Could your baby’s crying be colic?

What is colic?

Colic is a general term used to describe an otherwise healthy baby who cries more than three hours a day for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks. A baby with colic will often cry inconsolably, around the same time of day, usually late afternoon or evening, despite all attempts to comfort them. Colic affects around 25% of infants in the first year of life. Symptoms may appear in babies within the first two to four weeks of life and usually improve by the time the baby is three to four months of age, but can last up to 12 months. Always check with your pediatrician to rule out any other options before diagnosing and treating your baby for colic.

Causes and symptoms

The exact cause of colic is unknown; however, researchers have many theories as to what it may be. Some possibilities include: under-developed nervous system, allergies, lactose intolerance, immature digestive system, and anxiety or – over activity.

What can I do?

Although colic will improve on its own, it can be an extremely distressing time while you are going through it. Many parents feel angry, frustrated or guilty, and often feel like they are doing something wrong because despite their best efforts, they cannot comfort their baby.

There are however some things you can do that may help calm and soothe your baby. Just keep in mind that each baby is different and you will have to discover what works for you. Try each suggestion one at a time at first to see if you can rule out any potential causes of your baby’s fussiness. Using a combination of the tips below suggested usually proves to be the most helpful.

  • Change formulas. Many experts believe colic is related to your baby’s digestion—try switching to a “hypoallergenic” formula.
  • Try a different feeding technique. If you normally nurse on both breasts, switch to just one prolonged feeding on one breast. Some research shows this can cut colic in half. Sometimes more frequent but smaller feedings are helpful. For many babies, sucking is a soothing activity. Try giving your baby a pacifier. Even if you’re breast-feeding, it’s OK to offer a pacifier to help your baby calm down.
  • Motion. Many parents say gentle motion is helpful. Try rocking your baby in your arms or in an infant swing or lay your baby tummy down on your knees and then sway your knees slowly. Try taking your baby for a walk or a drive. Using a vibrating infant seat or vibrating crib may also help.
  • Swaddling. Babies are comforted by being held closely. Try swaddling your baby in a lightweight blanket. Others may be comforted just by cuddling.
    Create soothing noise—some babies are comforted by steady background noise. A fan, white noise maker, or a CD with sounds such as the ocean or a waterfall may help. Try humming, quietly making a “shhh” sound or singing a lullaby. Even if your baby doesn’t completely stop crying, it may help keep you both calm and pass the time.
  • Gentle Massage or Heat. Try giving your baby a warm bath. Softly massage your baby, especially around the tummy area.
  • Change your diet. If you breast-feed, eliminating certain foods may help your baby. Try eliminating foods such as dairy products, citrus fruits, spicy foods or drinks containing caffeine and see if you notice a difference in your baby. If you use a bottle, switching to a different type or using a different type of nipple might help.
  • Herbal Remedy. Many parents have had success with herbal remedies using ginger, fennel and chamomile. Try using gripe water such as Wellements Baby Gripe Water to soothe your baby’s tummy.
  • Probiotics. There is some research that shows giving your baby probiotics may reduce crying time. Be sure to check with your baby’s doctor before giving any medication.

Coping: What about your sanity?

Taking care of a baby who has colic is exhausting and stressful, even for the most experienced and patient parents. A few months of crying can take a serious emotional toll which is why it is important for you take care of yourself, too. These suggestions may help:

  • Take a break. Sometimes you just need to walk away. Ask your spouse, friend or babysitter to take over for 10 minutes or an hour so you can take a deep breath and regroup. Even a little time away will help you feel refreshed.
  • Talk to someone. You may be experiencing a wide range of feelings from anger and frustration to guilt, depression and isolation. It is normal! Try talking to your spouse, partner, friends, doctor or other parents who have been through this and can offer you support.
  • Stay positive. It’s important to know that colic is not a result of bad parenting and you are not to blame. Even though it is extremely difficult time, it is temporary and will not last forever.
  • Take care of yourself. Making healthy choices will help you in all areas of your life. Eat healthy whole foods, and avoid sugar and alcohol. Making time for exercise, stretching or even a walk will help you stay energized throughout the day. Do your best to sleep when your baby sleeps.