We all expect babies to cry – after all, it’s the only method of communication they have. However many babies, particularly around the 6-8 week mark, have regular and extended periods of crying, usually worse in the afternoon or evening, where they are not tired, hot or cold, hungry, or wet, but they are miserable. Is this colic or something else?
When is it colic?
Colic is often attributed to any excessive crying however the definition widely used by health professionals is a more objective measure. Under the Rome IV guidelines, a diagnosis of colic must include:
- The infant is under five months of age when the symptoms start and stop
- There are recurrent and prolonged periods of crying, fussing or irritability, reported by caregivers that occur without any obvious cause and cannot be prevented or resolved by caregivers
- There is no evidence of infant failure to thrive or other illness
A colicky baby may scream and cry, arch their back, scream and cry, clench their fists and tuck their legs up. Your baby may also seek the nipple or teat and then quickly reject it. Other than this distressing time of the day, your baby seems otherwise healthy and happy.
What causes colic?
The colicky phase can be a stressful and exhausting time for parents as they are unable to calm their baby for extended periods.
There are many theories about the cause of colic from over stimulation, to an imbalance of melatonin and serotonin, an immature digestive system, excess gas, food allergies or insensitivities and reflux. None of these theories are proven and the presence of colic is certainly not a failure of yours.
Helping your colicky baby
The only real solution to colic is time. Colic tends to improve at around three to four months old. While you are waiting for this stage to pass, there are some things you can try to help calm your baby.
If you are breastfeeding, you could try eliminating gas causing foods such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and citrus, or foods that commonly cause allergies such as dairy, soy, wheat, nuts and eggs.
If your baby is formula fed, a change to a formula that has been designed specifically for babies with colic and contains a prebiotic may help. Talk with your GP, pharmacist of other health professional.
Other things parents have tried include swaddles, carrying in a front pack, swinging movement, repeatedly pushing the pram over a bump, white noise, soothing music, a dummy, pressure on your baby’s tummy (such as on your shoulder or forearm), and baby massage. Give different remedies a try one at a time – but remember, sometimes baby just can’t be soothed and the colic will settle in its own time.
Be careful of oral remedies – discuss with your pharmacist, GP or health professional first.
Parents can find this a distressing time as you can feel helpless in the face of a baby who just can’t settle but do remember this is a phase, it’s not your fault, and it won’t cause your baby and lasting damage. Every day you get through is one day closer to the end of colic times!
Ask for help – don’t try to cope with this alone. Talk about it with friends, family, your GP and try to take a break whenever you can. Wear earphones, listen to music, binge watch Netflix – anything to try and distract yourself and reduce the intensity of the moment. If you feel overwhelmed, put your baby somewhere safe (eg their cot) and remove yourself for a few minutes.
When is it not colic?
It can be difficult to determine the difference between colic and an underlying condition such as a hernia, reflux, allergy or infection so don’t hesitate to seek help from your GP or other healthcare professional if only to get some reassurance.
If there is any blood in your baby’s nappy, excessive vomiting, poor weight gain or any other concerning symptom, get them checked by your GP.
For more information about what’s colic and what’s not, visit Nutricia Careline.
This article was written by Kidspot NZ for Nutricia Careline.
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