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When bringing a newborn home, parents can expect the obvious; eat, sleep, pee, and cry! But what happens when their cries turn into blood-curdling wails, flailing legs, and clenched fists? Then, one episode turns into two and before you know it, your child is going through this daily. These situations can be frustrating for any parent, especially if they cannot console or soothe their baby. In these instances of prolonged fussy episodes where your child seems unbearably uncomfortable, they may be dealing with colic.
What is Colic?
Colic is a term used to define the frequent, prolonged, and excessive crying in otherwise healthy infants; therefore, it is not a disease or illness. Colic can seemingly come out of nowhere, for no reason, and often occurs during the evening, making it more stressful on parents who become restless after an entire night of no sleep. Typically, these colic episodes peak when infants are 6 weeks old and usually decline around 12-16 weeks old. If you have a newborn with colic, there is information you should know that can help ease the discomfort and give you a boost of confidence in your parental connection.
These are some signs to look for when trying to determine if you have a colicky baby:
- “Rules of three” pattern – Your baby cries for at least three hours a day, three days a week for three weeks straight.
- Crying typically happens at the same time every day (Most often evening but can vary)
- Your baby clenches their fists, lifts their legs, and is more mobile than often.
- Your baby cries for seemingly no reason at all. (This does not include when they are hungry, tired, or have a dirty diaper)
- Your baby is holding their breath, opening their eyes wide, or continuously moving their eyebrows.
- Your baby is gassy or spitting up more than usual.
- Your baby seems to be in pain while they are eating and/or sleeping.
What Causes Colic?
There are various theories as to what can cause colic, however, the exact cause of it is unknown. some of the theories include:
- Food allergies – Some medical professionals believe that colic is the result of an allergy to cow’s milk proteins in babies who are formula-fed. Colic can also be a reaction to specific foods in the mother’s diet, but this is less common. The stomach pains that come from the sensitivity to these foods can cause a colic episode.
- Immature digestive system – When a baby begins to digest food, they can experience pain from having an immature digestive system. Gas pain from food passing through too quickly can surely set off a colic episode.
- Acid reflux – Infant acid reflux or infant GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) does not cause colic but can trigger a colic episode. GERD is a result of an underdeveloped esophagus that has trouble keeping stomach acids from flowing back up the throat and mouth, irritating the esophagus and triggering a colic episode. Symptoms of GERD consist of; spitting up, irritability during feedings, and not eating properly. GERD generally goes away by the time the child is one.
- Tobacco – Studies have proven that women who smoke during and/or after pregnancy are more likely to have children with colic.
- Overstimulated senses – The first month of a newborn’s life, they have a built-in system for tuning out sounds and sights around them, which allow them to sleep and eat without disturbance. After the first month, however, babies lose this mechanism, making it harder to adjust to the noises of the outside world. To release this new stress of sensory overload, they cry more than usual. Typically, it is not until they can filter out these noises that their colic ends.
Once you understand that this is not the fault of either you or your baby, you have a better understanding as to why it is so important to remain calm and try to soothe your bundle of joy as best as you can. Please remember to always consult your child’s pediatrician before attempting to remedy your child’s colic episodes. Consider asking a medical professional on their advice about the following tips:
- Burping – If your baby is fussy, try to burp them! They may have a gas that is causing pain.
- Colic carries – The “colic carry” technique is when you place your infant face-down with their tummy resting on your arm. Then, begin to rub and/or pat their back as you hold them securely.
- Probiotics –Since probiotic bacteria grow naturally in the digestive tract, probiotics are known for easing stomach troubles and promoting good intestinal health. Remember to always ask your child’s pediatrician before giving them anything or trying any remedies.
- Switching formulas – Ask your child’s pediatrician if they recommend changing your child’s formula because your baby can be experiencing allergies from cow’s milk protein in their infant formula.
- White noise and soothing sounds – Having a white noise machine or soothing music playing can help alleviate the discomfort your infant is experiencing.
- Swaddle/rock/cradle – Holding your restless baby in your arms while you soothe and rock them slowly can help ease their colic. You can try warming up a soft blanket and either rocking them in a chair or swaying slowly.
While it is heartbreaking to watch your little one experience pain and discomfort with no antidote, it is important to remain calm and try everything possible to ease your child. If you have further concerns regarding your child and colic, contact us at 561-275-7100.