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Colic in Babies: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

colicky baby Photo Credit: Milan Jurek

Babies cry — quite frequently. Since infants can’t talk yet, crying is their way of communicating when they’re hungry or tired. Sometimes, your baby’s cries are his or her way of indicating that something is wrong. If you’ve tried every soothing technique imaginable and your infant just constantly cries, he or she may actually suffer from colic.

What is Colic?

Colic is a condition that affects some infants’ gastrointestinal system, causing acute abdominal pain, bloating, and intense cramping. It can be some of the most intense pain your child will ever face during their infancy stages—hence the excessive crying.

While it typically affects babies only in their first month of life, it can in fact last up into a year (although this is rare). Colic tends to be worse when babies are between 6 to 8 weeks old, and it usually disappears by the time they’re 14 weeks old.

Pediatricians will diagnose colic when a healthy, well-fed baby cries in a “3” pattern – They cry for more than 3 hours every day, on at least 3 days every week, and for at least 3 weeks in a row.

Up to 40 percent of all babies will develop colic in the first four months of their lives. Although it can be stressful and frustrating to have a baby that you can’t console, colic is temporary and your child will eventually grow out of it.

Colic Symptoms

When a baby has colic, you can expect the following symptoms:

  • Inconsolable Crying Fits – Colicky babies often have high-pitched, intense and inconsolable crying episodes. Your baby’s face may redden, and it can be almost impossible to comfort your infant.
  • Tensed Muscles – When a baby has colic, it’s common for him or her to have curled up legs, tensed abdominal muscles, and clenched fists.
  • Predicable Crying Sessions – Many babies with colic will cry and fuss at the same time every day. It’s common for colicky babies to start crying in the late afternoon or in the evening hours. The crying fits will begin suddenly for no apparent reason. Sometimes, near the end of the colic episode, your baby will pass gas or have a bowel movement.

If you are worried about your baby’s colic or crying sessions, or if you notice any changes in your baby’s behavior, sleeping, or eating habits, consult your pediatrician right away.

It’s also a good idea to keep track of your baby’s colic episodes in a journal or diary. Note how long your baby cries, when he or she starts crying, and anything unusual you may notice. You should also pay attention to your child’s eating and sleep patterns. This may help the pediatrician.

High Need Baby vs. Colicky Baby

At what point does a crying, fussy baby become a colicky baby?

Some infants are just “high need babies” – or babies that fuss and cry unless they have their parents undivided attention. A high need baby needs you to hold him, or he’ll cry on the top of his tongues. These babies are all about “mama, mama, mama” all the time. Fortunately, high need babies can be soothed with attention and lots of holding.

On the other hand, colicky babies are in pain. They are crying because they feel uncomfortable. Almost nothing seems soothe a colicky baby.

What Causes Colic?

So what can cause infants to become colicky?

Despite more than 50 years of research, medical experts still haven’t been able to pin point the exact cause of colic. But they do have their suspicions of what can trigger it. That being said, here are some of the more common causes of colic in babies:

  • Sensitive Temperament – Some babies are simply more sensitive to things. They might have a lower pain threshold and the slightest upset makes them wail and cry.
  • Immature Digestive System – A newborn’s digestive system is immature and has never processed food before. Because their gastrointestinal system is undeveloped and just learning to function, it’s possible that the muscles in their GI tract haven’t nailed down the rhythm for moving food through the digestive tract. As your baby gets older, their digestive system matures. For this reason, it’s believed that colic disappears by the time your baby is six months old.
  • Changes in Breastfeeding Mother’s Diet – If you breastfeed your baby and you abruptly change your diet, or you decide to eat something you haven’t eaten since your baby was born, this can cause your baby to develop gas or an allergic reaction to your breast milk. Certain foods that a pregnant woman eats contain allergens that can cause discomfort and tummy upset for the nursing baby.If you breastfeed and your baby has developed colic, try to see if there is anything new you’ve added to your diet and refrain from eating it to see if the problem corrects itself.
  • Swallowing Too Much Air – During feeding sessions, some infants can swallow too much air. This can cause gas to be trapped in your infant’s body. Gassiness and bloating can make a baby colicky.
  • Over Stimulation– Maybe it’s too rowdy or too many people are paying attention to your baby. Either way over stimulation may trigger colic. A good way to soothe your baby is to try one of these two methods:
    1. Swaddling – A technique where you wrap your baby up in a blanket and recreate your child’s warmth and comfort in the womb.
    2. Play white noise – White noise is a constant “hum” or “buzz” that soothes babies. White noise CDs can be purchased in store. There are also some free clips available online. In addition, there are some household items that have the same white noise affect: vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, fan, or blow dryer.
  • Smoking in Pregnancy – Lastly, new research suggests that mothers who smoke or wear nicotine patches during their pregnancy are up to 60 percent more likely to have colicky baby.
  • Frequent Migraines in Pregnancy – Another similar study also noted that women who suffer from frequent migraines are also more likely to give birth to a colicky baby. 

Colic Treatments

Because colic has no known cause – only possible causes – there is not one single treatment that will make your baby’s crying fits go away. However, there are certain things you can do to try to make your life with a colicky baby easier. In addition to swaddling and playing white noise, try one of these tips:

  • When your baby starts crying, go to a quiet, dark room and gently rock your baby. It may also help to put your baby in a stroller, or to put him or her in a car and take a short drive. This can sometimes soothe your baby.
  • Try burping your baby. Because gas and bloating can play a role in contributing to colic, burping your child may help give him or her some relief.
  • Homeopathic gripe water can help. Some pediatricians recommend gripe water as a natural treatment for colic. Colic Calm is one of the most recommended brands. It is a FBA regulated medicine (homeopathic with all natural ingredients), manufactured in the USA, and is free of alcohol, sugar, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), wheat, soy, diary, gluten, animal products, and simethicone. The active ingredients in Colic Calm homeopathic gripe water include peppermint, lemon balm, chamomile, caraway, fennel, ginger, aloe, blackthorn, and vegetable carbon. All of these ingredients work together to soothe any stomach upsets, infant gas, acid reflux, and teething discomfort.
  • If you’re a breastfeeding mother with a colicky baby, you may want to avoid drinking any milk or eating milk products. Milk, caffeine, beans, broccoli, and onions are a few common food triggers of colic.

Although it’s hard to see your baby cry, colic doesn’t last forever and it will eventually disappear.If you need a break, ask your friends and family members to watch the baby. Sometimes, frustration can turn to anger, and you don’t want to do anything that may harm your baby – even by accident. So take a break if you need one.Contact your baby’s doctor if your baby isn’t eating well, has diarrhea, or is vomiting.

Special Thanks to My Guest Writer.
Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.

About the author: This blog post was written by a guest contributor. If you’d like to guest post for Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies, please read my Guest Writing Policy for a guideline of what I am looking for. All guest posts need to be at least 500 words and be original to this site only.

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Carlee December 14, 2016, 2:13 am

    I’m impressed! You’ve managed the almost imelosibsp.

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