About 1 in every 5 infants younger than 3 months is diagnosed with colic (1). Colic is a condition that is characterized by crying continuously for more than three hours, thrice a week, for three weeks.
Has your child been experiencing something similar? Before you start to worry, let me tell you that colic is a rather common condition, and it also appears in healthy, well-fed babies. This condition becomes better on its own in a few months, but there is no cure for it as such. However, you can definitely take a few steps to make these crying episodes better for your baby and yourself. After all, which parent would like to see their little munchkin cry all day? Continue reading to know more about colic and how you can help soothe it for your infant.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Colic In Infants?
- What Causes Colic In Babies?
- Signs And Symptoms
- Natural Ways To Calm A Colicky Baby
- Parent Self-Care Tips
What Is Colic In Infants?
Colic or baby colic is the term used to define episodes of constant crying for more than three hours daily for more than three days, for more than three weeks.
It is most likely to begin when your infant completes two weeks.
The exact cause of colic is yet to be understood. However, certain theories of what could be behind it are discussed below.
What Causes Colic In Babies?
- A developing digestive system that may cause muscle spasms
- Hormones that can cause a fussy mood and/or stomach pain
- Oversensitivity to light, noise, etc.
- A nervous system that is still developing
In some cases, your baby could be showing symptoms of colic due to some underlying conditions such as:
- Stomach problems like acid reflux
- An infection
- Inflammation of the brain or nervous system
- Problems with the eye like a scratch or an increased pressure
- Irregular beating of the heart
- Vaccine reaction
Also, when a child is colicky, he/she may exhibit the following signs and symptoms.
Signs And Symptoms
- Furious crying that usually occurs during late afternoons and evenings
- A change in posture – you may notice that your child’s fists are clenched, muscles tensed, and the back arched
- Irregular sleep interrupted by crying episodes
- Feeding difficulty
- Passing of wind
These symptoms may vary in different infants. Concerned parents usually take their child to a doctor, taken aback by the frequent crying.
The doctor starts by assessing the physical symptoms of the infant. Some infants can be suffering from an underlying condition like intestinal obstruction.
But if the child is otherwise healthy without any evident symptoms, he/she may be diagnosed with colic. Unless the doctor suspects an underlying medical condition, no additional laboratory tests will be conducted for colic.
It is quite normal for infants to have episodes of colic, especially in the first few months after birth. But it is no fun seeing your little ones crying their hearts out as you watch on helplessly. So, for those parents looking for safe and effective ways to calm their child, here are a few tips.
Natural Ways To Calm A Colicky Baby
- Baby Burping
- Frequent Feedings
- A Warm Bath
- Longer Feeding From Each Breast
- Comfort Cuddling
- Gentle Baby Rocking
- Music For Security And Comfort
- Tummy Massage
- Use A Pacifier
- Take Your Child Out
- Mother’s Diet
How To Get Rid Of Colic In Infants
1. Baby Burping
Make it a point to ensure that your baby has burped after every feed. To do this:
- Hold your baby upright against your shoulder.
- Support the neck and head of the child with your hands.
- Either rub or gently tap on their back until the infant burps.
While doing so, it is normal for some babies to bring up a little milk.
2. Frequent Feedings
Instead of longer and less frequent feedings, feed your baby frequently for shorter periods. This will also help prevent acid reflux.
3. A Warm Bath
Digestive discomfort is one of the many reasons believed to cause colic. Giving your little one a warm (not hot) bath can be calming and soothing to his/her stomach. Also, babies like being all warm, so it’s a win-win situation!
4. Longer Feeding From Each Breast
While you feed your baby for shorter periods more frequently, you must ensure that the baby is feeding long enough (15-20 minutes) on one breast before switching to the breast. This is to ensure your baby gets enough of the foremilk as well as hindmilk.
