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Baby Colic: What is it? How do I know if my baby has it?

Baby Colic: What is it? How do I know if my baby has it?

All people, parents and non-parents, know that infants cry. A lot! Of course this is for various reasons. However, an infant may very well cry after being fed, changed, and cleaned. If an infant has repeated episodes of unpacifiable crying but still appears to be healthy and well, they may have colic. It is worthwhile and recommended to seek advice from a medical professional if you suspect that your child is displaying "colicky" behavior, but we are here to provide our knowledge and experience on the matter.

What is Colic?

Unfortunately, there is no concrete or clear definition of colic or how it differs from other types of crying. With this said, doctors agree that colic is louder, more intense, and higher pitched than “normal” crying – often like screaming.

You will begin to see colic in the very early stages of a child’s life, usually appearing a few weeks after birth and until about four months old. It is relatively short-lived.

Colic is neither dangerous nor harmful. This is important to remember as you will naturally become worrisome and stressed as a parent when your child cries for very long periods of time, and more frequently than anticipated. Experts say that colic has no long-term effects and that an infant with colic will gain weight and feed normally compared to infants without colic.

Symptoms

You might see the following if your child has colic or is displaying colicky behavior:

  • Intense crying occurring at the same time every day (typically in the later afternoon or evening)
  • Crying usually starts suddenly and for no apparent reason
  • Noticeably changed posture – clenched fists, knees drawn up, back arched, and face red and flushed
  • Increased bowel movements, passing gas and/or spitting up
  • Interrupted sleep with episodes of crying; dozing off for a moment before suddenly waking up screaming

Causes

While the exact cause of colic is a mystery, we do know that it is not the result of genetics or anything that could have happened during pregnancy or birth. Some speculate it is either a result of an immature digestive system or an allergy/sensitivity to some of the substances in breast or formula milk, but this is not supported by evidence. Both of these speculations derive from the theory that the pain that results from food not breaking down properly or some kind of allergy is what is setting off colicky behavior.

Breastfed and formula-fed infants are equally likely to have colic.

Over-stimulation is another speculation as to why colic appears in some infants. With so many new sensations surrounding infants in the first few months of their lives, it is easy to become over-stimulated and overwhelmed, especially at the end of a long day. To release their stress, they cry. As a baby learns to filter out environmental stimuli over time, their sensory overload subdues and colic ends.

Remedies

With colic being a fairly normal part of some infants’ lives and NOT considered harmful, it is not recommended to give medication. If there is concern or speculation of colicky behavior in your child, please talk to your primary care physician for the best treatment advice.

There is no single “fix it” cure for colic. However, we have found the following remedies to be helpful:

  • Exclude cow’s milk – If you are feeding your child formula, try bottle-feeding with hypoallergenic formula for one week. If it helps, continue! For a breast-feeding mother, try a dairy free diet for a week’s time and continue this diet if the colicky behavior subdues after 7 days.
  • Apply pressure to child’s tummy – Provides relief for the potential tummy ache or discomfort your child is experiencing. The power of touch is very soothing for both you and your child.
  • Burp your child – There is a likelihood that the colicky behavior is due to gas; burping your infant can help relieve the pain.
  • Create calm 😊 – Facilitate a peaceful environment for your child to help bring them to calm. Try dimming the lights, speaking in a soothing tone, and keeping exterior noises and distractions to a minimum. Playing soothing music or having a white-noise machine can also be worthwhile.

 

Overall, it is important to remember that colic is a common and rather short-lived behavior in many infants’ lives and is not considered harmful or dangerous. We hope that our insight has provided relief and understanding. Of course, please consult your primary care physician for a more in-depth and professional look into your child’s distress! 

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