The Truth about Colic




Nine months have past and your long awaited bundle of joy is finally in your arms. But, wait. The joy part seems to be missing. Especially since your baby won’t stop crying. Well, isn’t that normal? Aren’t babies supposed to cry?

 Of course! It’s a baby’s job to cry. About half of all babies fuss or cry for more than 90 minutes a day. But, 15 percent wail for more than three hours a day. These super-cranky babies are the ones doctors typically diagnose with colic <> , a label that technically means severe abdominal pain but is often used for those infants who take the word cry-baby to a whole new level!

If you feel that your baby is crying a lot, don’t just assume it is colic though. First and foremost consult your baby’s doctor. Your pediatrician will want to check your baby to make sure there is no medical reason for the crying.

Call your infant’s pediatrician right away if:      

  • Your baby cries constantly for more than three hours or the cries are unusually shrill or intense
  • Your crying baby cannot be comforted, has a tense, hard belly, and this has not ever happened before, or been checked by a doctor
  • Your baby seems to be in pain or acts sick
  • Your baby’s temperature is over 100.5 º
  • Your baby is vomiting or has diarrhea

If no underlying cause is found for your infant’s crying, the doctor will probably say your baby has colic. Parents shouldn’t worry about colic. It is perfectly normal and does not mean there is anything wrong with your infant. In fact, some experts claim there's really no such thing. It’s just a fancy term used for infants that just cry way too much!

What should parents know about this condition of non-stop crying that may not even exist? Let’s start with some of the facts.

Typically the excessive crying associated with colic:

  • Begins at around two to four weeks of life
  • Can peak at around six to eight weeks of age
  • Usually resolves by around twelve to sixteen weeks (although it can continue in some cases until a baby is 5 months or older).

In most cases, the intense crying occurs in the late afternoon or evening and usually lasts for several hours. You may also notice that your baby's face becomes flushed. Some babies may clench their fists, draw their knees up to their tummies or arch their backs.

Babies with colic may appear to be in distress. However, nothing indicates that infants experience any pain or suffering. The crying outbursts are not harmful and your baby will continue to feed and gain weight normally. There is no evidence that colic has any long-term effects on a baby’s health.

Doctors are not sure what causes colic. But. it may be the result of a baby's sensitive temperament <> and an immature nervous system <> . These things may make a baby cry easily and have trouble stopping. As babies grow and develop, they are better able to control their crying. Colic is not related to health conditions, such as digestion problems. But having gas in the belly can make crying worse.

There is currently no established method of relief that works for all babies with colic. However, there many things that may sooth babies and reduce crying. 

These include:

  • Carrying or holding your baby during a crying episode.
  • Preventing infants from swallowing air by sitting them upright during feeding.
  • Bathing your baby in a warm bath.
  • Gently massaging your baby's tummy.
  • Playing music and dancing with your infant.
  • Taking your baby for a walk in the stroller.
  • Going for a car ride.
  • Rocking your baby.
  • Vacuuming while wearing your baby in a baby carrier. White noise from vacuums and hair dryers often calm a crying infant.
  • Burping your infant more frequently.
  • Giving your baby smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of fewer, larger meals.

Some simple dietary changes may help as well. If your baby eats formula, try switching to a soy-free or dairy-free version. Or make those changes in your own diet if you’re breastfeeding, cutting back on your own dairy intake, as well as spicy or caffeinated foods.

Dairy often leads to sensitivity or even allergic reactions when included in an infant’s diet. Babies may be less-equipped to handle lactose because they haven’t developed enough of the natural enzymes in their digestive tracts that are necessary to digesting the proteins in cow’s milk. Breast milk contains a more-tolerable level of lactose.

There are no clear cut factors that increase an infant’s risk for colic. It occurs equally in boys and girls, and in babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed. But, research suggests a definite link between colic and smoking. Mothers should quit smoking during pregnancy and not smoke after giving birth. What’s more, no one should smoke around infants at anytime.

Taking care of a baby with colic can be stressful for parents, particularly first-time parents.

It is important to remember that:

  • Your baby’s colic is not your fault.. It does not mean your baby is unwell, you are doing something wrong or that your baby is rejecting you.
  • Colic is temporary. Your baby will get better eventually.
  • You should look after your own wellbeing. If possible, ask friends and family for support as it is important that you can take a break and rest when your baby is asleep.
  • Consult a healthcare provider or support groups, such as Cry-sis <> , for help and advice if you need it.