Colic

1 What is Colic?

Colic is a condition in which your baby cries for more than three hours per day, three days a week for three weeks or longer without any identifiable cause like hunger or pain-causing illnesses.

You may find yourself unable to pacify your baby. Colic can cause marked distress to you and your baby.

Fortunately, colic is a relatively short-lived condition which goes away within weeks or months.

Once over, congratulate yourself for enduring one of the first major challenges of parenthood.

2 Symptoms

When your healthy baby cries without a reason is the main symptom of colic.

We all know crying is natural in infants. When an infant cries, you can look for obvious some causes like hunger or discomfort, which does not indicate colic.

Some signs of colic are:

  • Crying in a pattern that’s predictable: Colic episodes occur in a repetitive manner almost the same time every day, more common in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Your baby may cry for a few minutes to three hours or more on any given day.
  • Crying is intense, high pitched and you may be unable to pacify your baby.
  • A colic episode is generally accompanied by a bowel movement or passage of gas and facial flushes.
  • Your baby may have characteristic body positions like curled up legs, clenched fists and tensed abdominal muscles.

Colic begins when your baby is a few weeks old. Most cases improve as baby reaches 3 months.

When to see a doctor?

Talk to your baby’s doctor if crying is accompanied by bluish skin or changes in eating, sleeping or behavior. You may also record timing and duration of crying, sleeping and eating patterns.

Ask for immediate medical attention if you suspect some serious causes for baby's crying, such as a fall, injury or illness.

3 Causes

It’s not clear what causes a colic. Attempts have been made to reveal possible link to allergies, lactose intolerance, changes in the normal bacteria found in the digestive system, and parents’ way of feeding or pacifying a baby.

But there is no clear link between these factors and colic. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

The diagnosis of colic begins with a physical exam to detect any possible causes for the symptoms, such as a blockage in your baby's intestines (intestinal obstruction).

If no cause is identified, diagnosis of colic can be made. There is no need of lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests unless carried out to rule out other causes.

How to prepare yourself for the visit?

Getting prepared for the visit can optimize the therapy and help make the visit more fruitful. Record the timing, duration and associated signs. Mention what seems to ease the signs, if any.

Write in brief about your baby’s normal behavior and changes during colic. Make a list of the questions to ask your doctor.

Some typical questions can be:

  • Is colic behind my baby’s crying episodes or something else?
  • Does colic affect my baby's growth and development?
  • What are the treatments available?
  • Can you recommend some coping techniques for me and my family?

What your doctor wants to know?

Your doctor might ask you typical questions like:

  • How does a typical crying episode look like?
  • What do you know about timing and duration of a colic episode?
  • Can you tell how you baby's cry sound like?
  • What do you do to console your baby?
  • Have you noticed any changes in eating, sleeping, breathing or behavior?
  • What does your baby’s food normally contain?

5 Treatment

Till now, no treatments for colic have been proven to completely relieve the signs. Condition of your baby improves as s/he reaches 3 months, without any treatment. 

You may try any of the following treatments:

  • Gas-relief medications: Over-the-counter, gas-relief medications such as simethicone probably may be given but are of little help. Avoid these medications if your baby is taking thyroid replacement medications.
  • Probiotics: Probiotics contain a number of “good” bacteria. Colic may be due to imbalance of good bacteria in your baby’s gut. So you may try probiotics though researchers are divided regarding their benefits in managing colic.

Consult your baby's doctor before starting any medication to treat colic.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Consult your baby’s doctor before starting any alternative therapy for your baby colic.

Some alternative remedies that may help include:

  • Herbal teas Herbal remedies, such as fennel oil
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Sugar water Gripe water (a mix of water and herbs)
  • Massage therapy
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Acupuncture

But be warned that some alternative therapies may do more harm than good.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to help your baby in coping with colic.

You may try these to soothe your baby:

Tips for feeding your baby

  • During feeding, keep your baby’s back straight and
  • Don’t feed your baby continuously, let your baby burp during feeding.
  • You may also feed your baby at certain intervals.
  • If you're breast-feeding, feed your baby at one breast until it's nearly empty.
  • If you are breast feeding, avoid diets that contain potential allergy causing foods such as dairy, peanuts, wheat, soy and fish for a few weeks and observe if some improvements are seen in your baby. Consult your baby's doctor before changing your diet.
  • Consider changing your baby’s diet. You may replace cow’s milk with hydrolysate infant formula. If no improvement is observed, you can continue with the original diet.
  • Change bottles. You can chose an appropriate bottle or nipple that suits your baby.

Tips for soothing your baby

  • Use a pacifier to calm your baby.
  • Cuddle your baby more often.
  • Sing to your baby. Lullabies can be calm you, if not your baby.
  • Give your baby the power of touch: A soft touch on your baby's belly can calm him/her down.
  • Let your baby enjoy some private time: When you cannot calm your baby with any of the measures, you can provide him/her with some lonely environment in the crib for 5 to 10 minutes.

You may be irritated or distressed when nothing seems to console your baby

Don’t lose your heart and don’t shake your baby in frustration. Here are some tips that might help you:

  • If your frustration seems to go out of limit, you may ask a trusted person to care of your baby.
  • If there is no one to take care other than you, put your child in a crib for some time.

Take care of yourself too

Here are some suggestions for you:

  • Take a break: Ask your spouse or partner or another loved one to take over for a while. You may also ask a trusted baby-sitter for help.
  • Try to stay positive: When negative surrounds you, remember that your parenting skills are not the cause for your baby’s cry. Remind yourself that colic is temporary.
  • Take care of yourself too: Eat good foods and exercise often.
  • Don’t take alcohol and other drugs to help yourself.
  • Talk to your doctor, a local crisis intervention service or a mental health help line if you need additional support.

8 Risks and Complications

If you smoke during your pregnancy, you increase your baby's risk to have colic.

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