What is it?
Defined as inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy and well-cared-for baby, colic usually occurs for more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks. It affects up to 20% of babies under 12 weeks old. A colicky baby will cry as if in pain and may pull her knees up to her chest as though suffering with tummy ache. Bouts can occur from birth and usually goes away on its own by four months.
What causes it?
Although the name ‘colic’ suggests tummy trouble, no one really knows the triggers. One theory is that a newborn’s immature gut struggles to cope with digestion. Another possibility is the result of a baby’s sensitive temperament and an immature nervous system, making a baby cry easily and have trouble stopping. It is also likely that babies cry because they are not yet accustomed to all the new stimuli outside the womb. Colic is nobody’s fault; it doesn’t mean that you are a bad parent or that anything is wrong with your baby.
What can you do?
There’s no magic solution, unfortunately. Experts say different tricks work for different babies. Try holding your baby more before those expected fussy times, limit visitors, keep noise and lights low, and touch your baby only if needed. Paediatrician and child development specialist Harvey Karp, M.D., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block (Bantam), suggest trying the 5 S’s simultaneously: swaddling; side/stomach position (hold your swaddled baby while’s he on his stomach or left side); shushing sounds (white noise such as fan, vacuum cleaner, clothes dryer or CD); swinging; and sucking (a bottle, breast, pacifier or even a clean finger).
Other suggestions include rocking your baby in a quiet room; babywear and walk around with him; take him on a car or stroller ride; burp him more often during feedings; lay him on your lap and rub his back; don’t let your baby get overtired. A recent study found that probiotic drops significantly reduced crying in colicky babies. Check with your paediatrician before trying this.
Sometimes nothing works. If you feel overwhelmed and stressed, hand your baby to your husband or family member until you have calmed down. Remember that colic is normal and temporary.
Phone your doctor right away if…
Your baby cries and shows signs of being ill such as vomiting, high fever (above 38°C), is unresponsive or refuses to feed for several hours.
Intense crying for long periods
- Clenched fists
- Stiffened stomach and legs
- Arched back
- Drawing knees to stomach
Home Remedies for Colic
- Put your baby in mild repetitious motion such as that of a moving car or a rocking chair. Repetitious sounds, such as the noise of a fan or humidifier, may work too.
- Place a bowl in the bathroom sink and turn on the faucet. Hold your baby next to the sink so he can hear the water cascading into the bowl.
- Changing the baby’s formula or staying off dairy products yourself if you are breastfeeding, is worth a try as some studies have shown an improvement in colic after cow’s milk is removed from the baby’s diet.
- Fill a hot-water bottle with warm (not hot!) water and placed on a towel on the child’s back or stomach.
- Babywear your baby. Studies have shown that babies that are often carried by the age of three weeks cry 43% less.