March is Colic Awareness Month, and if you’re expecting or just became a new parent, it’s good to learn more about colic.
What is Colic?
The good news is colic is not a disease, and it doesn’t mean there is something wrong with your baby. It’s a common condition that affects anywhere from 10% to 40% of infants
Colic is a term used to describe a set of behaviors in infants that involve frequent, prolonged, and intense crying or fussiness with no obvious cause.
All infants cry as a way to communicate their needs. However, in babies with colic, the crying starts suddenly and lasts several hours.
Having a newborn with colic can be stressful and frustrating for parents because no consoling seems to bring relief. To make matters worse, the distress often occurs in the evenings when parents themselves are exhausted.
Symptoms of Colic
- Intense crying that more resembles screaming
- Crying is not related to an immediate need such as diaper change or feeling hungry
- Bodily tension, such as clenched fists, stiffened legs and arms, tense belly, or arched back
- Fussiness continues even after crying has stopped
- Episodes typically occur at the same time, most often in the evenings
- Changes in coloration such as face reddening or skin paler skin around the mouth area
How is it Diagnosed?
Pediatricians usually diagnose infant colic based on these factors:
- Your baby cries for at least three hours a day
- The crying episodes occur at least three days a week
- The behavior persists for three weeks or more
Although it may seem like an eternity, infant colic will pass.
Most cases start early when your baby is two to three weeks old. The episodes usually peak at six weeks old and decline significantly after three to four months of age.
What Can Cause Colic in Infants?
While the exact cause of colic is unknown, researchers say it may result from several contributing factors, including:
- An underdeveloped or immature digestive system
- Changes or imbalances of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
- Food allergies or intolerances such as lactose intolerance
- Poor feeding techniques (underfeeding, overfeeding, or not burping frequently)
- Family stress or anxiety
- Having a mother who smokes or is using nicotine replacement therapy
There is no definitive cure for colic. The condition usually resolves itself over time; however, some prevention tips are worth trying.
Modify Your Feed Technique
In some cases, colic is believed to be a result of swallowing air while feeding. To minimize this, you can try the following:
If Breastfeeding: Try holding your baby in an upright position while they feed.
If Bottle-Feeding: Use a fast-flow teat that allows milk to flow more freely when your baby sucks
Modify Your Diet
What you eat and drink can pass into breast milk and could cause colic in your baby.
While breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and foods known to produce gas, such as broccoli, cabbage, and beans.
You should also avoid foods that are common allergens, like nuts and dairy products.
Make sure you speak to your OB-GYN and your pediatrician about any medications you are taking, as these could affect your baby.
When to See a Doctor?
If your baby starts crying uncontrollably, it’s best to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.
Your child’s doctor will examine them and make sure the crying and discomfort are not signs of an illness.