Parenting a newborn is a challenge on its own, let alone when your baby is fussy for no apparent reason. If you’re experiencing daily episodes of inconsolable crying your baby may have colic and you’re not alone. It's estimated that one fifth of all infants have colic. Here’s what you need to know to help you cope.

What is colic?

It’s quite normal for babies to lose it at some point during the day, because they’re hungry, they’re tired or they’re overstimulated. But sometimes that fussiness turns into inconsolable crying for long extended periods of time. A baby is said to have colic if they are a healthy, well-fed infant who cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks. Usually, the intense crying starts at the same time of the day, mostly in the evenings. It will be at its worst in the second or third month but could start as early as 2 weeks.

What causes it?

There is no medical explanation for colic, however, it’s been linked to some possible culprits.

  1. A still developing digestive system causing muscle spasms
  2. Acid reflux or excessive gas
  3. Allergies
  4. Exposure to nicotine

Indications that your baby has colic includes them extending their legs and pulling them up to their stomach or arching their back while crying. Sometimes, it’s obvious that the baby is in pain. Their face might be red or flushed and they’ll be clenching their fists.

It’s important to know that colic affects babies of both sexes and as much babies that are bottle-fed as breastfed.

What you can do

If you’re breastfeeding your baby and suspect they may be allergic to something in your diet, try to eliminate any known allergens, like cow’s milk, eggs, nuts, soy and fish. If you choose to do that, however, it might be beneficial to consult a dietician in order to ensure you are getting all of the necessary nutrients you and your baby need. If the colic persists, then you can safely eliminate allergies as a possible cause.

Be cautious of the way you feed your baby (somewhat upright) and make sure to burp your baby after every feeding. If you’re bottle feeding your baby, you can also try switching the type of bottle or nipple you are using to make sure your baby is not swallowing air bubbles.

Studies have also shown that the more skin to skin you have with your baby, the less intense crying spells will be. Don’t ever feel guilty about soothing your baby or carrying them close. Especially before they turn 6 months old, that is primarily what they need. 

There are no scientifically proven remedies for colic, but there are some treatments on the market you could try like gripe water, gas drops, certain probiotics and teas. Just like many things in parenting, dealing with colic will be a case of trial and error. You may want to consult your pediatrician before trying anything new.

Soothing techniques

It’s a good idea to give your baby a pacifier before you suspect a crying spell is coming. Carrying your baby close, rocking them in your arms, or putting them in a rocking chair can help. Taking your baby for a car ride is known to be soothing, as is placing them on top of the dryer during a cycle. Any motion, even going up and down stairs, can help. You’ll have to find the most effective technique for your baby and stick to it.

The good news

This doesn’t last forever. Most babies get over their colic within the fourth or fifth month. Once you’ve overcome this hurdle, you can look forward to teething!

September 06, 2019 — James DiMiele