Colic: What to do With a Colicky Baby

Any parent, whether new or not, understands that crying is just a part of life with a newborn. However, when your baby's crying seems to never end, there may be more than just hunger or gas pains to blame. Colic is a relatively common condition affecting some 20% of newborn babies. Although children with colic may seem like they are suffering, it does not in fact cause them any pain. Of course, that doesn't stop it from being a source of distress for both parent and child. The good news is that there are ways to make life easier for both you and your baby.

Does My Baby Have Colic?
When your healthy and well-fed newborn regularly cries for what appears to be extended periods of time, you should consider that she may have colic. Some common signs of colic are:


  • If she is crying for at least three hours a day, three or four days a week.
  • When excessive crying begins when your newborn is between two and six weeks old and continues until they are three months.
  • She has a hard time sleeping and/or is frequently constipated constipated.
  • When a newborn with colic cries, they tend to draw their arms and legs tightly into their bodies. In addition, their face will be bright red and they may pass a lot of wind.

The crying tends to be worse in the evening than at any other time.

Causes of Colic
Unfortunately, medical professionals have been so far unable to locate a specific reason for why certain babies develop colic. Some have speculated that gastrointestinal problems may be one cause but most agree that, while abdominal gas can aggravate colic, it is most likely not a cause of it.

Other possible causes of colic include:


  • The baby's temperament. Babies who are more sensitive tend to cry more easily.
  • An immature nervous system. If their nervous system is still slightly undeveloped, then they may not have the ability to stop their tears just yet.
  • For the mother's part, it has been found that women who smoke during pregnancy, had a long labor, needed an epidural, or required forceps during their delivery are more likely to have a colicky baby.

What You Can Do
Just as no cause of colic has been located, neither has a cure. The good news, however, is that there is a general time limit for how long the colic will last: as babies learn to soothe themselves and develop better social skills, their colic tends to ease up and disappear (around three months). Of course, this delay may not come as good news for parents of newborns. So in the meantime, there are some other tricks you can try to help you cope.


    1. If you are bottle-feeding your baby, you may consider switching formulas. Changing from a cow's milk-based to a soy-based formula is one possibility, as many babies have trouble digesting the lactose found in milk.


    2. If you are breastfeeding, your diet may be at play. Generally speaking, you may want to try cutting out beans, onions, garlic, apricots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, spicy foods and caffeine, as these have been found to be common irritants for newborn's sensitive digestive system. You can then gradually reintroduce the foods to see if there is one in particular that is causing the problem. You may also want to try cutting out cow's milk as the lactose in it could cause your newborn to have some troubles digesting your breast milk. You may also want to try eating organic food.


    3. Colicky babies tend to have a lot of pent up gas. To relieve this, try burping them frequently. You may also want to try different feeding positions and bottles that reduce the amount of air your baby takes in while they are feeding.


    4. When they do start crying, some tried and tested soothing methods may do the trick; such as taking your baby for a ride in the car, walking around the house with her, or gently rocking with her in a rocking chair.

When to Get Help
Although having a colicky baby is relatively common, there are still circumstances under which it might be a good idea to seek the help of a medical professional. To rule out the possibility of something else being at play, ensure the following:


  • That your baby isn't crying because he is hungry, tired, or uncomfortable because of too much or too little clothing.
  • This may sound obvious, but be sure you are cuddling your baby enough. Newborn babies simply cannot have too much attention and affection so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity to shower them with it!
  • As a precaution, you should also check that your baby isn't crying due to discomfort caused by a diaper rash or another type of common problem.

If you do decide to go to the doctor's, be sure to have all the facts ready. Know when your baby cries, when they eat and when they sleep. You will also want to be aware of the pattern of their bowel movements. This will help your doctor to confirm there are no other issues to consider.

Finally, don't feel guilty about your own feelings of frustration; being a parent to a colicky child can be incredibly stressful. Putting up with your child's constant crying for long periods of time can easily wear on anyone's nerves. In addition, since as a parent your natural reaction is to help your child, knowing there is not much you can do make you can be extremely frustrating.

That's why it's so important to ask for help before it all gets to be too much; ask your partner, a friend, neighbor, or relative to look after your newborn for a short period of time so you can unwind. Even just a half an hour to take a relaxing bath or a brisk walk may be all you need to refocus and reboot.


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