Is it colic?

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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  1. Alezandra 03/11/2018 at 9:28 pm

    I remember when I had my baby and heard about colic, I just could understand what it meant, coz sometimes what babies go through can overlap and some people just assume it’s colic but it can be something else. An article like this helps to understand it clearly.

  2. felicity beets 01/11/2018 at 7:51 pm

    luckily i have not had to deal with a colicy baby – teething is hard enough.

  3. SarahBlair 31/10/2018 at 9:34 pm

    My first baby was collicky and she screamed for hours every evening to the point that we were admitted into the Mother Craft Unit to try and fix it, they couldn’t help but she eventually grew out of it.

  4. Shelz69 31/10/2018 at 2:19 pm

    My daughter had colic and it was terrible, not only did we both not sleep but I also feel bad for her, she seem to be in pain and I could not do anything to sooth her, aside from walking around with her in my arms 24/7 which was not that great for me. it certainly is tough in many different ways, not to mention you are often sleep deprived so its hard to think. I look back now and wish I had asked someone to take my daughter for a walk in the pram for me every day. To be able to have an hour to go to the toilet, shower, eat would of made so much difference to my life. However when you are exhausted you don’t think of these things. So if you are reading this and know some one who has a colic baby, offer to take the child for a walk in the pram, or take them a meal, or hold the baby so they can eat it will be a life saver.

  5. dawnblyth 31/10/2018 at 12:04 pm

    Thankfully none of my boys had colic as it sounds a very horrible time for Mum and Baby to go through.

  6. MuddledUpMolly 23/10/2018 at 9:40 pm

    Fortunately our children have had not had colic but I am 27 weeks pregnant with our third and I am hoping like hell that we bypass this once more as it sounds incredibly hard in what can be an already difficult time with a newborn, eek!

  7. kymmage 23/10/2018 at 3:21 pm

    I’m thankful I never had to experience colic. But friends have and I often felt that I didn’t know enough about it to lend much support. This article was very helpful. I mean we are all experiencing sleepless nights with a baby but colic adds a whole different level of stress to it.

  8. Mands1980 23/10/2018 at 11:50 am

    My first born had colic it was so hard not being able to settle him and he would cry and cry. I had a lot of sleepless nights that’s for sure. My front pack was a lifesaver when trying to get anything done otherwise nothing would be done. It eventually disappeared and luckily the other 2 never got it.

  9. Bevik1971 19/10/2018 at 10:58 am

    My second baby had colic, not pleasant and so hard as there’s really not a hell of a lot you can do for it. A lot of holding and walking around early evening for us soothing her. It lasted for a few months and was a real load off when it passed!!

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