Colic is a condition where repeated bouts of excessive crying occur in a baby who is otherwise healthy and thriving.
Colic is very common and is thought to affect approximately 20 percent of newborn babies. The symptoms usually start a few weeks after birth, and continue for the first three to four months of life. Colic may appear to be distressing for a baby, however it is not harmful. Babies with Colic still grow and develop normally.
Colic is often defined as crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well fed, healthy baby. Colic episodes are most common in the late afternoon or evening. The crying often begins suddenly and for no apparent reason. During an episode, your baby may be difficult, or even impossible, to comfort.
Colic can be very upsetting for parents. Although Colic can be distressing at the time, it is a common phase, which will pass in a few weeks or months. Colic is not the fault of the parents and it is very important not to blame a 'stressed' parent for the crying. Babies cry as a method of communicating their needs to their parents. All babies cry at some time and it is not unusual for a newborn infant to cry for up to 2 hours a day.
The causes of Colic are unknown. Some researchers have suggested that indigestion or wind may play a role. Others claim that babies who have Colic may have a temporary sensitivity to certain substances found in breast or formula milk, such as lactose (a natural sugar), or proteins found in cows' milk. There is little evidence to support these theories. It is known that smoking during pregnancy doubles the chances of your baby developing Colic.
Some researchers have suggested that some babies may be more sensitive than others, or have a problem 'turning off' their crying response. Some babies are easily frightened by and struggle to cope with normal physical sensations such as digestion or normal reflux. Others take longer to adapt to the world and cope with changes.
It is important to remember that all babies are different. Some cry for longer periods and are more unsettled than others. This is normal.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Colic can produce the following symptoms;
• Flushed red face
• Intense, furious crying
• Baby is difficult or impossible to comfort
• Baby may clench their fists, draw up their knees, or arch their back.
Babies with Colic often have difficulty sleeping, and feeding patterns may be disrupted by the bouts of crying. Feeding is not normally reduced, but it may take longer if the baby is crying persistently. It is also common for babies to pass wind during periods of vigorous crying. Colic can be milder in some babies than in others, and periods of restlessness in the evenings may be the only symptom.
As Colic always improves on its own, medical treatment is not normally recommended. Colic can be very distressing for parents and if you find that you are having problems coping then you should contact your GP. Medication should only be given to an infant on the advice of a Doctor.
COMFORTING YOUR BABY
The suggestions outlined below may be helpful in managing a colicky baby;
• Stay calm - this will help you to think clearly and provide reassurance to your baby.
• Hold your baby - during a crying episode this can sometimes help, as can wrapping them snugly in a blanket (swaddling).
• Prevent air swallowing - by sitting your baby upright during feeding. Holes in bottle teats that are too small or too large may cause babies to swallow air while feeding. Special teats designed to stop your baby swallowing air while feeding may be a useful alternative.
• Avoid too much caffeine if breastfeeding - some women also find that spicy food and alcohol can aggravate Colic.
• Burp your baby - do this after every feed. Sit your baby upright or hold them, facing you, against your shoulder, making sure that you support their neck and head. Gently rub their back and tummy until they burp. They may bring up a small amount of milk when you do this, which is normal.
• Avoid over-stimulation - continually picking up and putting down your baby may aggravate the crying. Try gently comforting your baby in a quiet, darkened room. If you know that your baby is not hungry, tired, too hot or cold, or in need of a nappy change, it may help to leave them in their cot for a short while.
• Gentle movement - pushing your baby in their pram or pushchair, or going for a drive, can be comforting. Rocking them over your shoulder or carrying them around the house may also be helpful.
• White noise - the sound of a washing machine or vacuum cleaner can be soothing to some babies.
• Massage - gentle stomach or back rubs, or a warm bath, may also help to relieve Colic.
SUPPORT FOR YOU
If you feel that you cannot cope with your baby's crying, it is best to put your baby down somewhere safe and take a few minutes as a 'time-out'.
Ask your friends and family for support.
Rest when your baby is asleep.
Try to meet with parents of babies of the same age for support and advice.
Ask your MedAux Pharmacist for advice on treatments for Colic.
1. If bottle-feeding, ask your Pharmacist to recommend the most suitable teat.
2. Your Pharmacy stocks a range of massage oils suitable for babies' sensitive skin.
3. A warm bath may help to soothe your baby.