Colic is an attack of crying and what appears to be abdominal pain in early infancy (babies). Colic is a common condition and is estimated to affect at least 20% of babies during their first few months.
All babies cry for various reasons; hunger, cold, tiredness, heat, or because the diaper (nappy) needs changing. However, a baby may cry even after being well fed, cleaned, nicely wrapped up and well cared for. If a baby has repeated episodes of inconsolable crying but appears to be healthy and well, they may have colic.
Unfortunately, there is no definite explanation for why this happens. Most often, colic means simply that the child is unusually sensitive to stimulation or cannot “self-console” or regulate his nervous system. (Also known as an immature nervous system.) As she matures, this inability to self-console—marked by constant crying—will improve. Generally this “colicky crying” will stop by three to four months, but it can last until six months of age. Sometimes, in breastfeeding babies, colic is a sign of sensitivity to a food in the mother’s diet. The discomfort is caused only rarely by sensitivity to milk protein in formula. Colicky behavior also may signal a medical problem, such as a hernia or some type of illness.
What to Do When Colic Is Stressing You Out
It’s a challenge when you have a baby with colic. Know that it’s normal and common to sometimes feel angry or resentful toward your cranky little one. You are not a bad parent to feel that way, so don’t feel guilty. Everyone has these feelings sometime.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Luckily, when it comes to comforting a colicky baby, the best help is often home remedies. Keep colic at bay by using what most of us already have around the house.
Because gas is believed to be one of colic’s chief culprits, gentle rocking can help babies not only calm down but pass gas. If you don’t have a rocking chair, try an infant swing if your baby is at least 3 weeks old.
White noise can distract baby from his discomfort. Instead of buying a sound machine, turn on the vacuum cleaner, dishwasher or washing machine.
When placed on the abdomen, a warm towel can assist gas movement and reduce heartburn.
A ride in the car can do wonders for colicky babies. But gas isn’t getting any cheaper. For a more fuel-efficient alternative, try an infant seat with low-intensity vibration.
Tips for soothing your baby
To soothe your crying baby, you can try to:
Offer a pacifier
For many babies, sucking is soothing. Even if you’re breast-feeding, it’s OK to offer a pacifier to calm your baby.
Hold your baby
Cuddling helps some babies. Others quiet when held closely and swaddled in a lightweight blanket. To give your arms a break, try a baby sling or other type of baby carrier. Don’t worry about spoiling your baby by holding him or her too much.
Keep your baby in motion
Gently rock your baby in your arms or in an infant swing. Check with manufacturer’s guidelines to be sure the swing is appropriate for your baby’s age. Lay your baby tummy down on your knees and then sway your knees slowly. Take a walk with your baby, or buckle your baby in the car seat for a drive. Use a vibrating infant seat or vibrating crib.
Sing to your baby
A soft tune might soothe your baby. And even if lullabies don’t stop your baby’s crying, they can be calming for you. Recorded music may help, too.
Turn up background noise
Some babies cry less when they hear steady background noise. When holding or rocking your baby, try making a continuous “shssss” sound. Turn on a kitchen or bathroom exhaust fan, or play a tape or CD of environmental sounds, such as ocean waves, a waterfall, gentle rain or a human heartbeat. Sometimes the tick of a clock or metronome does the trick.
Use gentle heat or touch
Give your baby a warm bath. Softly rub your baby’s belly.
Give your baby some private time
If nothing else seems to work, put your baby in his or her crib for five to 10 minutes.