Causes of Colic

If your baby exhibits the signs of colic, the first question you will have will be about the causes of colic. The symptoms are easy to recognize. The baby cries inconsolably for hours. When the baby cries, she appears to be in pain.
by Patricia Hughes

If your baby exhibits the signs of colic, the first question you will have will be about the causes of colic. The symptoms are easy to recognize. The baby cries inconsolably for hours. When the baby cries, she appears to be in pain. There is little you can do to help the baby or ease the crying. Doctors use the rule of threes to diagnose colic. This means the baby starts crying by the third week, cries for at least three hours each day and cries more than three days each week.
The fact is, doctors know very little about the causes of colic. They seem to use colic as a diagnosis for crying with no known origin or underlying medical condition. Although no one knows the exact cause, there are several theories. Even if none of these is the cause of the colic, they definitely can contribute to the problem.
It was once thought that gas causes colic. My first two babies were colicky. When my oldest was born, eight years ago, her pediatrician recommended gas drops and thought the problem could be due to gas. The reason for this thinking was that many babies with colic pull up their legs and pass gas during the crying spells. Research has disproved this as the cause of colic. However, some babies are helped by gas relief drops.
Another theory is that the baby has an immature nervous system. Babies with colic may have a nervous system that is less mature than other babies. This causes the baby to have trouble regulating her crying. When she starts, she can’t stop crying. As the baby’s nervous system develops, the colic resolves on its own. This would explain the fact that colic tends to disappear by the time the baby is three months old.
Food sensitivities are sometimes blamed for colic. This is not considered to be the cause since all colicky babies don’t have sensitivity to food. However, if the baby has food sensitivities, this can contribute to gas, spitting up and crying. Keeping a food journal is a good way to detect food sensitivities. Keep track of when the baby feeds, how much he eats and the colicky periods. You may see a correlation between feeding and crying.
 If this happens, talk to your pediatrician. The baby may be reacting to a food you have eaten, if you are breastfeeding. This can be helped by eliminating certain foods from your diet.  If you are formula feeding, a change in formula may be needed. Some babies are lactose intolerant and may need a soy based formula.
Another theory is that colic is related to the baby’s temperament. Some babies are very sensitive to stimulation. As a result, they become easily over stimulated. This over stimulation leads to long periods of crying. This would explain the witching hour, the evening hours when colic often occurs. During this time of day, the baby is bombarded by stimulation. The older siblings and Daddy get home. There is homework, dinner and many other activities going on. This over stimulates the baby and causes crying.
Many factors can contribute to colic. Underlying medical causes contribute to the problem as well. Your doctor can help you determine these factors. You can help your doctor by keeping a colic diary. Include a basic look at your day. Write down when the baby eats, how long he feeds, diaper changes, naps and crying periods. Note the time of day each of these activities occurs. The doctor may be able to find a correlation between the baby’s routine that can help detect a problem. Make a note of anything that seems to trigger periods of crying. Make a note of anything you do to comfort the baby and how it works.
The doctor may be able to determine an underlying cause of colic. Don’t depend on this happening. In many cases, no underlying cause can be determined. The baby is in perfect health and does not seem to be negatively affected by the colicky periods. This happens in most cases. The colic goes away on its own and the baby continues to grow and develop normally.
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.

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2006


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