What to Do When Your Child has Colic
Laura’s beautiful new baby boy is the apple of her eye. How peaceful his precious face looks when asleep. That is until he reached two weeks of age and everything changed. During the day he acted like a normal infant, however at night he was inconsolable. He would cry for hours at a time and nothing Laura did would help alleviate his apparent misery. Worried that something may be wrong, Laura took her son to the pediatrician and learned that he had colic.
What is Colic?
Crying is perfectly normal in babies. It is how they communicate that something is wrong. Colic, however, is something more than just crying. Affecting one in five infants, colic is defined as excessive and frequent crying in a baby that appears to be otherwise healthy. Colic can be quite distressing for parents, especially when it occurs in the babies of new parents. The good news is that colic is temporary with symptoms typically gone by the time the baby is 4-5 months of age. That time, however, can seem like an eternity.
Does My Baby Have Colic?
There are several characteristics of an infant with colic. Here are five:
- Predictable crying that typically starts in the late afternoon/evening and can last up to several hours in length.
- Inconsolable and excessive crying that appears for no apparent reason
- Infant brings knees up towards abdomen, clenches hands or arches back when crying
- Infant’s face gets bright red when they are crying
- Crying is high pitched and sounds like they are distressed
If you suspect your child may have colic, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to discuss your concerns. If possible, it is helpful to share as much history as possible on your baby’s eating and drinking routines.
What Causes Colic?
The cause of colic to this day remains unknown. There are some theories as to why it happens to some children, yet nothing has been proven. Some theories include an intolerance to the lactose found in breast and formula milk, indigestion, allergies and a digestive system that hasn’t fully developed. Colic happens equally in both boys and girls. The most important thing to understand is that if your child has colic, it is not because you did something wrong.
How Can I Help My Colicky Baby?
When a baby cries, it is quite natural to want to soothe whatever is causing their discomfort. As previously mentioned, colic improves on its own. There are no proven treatment methods that work; however, over the counter gas medication suitable for infants may offer some relief. Probiotics may also help reduce colic symptoms by introducing healthy bacteria into the digestive tract.
The best advice for parents of colicky babies is to provide lots of love and hold them as much as possible during this time. Swaddle the baby and keep him or her in motion by rocking or gently swinging them. You can also put them in an infant swing or take them for a car ride, as most babies find the movement soothing. Sing to them or play music. Create white noise with a white noise machine or consider using a vacuum, hair dryer, or clothes dryer. White noise mimics the sounds of the wound, which can be calming for infants. A pacifier may also be helpful, and is safe for breastfed babies.
If you become frustrated due to the baby’s crying, it is ok to put the baby in their crib and step away for a few minutes. Children with colic have a greater risk of shaken baby syndrome. Don’t be afraid to seek support from other family or friends so that you can take a break. This is a stressful time for both the infant and the parents.