Colic in Babies: What Does it Mean and What Can You Do?
If your baby cries for a long time during the first 6 weeks of his life without any apparent reason, you might be dealing with baby colic. It can begin suddenly and is characterized by a constant and loud baby crying. Colic can occur if your baby is sensitive to gas or if he is just not adjusting easily to the world around him. It could also be a sign of an allergy or sensitivity to milk.¹ While colic usually clears up on its own, it is still essential to learn more about what colic in babies is and how to deal with it!
What is colic?
Colic is a condition that can make your baby fussy even when he appears to be healthy, growing and gaining weight normally. It can be recognized by extreme crying for extended times, that is, crying more than 3 hours a day, more than three days a week and lasting more than three weeks. You can also tell if your baby has colic if he is gassy and not well-rested most of the time.¹ If you're still not sure whether what's making your baby fussy is colic or not, get them checked by a doctor for a diagnosis. A paediatrician can diagnose colic through a physical exam and by reviewing the baby's history and symptoms to rule out any other health issues.
Colic symptoms in babies
Colic can begin to occur in babies in the first 2 to 4 weeks of their life and can become more apparent when they turn 6 to 8 weeks old. The symptoms usually appear in the late afternoon or early evening and include some of these signs below:²
- Loud screaming for a long time.
- Frowning and becoming fussy.
- Stomach rumblings.
- Passing wind or bowel movements when he stops crying.
- Crying for 3 hours or more.
- Stomach pains, suggested by leg pulling up and moving.
- Red face
- Challenge to console the baby.
- Crying around the same time daily.
What are colic causes?
There are not really specific causes of colic in babies; However, many factors are believed to contribute to it. Some possible reasons why your baby is colicky include the following:³
- Pain when passing gas.
- Discomfort due to indigestion.
- Being underfed or overfed.
- Allergy or intolerance to breast milk or formula.
- Emotional distress due to fear or frustration.
- Overstimulation and excitement.
- A digestive system that isn't fully developed.
- Having childhood migraine headaches.
Generally, colic can be traced back to your baby's inability to adjust to the world around him easily. Some infants find it hard to get used to lights, noises or other external stimulations around them because their nervous system is still immature.
Colic treatment: How to deal with colic in babies?
While parents cannot prevent their baby from being colicky or avoid colic, they can learn to identify some colic triggers and how to reduce their baby's crying. Here are some ways to help you deal with a colicky baby:
When breastfeeding your newborn baby, try to avoid consuming foods or beverages that act as stimulants like caffeine and chocolate. Also, try to avoid dairy products in case your baby is sensitive to dairy and eliminate other allergens like peanuts, soy, wheat, eggs or fish. Finally, check with a medical professional if any medications you are taking may be triggering colic in your baby.³
If your baby is formula-fed, he may be sensitive to specific proteins in the type you're using. Try switching your baby to another brand or use a hydrolyzed formula to improve colic symptoms.⁴ Also, avoid feeding your baby too much or too quickly by feeding him more often and in smaller quantities.
Holding your baby
To help your baby cope with colic symptoms, you can try holding them in a baby sling or wrapping them in a blanket. Gently sway your baby and try different positions to soothe them, like cradling the baby in your arms or laying him on your shoulder. Another way to relieve colic pain is by lying the baby on their tummy along your forearm.⁵
Adjusting your baby's surroundings
It might be beneficial to avoid overstimulating your baby or picking them up and putting them down repeatedly. Try to comfort your baby gently in a quiet and darkroom, or gently rub their stomach after a warm bath. Some babies may like some movement to help with the pain; maybe pushing them around in a stroller could help reduce their crying.