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Babies 0-12 Months | Your Baby's Wellbeing

Colic: Why is my baby crying so much?

Does your baby cry endlessly for hours on end with none of her usual needs unmet? Have you done everything the book said about checking her nappy, trying to feed her or offering her comfort, but nothing calms her down? While  crying in babies is perfectly normal, if it persists for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week, for at least three weeks the chances are that your baby is suffering from colic.


What is colic?

Colic is the term given to a condition that causes babies to appear to suffer from abdominal pain and have bouts of extended crying. Babies’ digestive systems are considered to still be quite underdeveloped when they are born which could lead to difficulties in processing formula and even breast milk. Babies can also have mild allergies to certain components of formula and breast milk, such as lactose, which can worsen the problem. Medical professionals do not have conclusive evidence for the root cause of colic but it is a common problem that most babies grow out of fairly quickly.

How common is colic?

According to Medical News Today at least 20% of babies suffer from colic in their first few months, making it a fairly common complaint though this does not make it any easier to deal with as a parent. Colic usually appears in the first three to six weeks after the baby is born and lasts for about three to four months until the digestive system has matured a little. While it is an exhausting experience for both baby and parents, there is unfortunately no real cure for colic, but you can rest assured that your baby will outgrow the condition. If by five months the crying has not abated, other medical problems must be considered.

What causes colic?

Experts have no definitive answers as to what causes babies to suffer from what seems to be agonising abdominal pain as well as exhausting bouts of crying, but there are a number of theories that surface time and again. According to Bennetts For Babies the following criteria often apply:

  • Trapped wind in the intestine due to an immature digestive tract, as well as swallowing air while feeding.
  • Over exposure to a busy environment. Baby spends a whole nine months cocooned in the shielded world of the womb and, though they are born with the ability to block out unwanted stimuli, this wears off by about four weeks old and the world can become quite over-stimulating.
  • Some foods eaten by breastfeeding mothers such as caffeine, dairy products and nuts, have been attributed to colic in babies who may suffer from allergies or sensitivities to these products.
  • Too much or too little milk or starting solids too early can also be a cause of colicthis is once again assumed to be linked to the immature digestive tract.
  • Colic is also thought, by some experts, to be an after effect of the position of the baby in the womb. For some babies it can get a little cramped in there towards the end and this could cause some lingering discomfort.
  • Colic can, in itself, cause colic, in that the extended crying periods cause the baby to gulp in air which leads to bloating and a build up of wind, which causes them further discomfort.

What are the symptoms of colic?

You know the old adage things happen in threes? Well this is very true of colic, too. One way you can determine if your baby is suffering from colic is if she cries for at least three hours, at least three days a week, for at least three weeks.

Colic is not a serious condition and, though your baby seems like she is in intense pain, it is thought that this is not actually the case. Babies may also draw their legs up to their tummy or arch their backs, going red in the face, but as long as they continue to eat and gain weight it is not considered to cause any harm. The biggest problem arising from colic according to British Private Health professionals, BUPA, is the stress that colic causes in the home, especially if it is your first baby. It is often very difficult to come to terms with the powerlessness you have to calm or comfort your baby, so ask for help and support where you can and take a break whenever possible.

What remedies or treatments are there for Colic?

Since it is not known what actually causes colic there is no specific medicine or current cure, but there are a number of techniques, tried and tested by mothers, that have proven beneficial. If you are struggling to overcome colic you could:

  • Put your baby in a baby swing to provide a rhythmic movement which is often calming for babies.
  • Take her for a walk in the pram. Once again the rolling motion is known to soothe babies.
  • Hold her close and dance around with her. All babies love the closeness of being held in their mother or father’s arms.
  • Allow a continuous sound like the vacuum cleaner or washing machine to soothe her.
  • Try an elimination diet. Although there is little evidence to suggest that colic is linked to diet, some health experts may recommend changing your baby’s formula or cutting out certain products if you are breastfeeding.
  • Complimentary therapies such as aromatherapy and tummy massage have been known to alleviate the symptoms of colic, although you should always check with a qualified practitioner as some may be harmful to babies.

So even though it seems as if your tiny baby is suffering in agonising pain and there is nothing you can do about it, take comfort in the knowledge that it has little or nothing to do with your parenting skills or what she is eating. Colic is a common, non-serious condition that one in five babies suffer from and, with a little patience and a lot of support you will all get through it in a few months.

Medical News Today

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