Colic is a condition that affects infants and is characterized by excessive crying which can last for as long as three hours and may even occur sporadically during an entire week. Colic may occur in an otherwise healthy infant and the crying is not because of hunger or pain. There may be a pattern to the crying such as early in the mornings or during the evenings. Colic can be distressing for the baby and also frustrating for the parents. The condition usually gets resolved in a short period of time, but because of the great discomfort it causes you should seek medical attention promptly.
Symptoms of Colic
Crying and fussiness is completely normal in infants and is not necessarily indicative of colic. Some of the signs of colic in babies include:
- A pattern of Crying Colicky babies tend to cry at the same time every day. These crying bouts may be short, lasting for a few minutes. They may also continue for more than three hours sometimes. There is usually no obvious reason for the crying.
- Intense Crying Your baby may cry inconsolably during episodes of colic.
- Changes in Posture Babies tend to clench their fists, curl their legs and tighten their abdominal muscles during colic bouts.
- Some of the other baby colic symptoms include flushing of the face, belching, spitting up after a feeding, passage of gas and difficulty in bowel movements.
Colic is a common condition which affects up to 25 percent of infants. The onset of colic is usually some weeks after birth. Colic is known to subside by the age of three months. Most babies improve considerably by the time they reach the age of four or five months.
In some cases excessive crying may be due to injury and it is important to consult a doctor. Also seek medical care if there are changes in your babys eating or sleeping habits. It is helpful to keep a track of when these crying episodes occur and for how long they continue so that your doctor can have a clearer idea of your babys symptoms.
Causes of Colic
It is still not clear what exactly causes colic. There has been research done to explore possible causes, such as allergies, poor functioning of the digestive system and lactose intolerance. But the exact colic causes have not yet understood. Studies have shown that there is a higher risk of colic in babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy. Many researchers are of the view that colic begins in the intestines of a baby. Others believe that environmental causes may be involved. Babies who develop colic experience normal growth and development.
Remedies for Colic
Colic subsides on its own, usually by the time the baby reaches three months of age. There are some colic treatments such as medications to alleviate gas. Probiotics may also help to treat colic. These help to regulate the balance between the good and bad bacteria in the digestive system. It is important to talk to your doctor before giving your baby any medication. There are also some home remedies for colic which help to relieve discomfort, but not all are scientifically proven, so check with your health care provider before trying any.
- Feed your baby if you feel the crying is due to hunger. Burp your baby frequently to alleviate gas. It may help to have smaller, more frequent feedings. Give your baby as much hind milk as possible by fully emptying one breast before changing sides. This milk is more nutritious than foremilk, which is what the baby consumes at the beginning of feedings.
- Sucking on a pacifier is soothing for the baby and may have a calming effect.
- One of the best natural colic remedies is to cuddle your baby. Some babies calm down when held closely.
- Rock your baby gently in a baby swing or in your arms.
- Soothing music or soft singing may not be baby colic remedies but they can help comfort the infant. Some babies also quiet down when they hear steady background sounds.
- A warm bath is comforting and helps to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by colic. Add a few drops of lavender oil to warm bath water. You can also give your baby a gentle tummy massage.
- Sometimes placing your baby in the crib for about ten minutes may help to alleviate discomfort.
- The foods you consume are likely to pass into the breast milk. Some of these foods may be the cause of digestive trouble in your baby. Therefore, try eliminating certain foods from your diet. Citrus fruits, dairy foods, spicy foods and caffeinated beverages may be affecting your baby.
- If you bottle-feed your baby, try using a different type of bottle or nipple.
- It may be stressful for mothers to hear their babies cry persistently. It is advisable to have a family member or a close friend look after your baby for some time, while you take a short break.
- Gripe water is commonly used to treat colic in babies. However, it is important to check the ingredients before using any such solution. Some gripe waters claim to be natural, but include additives and preservatives. These may cause more irritation to the infants digestive system.
- The sound of falling water helps to soothe colicky babies. Turn on the faucet in the sink and hold your baby next to it. Hearing the sounds of water will have a calming effect.
- Pour some warm water in a hot water bottle and hold it against your babys tummy. Make sure that the water is not too hot.
- Mint helps to relieve intestinal cramping. Add one teaspoon of dried mint to a cup and pour boiling water over it. Steep for about ten minutes and then strain. Pour the solution in a bottle and feed to your baby. You can also drink the tea yourself if you breastfeed your baby.
- Anise is an effective baby colic remedy. It helps to relieve bloating, indigestion and cramping.
- Pat your baby on the back when she appears to be experiencing contractions. Do this when you notice symptoms such as clenching the fists or straining the face, even during sleep.
- Add a quarter cup of catnip to a kettle of water and bring to a boil. Strain through a cheesecloth or strainer and allow it to cool. You can give this solution to your baby. Add some sugar to it if your baby seems to dislike the taste.
Seek your doctors advice in case your baby has never experienced colic before or if your baby is above the age of three months and still shows signs of colic. In such cases the symptoms may be indicative of an underlying illness or behavioral problems. Also, seek medical attention in case your baby is experiencing other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, constipation of fever.
Diet for Colic
Certain foods in your diet that pass through the breast milk, may be triggering colic in your baby. It is advisable to eliminate these foods from your diet. There are some foods that are known to commonly cause colic in babies. These include:
- Dairy products
- Citrus fruits
- Vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage lead to gas formation and hence should also be avoided.
Prenatal vitamins may also lead to irritation in your babys digestive system. You can consult your doctor about taking an alternative supplement.
Suggestions for Colic
Colic can cause a great deal of stress for the parents as well. To alleviate some of the anxiety, you can use the following tips:
- Give yourself just an hours break so that you can feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Have your spouse or loved one take over while you rest.
- Talk to your spouse or close one about what you are going through. Simply confiding in someone can alleviate some of the helplessness and tension.
- Just because your baby has colic, it does not mean that you are a bad parent. Listening to your baby cry for long periods is definitely distressing, but dont blame yourself for it.
- Try to stay as healthy as possible by following a balanced, nutritious diet. Try to make some time for exercising. Even a brief walk daily is helpful. Try to get adequate sleep whenever your baby sleeps. Avoid any harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs.
- Keep in mind that colic episodes will subside by the time your baby approaches three months of age.
- Rosen LD, Bukutu C, Le C, Shamseer L, Vohra S. Complementary, holistic, and integrative medicine: colic. Pediatr Rev. 2007;28(10):381-5.
Colic - Frequently asked questions