-fed, you may be advised to avoid giving your baby formulas that contain partially or extensively hydrolyzed whey or casein based-proteins.
Probiotics: Some studies are reporting significant relief from colic symptoms by using the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, especially in breastfed babies.
The best thing you can do for your baby is seeking medical help as soon as possible in order to try to find a way to help ease her symptoms. Remember that colic is not your fault; it’s important to understand how exhausting and emotionally draining dealing with a colicky child can be and to make sure you get some time out. When you simply cannot calm your child, take a deep breath and try to focus on the fact that you’re not dealing with a medical emergency. No matter how bad things may seem in that moment try and remember your little one will eventually grow out of it.
What You Can Do: Go for a Drive
Although not medically advised, as such - going for a drive or turning on the hairdryer has been known to really help little ones. Driving has a soothing effect similar to the sounds of a dryer or vacuum. The car's sounds and rhythmic motion often lull a baby to sleep