Your baby cries every evening for hours at a time, and the crying has worn you down to the point where you feel like joining in. What could be upsetting your child?
Though all newborns cry and show some fussiness, when a child who is otherwise healthy cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week for at least 3 weeks, it is a condition known as colic, which is perfectly normal and eventually goes away on its own.
It’s estimated that up to 40% of all infants have colic. It usually starts between the 3rd and 6th week after birth and ends by the time the baby is 3 months old. If the baby is still crying excessively after that, another health problem may be to blame.
Here are some key facts about colic:
- Colicky babies have a healthy sucking reflex and a good appetite and are otherwise healthy and growing well..
- Colicky babies like to be cuddled and handled..
- Colicky babies may spit up from time to time
- Colicky babies typically have normal stools.
What Causes Colic?
Doctors aren’t sure what causes colic.
- Milk intolerance has been suggested as a possible culprit, but doctors now believe that this is rarely the case. Breastfed babies get colic too; in these cases, dietary changes by the mother may help the colic to subside. Some breastfeeding women find that getting rid of caffeine in their diet helps, while others see improvements when they eliminate dairy products.
- Some colicky babies also have gas, but it’s not clear if the gas causes colic or if the babies develop gas as a result of swallowing too much air while crying.
- Some theories suggest that colic occurs when food moves too quickly through a baby’s digestive system or is incompletely digested.
- Other theories are that colic is due to a baby’s temperament, that some babies just take a little bit longer to get adjusted to the world,
No single treatment has proved to make colic go away. But there are ways to make life easier for both you and your colicky baby.
First, if your baby is not hungry, don’t try to continue the feeding. Instead, try to console your little one — you won’t be “spoiling” the baby with the attention. You can also:
- Walk with your baby or sit in a rocking chair, trying various positions.
- Try burping your baby more often during feedings.
- Place your baby across your lap on his or her belly and rub your baby’s back.
- Put your baby in a swing or vibrating seat. The motion may have a soothing effect.
- Put your baby in an infant car seat in the back of the car and go for a ride. The vibration and movement of the car are often calming.
- Play music tapes — some babies respond to sound as well as movement.
- Stay relaxed and happy. If mothers become anxious due to crying, then certain hormones will cross to the baby via mother’s milk and aggravate the crying.
- Some babies need decreased stimulation and may do well swaddled, in a darkened room.
Caring for a colicky baby can be extremely frustrating, so be sure to take care of yourself, too. Don’t blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying — colic is nobody’s fault. Try to relax, and remember that your baby will eventually outgrow this phase.
In the meantime, if you need a break from your baby’s crying, take one. Relatives are often happy to watch your baby when you need some time to yourself. If no one is immediately available, it’s OK to put the baby down in the crib and take a break before making another attempt at consolation.
VISIT YOUR DOCTOR OR VISIT EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT IF
- If the baby has a temperature of 100.4° Fahrenheit (38° Celsius) or more
- is crying for more than 2 hours at a time, is inconsolable,
- isn’t feeding well,
- has diarrhea o
- persistent vomiting,
- or is less awake or alert than usual
- if you’re unsure whether your baby’s crying is colic or a symptom of another illness.