What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

Although the word colic is familiar to most of us, there’s still lots of uncertainty about what exactly colic is and what it means.

Colic and babies just seem to go together. And although the word colic is familiar to most of us, there’s still lots of uncertainty about what exactly colic is and what it means. 

Read on to learn what’s new, and old, when it comes to colic.

What is colic?

causes of baby colic

An unsettled baby can be heartbreaking. | Image Source: iStock

Colic isn’t so much a diagnosis but a set of symptoms in an otherwise well, healthy and thriving baby.  Periods of intense crying, fussiness and prolonged bouts of crying are more common in babies within the first three months of life. 

Often, crying peaks between the ages of six to eight weeks and then gradually lessen by 12 weeks.  This is why it used to be known as ‘three-month colic’ because by this age most babies have become a little more settled and their symptoms easier and more predictable to manage.  

What causes colic?

The truth is we don’t really know. There have been many theories suggested for why babies cry, though nothing has really been proven. It seems that boys and girls are equally prone to colic, as are breastfed or bottle-fed babies. 

One theory suggests that mothers who smoked during their pregnancy are more likely to have a baby who experiences colic, though this has not been fully proven. 

What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

A dad carrying his baby in the colic hold. | Image source: iStock

5 of the top reasons suggested for baby colic:

  1. Because young babies can feel overwhelmed, and crying is a way for their nervous system to ‘vent’ and release built-up tension.
  2. Gut immaturity and becoming accustomed to feeding, digesting and eliminating milk. Some babies have an allergy or sensitivity to the proteins in breast or formula milk.
  3. Overfeeding, underfeeding or not enough opportunity to burp.
  4. Feeding too quickly and gulping their milk, rather than feeding being a relaxed and calm process.
  5. Overtiredness and crying being the only way for a young baby to communicate their need for sleep.

When is colic worse?

Colicky behaviour is generally at its peak in the late afternoons and evenings.  This timing of crying outbursts makes it extra challenging because parents are often tired and have lots of other things to do at this time of day.

When a baby is overtired and hasn’t slept well.  Colic seems to be worse in babies who are not sleeping well or are not getting as much sleep as they need. 

What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

There are strategies that can help. | Image source: iStock

What helps to soothe a baby with colic?

Often, it’s not one single strategy which helps to soothe a crying baby, but a range of responses and trying different things. 

Some days you’ll find your baby likes to be patted and shushed, other days they may prefer being rocked. There’s no one ‘right’ way to respond to a colicky baby – try a few things and do what feels right for you both. 

Soothing strategies to try with your baby

  • A deep, warm bath followed by a tummy massage in a clockwise direction. Gently bicycle your baby’s legs – this can help to release wind. 
  • More frequent breastfeeds, some babies love to comfort suck.
  • Offering one breast per feed if you feel your baby would be satisfied. 
  • Offering a dummy if breastfeeding is already well established.
  • Try darkening your baby’s room for their daytime sleeps.  
  • Aim for a regular feeding and settling routine. Regular pre-settling routines can help bring a little balance to a chaotic day. 
  • Offering more formula if your baby is bottle-fed. It’s important to prepare formula exactly as stated by the manufacturer. If formula is too weak babies won’t gain weight and be satisfied after feeding. If a formula is too strong babies can become constipated and their kidneys overloaded. 
  • Going for a walk with your baby in a sling or in the pram. Often, movement and going outside the house makes a difference.
  • Rocking, shushing, patting and singing can all be helpful.
  • Swaddling if your baby is aged less than three months. Use a cotton or muslin wrap and enclose your baby’s arms if they still have their startle reflex.
  • You could try some white noise, but make sure it’s kept to the lowest volume and turned off once your baby is sleeping. 
What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

Image Source: iStock

It could help you to:

  • Try and stay calm and focused on doing what you can to comfort your baby. 
  • Ask for support from other adults.  Caring for a crying baby can be hard, exhausting work and it’s important to make sure your own needs are being met. There is an increased risk of postnatal depression and anxiety for mothers whose baby is unsettled. Be mindful of your mental health. 
  • Aim for a quiet life at home and not take on too much else when your baby is unsettled.
  • Knowing when to have a breakaway and place your baby into their cot for a short while. It’s important to recognize if you are feeling stressed. Ask for help if you need it.

Take your baby to see a doctor if:

  • You are worried about them.
  • They have a temperature, are vomiting, have a rash or other symptoms which could mean they are sick. 
  • They are not gaining weight or don’t seem to be thriving.
  • Have diarrhoea, blood in their poos or the frequency of their wet nappies decreases.
  • Have changes in their sleeping habits e.g. are difficult to rouse or are not sleeping.
  • Have a high pitched cry or their cry is weak.

This article was first published in KidSpot and republished on theAsianparent with permission.

ALSO READ: 

How To Handle Separation Anxiety In Preschoolers

Experts May Have Found The Best Way To Manage Tantrums

What's New When It Comes To Baby Colic?

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