Written by: Cally Worden
The broad definition of Colic applies to a baby who cries for more than 3 hours a day, and whose distress is not caused by some medical issue. Colic is very common, and is thought to affect around 20% (or 1 in 5) babies at one time or another. The peak time for Colic to occur is between 3 -6 weeks of age.
What Causes Colic?
Experts have varying views on the causes of Colic, which is one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat. When your baby has Colic it can feel like nothing will settle them. You’ve made sure they are warm but not too hot, have a dry nappy, and are fed and winded. Yet still your baby cries and you find yourself endlessly pacing the floor, with your wailing infant on your shoulder, feeling utterly helpless.
Colic crying is most likely to occur in the evening. It can last anything from a few minutes to several hours. Many babies who suffer from Colic seem to have oversensitivity to stimulation. Others appear to suffer from intestinal gas that isn’t relieved by winding. Babies who has recently fed can still be hungry, or perhaps overfed, and exhibit a Colicky cry as a result. A few babies may have an undetected intolerance to breast milk or formula. Sometimes a Colic cry may simply be because your baby is feeling scared or anxious. If, as a parent, you are feeling stressed or depressed your baby may also be picking up on these emotions and cry more.
What are the Symptoms?
These vary, but many babies show similar signs. These include:
- Hands balled into fists
- Legs curled up towards the tummy
- A swollen belly
Differentiating Colic from another medical issue can be a problem. Trust your instincts – you know your baby, and if you feel something is not right, that this is more than just Colic, don’t hesitate to call your Doctor for advice. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
What Can I do to Help my Colicky Baby?
With so many potential causes it can be difficult to know how best to respond to your Colicky baby. In many cases nothing you can do will relieve the crying, and the only comfort you can provide is your calm presence. Tricky when you are sleep deprived and overwrought yourself. Ear defenders can help! Other tips include:
1. Sing soft lullabies – I found the repetition of simple nursery rhyme tunes helped soothe both me and my babies.
2. Offer a Dummy – Yes, the ‘D’ word. Even if you’re not a fan of these they can sometimes bring instant relief to a Colicky baby. We tried this with my son, and it was like a mini-miracle
3. Try white noise – Babies inside the womb are subject to a constant low-level of noise that is dominated by Mum’s heartbeat and the gentle rush of blood coursing around the body. Simulating this ‘white noise’ can be very comforting, be it via quiet static from the radio, or a CD designed specifically for this purpose.
4. Lay you baby on his stomach for a back rub – Anyone familiar with the advice on preventing SIDS knows that leaving a baby to sleep on his tummy is unwise, so never leave your baby in this position. However, with you present, and offering a gentle back rub, many Colicky babies can be soothed.
5. Take a drive – I know, you may worry about storing up sleep issues for later, but even the worst sleep problems can always be resolved, so if your Colicky baby is driving you to distraction try driving him around. The motion and engine noise can send the most fractious infant into blissful sleep.
6. Hold your baby upright – This can help relieve trapped gas. A warm towel or water bottle held against the tummy can sometimes have the same beneficial effect.
7. Rock your baby -The motion is calming, and can help to break the cycle of crying that causes the baby to inhale more air, compounding any problem with wind or gas.
The good news is that most babies outgrow Colic by 3-4 months of age. When you’re in the middle of a bad Colic period it can feel like it will never end. Try to share the soothing with another adult if at all possible. If you are alone with your baby and find yourself becoming distressed be sure to take a break. Lay your baby down on his back in his cot and leave the room for a few minutes. Better to allow him to cry alone for a short time than to lose your rag. Be kind to yourself too. Dealing with Colic is tough, but with patience you will navigate your path safely through this challenging time.