Have you ever heard a parent say, "My baby has colic," and wondered what it actually means?
Colic is a term that is often used to describe excessive, inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy infant. It's a distressing condition that affects many newborns and their parents, causing frustration, exhaustion, and sometimes even feelings of helplessness.
How Does It Start?
Colic typically starts around the second or third week of a baby's life and can persist for several months. It is characterised by intense crying episodes that occur for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for three consecutive weeks or more.
These episodes often happen in the late afternoon or evening and can last for hours. The crying is usually accompanied by signs of discomfort, such as clenched fists, an arched back, and a flushed face.
What Causes Colic In Babies?
The exact cause of colic remains unknown, but there are several theories that attempt to explain why some babies experience it.
One theory suggests that colic may be related to gastrointestinal issues, such as gas or digestive problems. Another idea focuses on a baby's immature nervous system, which may make them more sensitive to stimuli and prone to overstimulation. Some studies also suggest that maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal stress, or a family history of colic may increase the likelihood of a baby developing colic.
What Should You Do?
Colic is a temporary and self-limiting condition that usually resolves on its own by the time the baby is three to four months old. However, this doesn't make the experience any less challenging for the parents.
If you suspect that your baby has colic, it is essential to consult with your paediatrician to rule out any other underlying medical conditions. Once a diagnosis of colic is confirmed, there are several strategies that can help manage and soothe a colicky baby.
Experiment with different soothing techniques to find what works best for your baby. Gentle rocking, swaddling, or using a baby swing may provide relief. Some babies find comfort in white noise or gentle music.
It is important to remember that you cannot hold your baby too much. You are not spoiling your baby by comforting them. They are still very small and as a parent you are their main source of comfort, nutrition and safety.
If your baby is breastfed, consider eliminating potential triggers from your diet, such as caffeine or spicy foods. If using a formula, you can discuss with your paediatrician the possibility of trying different formulas that are designed for babies with colic or digestive sensitivities.
Make sure to burp your baby frequently during and after feedings. Trapped air can contribute to discomfort and crying.
Burping often takes longer than you might think. Try to adjust the burping timeframe to a few minutes longer per session, and see if it makes a difference.
Some parents find relief by using over-the-counter colic drops or gripe water, which are herbal supplements that may help soothe a baby's digestive system. However, consulting with your paediatrician before using any medication or supplement is crucial.
Create a calm and quiet environment for your baby. Dim the lights, reduce noise levels, and minimise exposure to overstimulation. Sometimes, a change of scenery or taking the baby for a walk outside can help - for both baby and parent.
Reach out to friends, family, or support groups to share your experiences and seek emotional support. If someone offers to help, accept it. Remember that you are not alone in this journey, even if it feels that way.
Taking care of a colicky baby can be draining and emotionally challenging. Make sure to prioritise self-care by getting enough rest, eating well, and seeking support when needed.
This might seem like it is easier said than done - especially the part about getting enough rest. Remember that your well-being matters. Give yourself grace to rest when you can.
It Gets Better
Colic can be an incredibly trying time for parents, but it's essential to remember that it is a temporary phase. As your baby grows and develops, the colicky symptoms will gradually fade away.
In the meantime, focus on providing a loving and supportive environment for your little one, and don't hesitate to seek help and guidance from healthcare professionals. Remember, you are doing your best, and this too shall pass.