Baby Colic – Causes and Treatment

unhappy baby with colic
All babies cry, but two out of every ten babies will be affected by colic. The main problem with the condition is the stress and anxiety it creates at home, especially if it's your first child. Here are some causes of colic and what you can do to help comfort your baby.

by Jennifer Shakeel

All babies cry, but two out of every ten babies will be affected by colic. Colic is an inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy baby that has bouts of fussiness and irritability. While the condition is completely harmless to the baby, it can make parents want to pull their hair out or start crying themselves.

Colic usually happens in the first few weeks of life of the baby and can last until they are four months old. The crying is often intense and absolutely furious and it can last for hours or days. This is crying that doesn’t stop with feeding, burping, rocking or anything. If your baby has colic it will be worse in the afternoon or evening then it is in the morning.

What you need to know is that your baby is not in pain, though he or she looks like they are in pain. Their belly does not hurt; though it will feel tight understand that is because they are screaming. Think about when you are crying, or stressed your stomach feels tight, and you have problems eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. It isn’t any different for baby.

The main problem with the condition is the stress and anxiety it creates at home, especially if it's your first child. You may find being unable to comfort your new baby stressful, as well as finding it difficult to cope with the constant crying, so it's important for you to have support and to take a break if things get on top of you.

Causes of Colic

So then, what causes colic? To be honest, we medical professionals have no idea. There are a couple of theories though. One theory is that colic is due to an immature digestive system. That immaturity has problems dealing with different substances such as lactose. The evidence to back this theory though is limited. A second theory is that colic is due to the temperament of your baby. Meaning that your baby is highly sensitive to the environment, I am not sure about that theory either. One thing is for sure though, that if you smoked while you were pregnant then your baby is twice as likely to get colic.

If you are worried that your baby has colic and are considering call your doctor try to do a little self diagnosising first. (It’s okay this is one of those times that self diagnosising is okay.)
• winding – sit a bottle-fed baby upright when feeding to reduce his or her air intake (ask your health visitor for advice on how to do this properly)
• drinking milk too quickly in a bottle-fed baby – you may find it helpful to try different teat sizes
• hunger or thirst
• tiredness
• lack of contact – some babies want to be cuddled all the time
• temperature – your baby may be too hot or too cold
• itchiness – itchy clothes or labels, or eczema
• pain – there may be an identifiable source of pain, such as nappy rash

If the above reasons are not the reason behind your baby crying then you may want to call your family doctor. The doctor will perform and examine and ask you about your baby’s behavior. The reason for this is that if you can describe when your baby cries and their bowel pattern that the doctor may be able to figure out what is causing your baby to cry.

Colic Treatment Options

How is colic treated? While you may need a stiff drink, there isn’t any proven medical treatment for babies with colic. There are a number of homeopathic treatments that are available of over the counter. What is important to know that each baby is an individual, so they are all going to be comforted different ways, and here a few suggestions for you to try:

• Hold your baby and walk or dance around with him or her. Babies need lots of contact and like the movement.
• Carry your baby in a front sling or backpack.
• Try using a baby swing.
• Sing softly and talk to your baby.
• You may want to change your baby's position by propping him or her up, so he or she can look around more.
• Try to soothe your baby with continuous noise or vibrations from household appliances like the dishwasher, vacuum cleaner or washing machine.
• Take your baby for a car ride or a walk in the buggy.
• Give your baby a dummy to suck on.
• Bathe your baby – the warm water may be comforting.

One of the best things you can do when you are caring for a baby with colic is know your own limits. It isn’t easy, it is very stressful and you need to know that it is perfectly okay to lay your baby in his or her crib with the sides up, close the bedroom door and take a few moments for yourself. This could mean that you take a shower… that you sit and have a cup of tea… that you take a few minutes to listen to soothing music, or just stand outside of your home and deep breathe. You feeling tense or anxious is not going to help soothe baby, and having baby lay in their bed for a few minutes isn’t going to hurt anything.

Trust me, I am talking as a mother and not just a nurse. One of the hardest things to do is to lay down your crying baby and walk out of the room for a few minutes. But you as the parent have to remain calm. It isn’t going to hurt your baby.

Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience.  As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!

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