After nine long months of pregnancy, you finally bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital. You are so happy and life is wonderful. The baby is perfect and sleeps most of the day. Then one day things change. The baby is no longer this blissfully sleeping little angel. She is screaming for hours on end. The comfort measures that worked just a few days ago are useless. You try everything to calm the baby and nothing works. Soon you are crying too. You may find that you aren’t enjoying your time with the baby. You feel like a terrible parent.
A similar scenario can be seen in most homes with a [tag-ice]colicky[/tag-ice] baby. You may be wondering if your baby has colic. All babies cry. That is the main way the baby has to communicate with the parents. For some babies, this normal crying becomes anything but normal. Colic occurs in about twenty percent of babies. No one knows the exact cause of colic.
Sometimes a fussy or high need baby is misinterpreted as having [tag-cat]colic[/tag-cat]. Colic is more than just fussing or crying. A high need baby is a baby that has a need for physical contact with the parent. These babies often cry a great deal when they are put in swings, bouncy seats or car seats. When they are held or worn in a sling, these babies generally calm down and the crying is reduced.
A colicky baby will cry through most attempts at comforting. The baby continues to cry after you have ruled out the common causes of crying, including hunger, tired, in need of contact, changing [tag-tec]diapers[/tag-tec], body temperature and pain. Once you’ve eliminated each of these, the colicky baby will often continue to cry. The high need or fussy baby will stop crying once you’ve determined the problem.
Crying is the main symptom of colic. The crying can happen at any time of the day. For many babies, it is worse in the evening. This is sometimes referred to as the witching hour. The baby cries as though in pain. There are different theories as to whether or not the baby is feeling pain. Some believe there is pain involved in colic. Others believe the baby is not really in pain.
When crying the baby may draw up his legs and pass gas. When you try to feed the baby, he may arch his back and stiffen his body. The baby may not eat during colicky times of day. This is generally not a concern. Most colicky babies continue to gain well throughout this period. The baby may have trouble falling asleep and may wake crying frequently during the colicky hours of the day.
Doctors use a “rule of threes” to diagnose colic:
- Colic usually starts in the first three weeks of life
- The symptoms last for at least three weeks
- The baby cries for at least three hours per day
- These crying periods occur more than three days each week
- The symptoms usually disappear at about three months of age
If you suspect colic, mention this to your doctor at your next well baby visit. The doctor will eliminate any medical causes that may be contributing to the crying. In most cases, the colicky baby has no underlying conditions. You will just need to continue to try comfort measures to find the ones that work best for your baby. This is a very difficult time, but it will end soon. Most babies outgrow colic by the time they are three months old. Just as quickly as the symptoms began, they disappear. Your little sweetie pie is happy and you will enjoy being a parent again.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.
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