Colic is a frustrating condition that has no particular cause. If your infant is experiencing these episodes of distress, you may be wondering if there’s an end in sight.
It’s hard to see your baby cry. If he has colic, the sobbing may be inconsolable for hours on end. First know that your little one’s wails have nothing to do with your ability to parent. Colic is a somewhat mysterious condition that can develop in otherwise healthy babies and often stops as abruptly as it started.
Colic is defined as crying that lasts more than three hours per day and for at least three days a week. The episodes typically begin in the second week of life and last until the infant is about three months of age, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
“There are some practitioners who believe that colic does not exist,” says Anita Thomas-Epple and Pauline Carpenter, authors of Baby Massage and Yoga. “But for those parents that experience the early evening bouts of screaming and obvious distress with their babies it is definitely real enough! However, colic is not a serious condition.”
Babies normally cry when they are tired, wet, hungry, or frightened, but a colicky baby will cry excessively. The crying episodes will often occur around the same time of day, often in the late afternoon or evening. In babies with colic, the cries will typically be louder and higher pitched than their normal crying. The episodes will usually start and end suddenly.
What the Experts Say
“If your baby has been regularly crying for extended periods and nothing you do seems to help, the first thing to know is that you are not alone. Estimates of the proportion of babies that suffer from colic vary widely, from up to 20%, to up to 30% or even up to 40% of babies.”
Survivor’s Guide to Colic, Jen Lester
“It helps to remember that colic only lasts for around two months and that it may actually be more upsetting for you than your baby.”
Coping with Crying and Colic, Siobhan Mulholland
“Colic consists of crying episodes that typically begin in full-term infants at approximately 2 weeks of age and continue until approximately 4 months of age. It is thought to occur in 5% to 25% of infants. The crying episodes are unpredictable and often occur without any obvious stimulus.”
Primary Care of the Premature Infant, Dara Brodsky, Mary Ann Ouellette
“The colicky baby is the fussy baby plus. The colicky baby does not stop crying when a need has been met. This baby continues to cry even after you have eliminated any digestive problems or other health issues, even after the doctor has assured you that there is nothing physically wrong.”
Surviving Baby Colic, LeahMarie C. Ritz
“The exact cause or causes of colic are not known, but it occurs far more often in bottle-fed babies than in those fed naturally from the breast. It seems most probable that colic derives from one of two causes: negligent bottle feeding, which permits air to enter the nipple so that the sucking baby swallows air and experiences abdominal distension, and unnatural fermentation of carbohydrates or starches that have passed incompletely digested.”
Homeopathy and Your Child, Lyle W. Morgan
Signs of Infantile Colic
While colic eventually passes, the condition can be extremely distressing for both parents and baby. If you suspect that your baby may have colic, look for common signs and symptoms. Babies with colic often appear to be in pain, but the crying outbursts are usually not harmful and your baby will continue to eat and gain weight as normal.
Infantile colic signs and symptoms may include:
- Intense bouts of crying
- Crying that starts in the afternoon or evening that lasts several hours
- Redness or flushing in the baby’s face when he cries
- Clenching of the fist, drawing up of the knees, or arching of the back while crying
- May feel better after passing gas or having a bowel movement
There is no single treatment that has been found to get rid of colic. However, many parents have discovered different techniques that help to soothe a colicky baby. If your little one is having a colic episode, try the following tips:
- Rock the baby in a rocking chair or walk around the house
- Put the baby in a vibrating seat or swing
- Gently place the baby across your lap and rub his back
- Try burping your baby more often during feedings
- Strap the baby in a car seat and go for a ride
- Play soft music or put the baby in a room with background noise, such as a running clothes dryer
- Swaddle the baby in a dark room
Maybe you just got the news or you just have a sneaking suspicion that your baby has colic. Don’t worry: you’re not alone.
Up to 25 percent of all babies between two weeks and three months of age develop colic, according to Parents Magazine. While it can be difficult to deal with at the time, try to relax knowing that your baby will eventually outgrow this phase.