5. Comfort Cuddling
Many a time, you may have noticed that your baby stops crying sooner if you carry him/her. So, to soothe a crying baby, hold him/her close or lift him/her and cuddle for a bit.
6. Gentle Baby Rocking
Holding your baby upright on your shoulder and gently rocking or swinging it to and fro calms the little one (2).
7. Music For Security And Comfort
Any background noise, be it your washing machine or some soothing music, is capable of distracting your little one from his/her crying bouts (3), (4). You can even hum your favorite song to relax your baby, but make sure to dim the lighting before doing so for this trick to work better.
8. Tummy Massages
Gentle tummy massages can also help ease colic (5).
- Using one hand, apply a little pressure on your baby’s abdomen.
- Start from below the ribs to the top of the hips.
- Holding your child’s ankles, bring his/her knees to the abdomen and hold them for a few seconds.
- Rotate your infant’s knees gently in the clockwise direction over the stomach.
- This eases an aching tummy and also helps pass gas.
9. Use A Pacifier
Many parents have found success by giving their child a pacifier to stop the random crying episodes. Nowadays, anti-colic bottles are also available that reduce the amount of air in the milk being fed (6).
10. Take Your Child Out
Taking your child for a walk in a stroller or ride in the car can also help with colic. Carry an infant sling with you if you decide to walk while carrying your child as it may become tiring.
11. Mother’s Diet
A mother’s diet influences a newborn in many ways as breast milk is the sole source of food for the infant.
A study found that the consumption of probiotic-rich foods by the mothers helped reduce colic in infants (7).
Nursing mothers are also asked to avoid hypoallergenic foods like milk. But for some infants, such foods have shown to work against colic (8).
Other foods that must be avoided are caffeinated drinks, vegetables that cause gas like broccoli or cauliflower, and citrus fruits.
While you try out these ways to calm your child, you must also pay attention to your health and lifestyle. Mothers, especially the nursing and expecting ones, must follow these tips.
Parent Self-Care Tips
- Breastfeeding mothers must avoid tea, coffee, and spicy foods.
- Quit drinking alcohol.
- Avoid foods that are hypoallergenic.
- Relax and don’t be stressed out.
- Plan a daily routine for yourself as well as your baby.
You can also seek support from your near and dear ones to help you cope better with your colicky infant.
Colic can have a negative impact on the well-being of both the parents and the child. But instead of stressing too much about it, you need to understand that dealing with it is part and parcel of parenthood.
Hope this post helps you manage your colicky baby better. For any more doubts, feel free to ping us in the comments box below.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
When to see a doctor for colic?
If your baby is crying excessively, and if you see that he/she is gaining or losing weight due to feeding problems, it is best to consult a doctor.
What not to eat while breastfeeding a colicky baby?
Breastfeeding mothers must avoid consuming foods like:
• Spicy foods
• Too many grains and nuts
• Gas-producing foods
• Junk foods
When do babies get colic?
Colic usually onsets when the baby is 2 to 3 weeks old. Your baby can become colicky for various reasons like – if they are wet, hungry, frightened, tired, or even if they are having digestive problems like gas.
- “Efficacy of Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 for infantile colic”, Medicine (Baltimore), US National Library of Medicine
- “The effect of two different swinging methods upon colic and crying durations among the infants” Indian Journal Of Pain
- “The effects of contingent music and differential reinforcement on infantile colic” Behaviour Research and Therapy, US National Library of Medicine
- “Comparison between swinging and playing of white noise among colicky babies: A paired randomised controlled trial” Journal of Clinical Nursing, US National Library of Medicine
- “The Comparison of the Effects of Massaging and Rocking on Infantile Colic” Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, US National Library of Medicine
- “The treatment of “colic” in infancy by use of the pacifier” The Journal Of Pediatrics
- “Colicky baby? Here’s a surprising remedy” The Journal Of Family Practice, US National Library of Medicine
- “Dietary manipulations for infantile colic” Pediatrics Child Health, US National Library of Medicine