You have welcomed a new baby into your home and have discovered that they will not stop crying, likely leaving you crying and frustrated. If your healthy baby cries frequently, intensely, and for prolonged periods, they may have colic.
What is Colic?
Colic generally follows the rule of three: crying for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks. If your baby meets the rule of three, they may be experiencing colic.
The direct cause of colic is unknown, but there are factors that may play a role, such as:
- Digestive system that isn't fully developed
- Imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tract
- Food allergies or intolerances
- Overfeeding, underfeeding, or infrequent burping
- Early form of childhood migraine
- Family stress or anxiety
- Smoking during pregnancy
While the rule of three is a good indicator that your baby may be experiencing colic, there are other symptoms to watch for as well, including:
- Intense crying – more like screaming or an expression of pain
- Crying for no apparent reason – they are fed, changed, etc.
- Extremely fussy even when not crying
- Predictable timing – often occurring in the evening
- Discoloration of skin - flushing or blushing
- Body tension, such as pulled up or stiffened legs, stiffened arms, clenched fists, arched back, or tense abdomen
Treatment and Soothing Options
Before treating baby, you should see your doctor to ensure that your baby is experiencing colic. You and your doctor can then discuss soothing techniques and treatment options. These options may include the following:
- Feeding them in an upright position
- Burp frequently during and after feedings
- Change in diet – changing baby’s formula or Mother’s diet which may impact breast milk if breastfeeding
- Use a curved bottle
- Try using collapsible bag bottles
- Pacifier to help soothe baby
- Taking them for a ride in the car or stroller
- Warm bath
- Rubbing their tummy and back gently
- Playing white noise like heartbeats or other soothing sounds
- Dimming the lights and limiting visual stimulation
Help for Parents
Colic can be extremely frustrating, leaving parents feeling like they are bad parents or can’t properly care for their baby. Take a breath. You are not bad parents and you, like your baby, need support as well. Here are some techniques to help parents cope with colic:
- Take a break – you may need to step away from your baby and allow yourself to calm down. Leaving baby to cry for short periods of time in the safety of their crib is okay. You will be a better parent and more able to handle colic if you are calm.
- Stop judging yourself – you are doing the best you can and love your baby very much, even though it’s distressing to hear them cry and be unable to stop it.
- Express your feelings – talk to your spouse, parent, sibling, or friends. Simply venting about how you are feeling is enough to make you feel a little relief wash over you.
- You are not alone – many babies experience colic, and your feelings of frustration are likely very normal. Try to find a support group for parents. Knowing that others are experiencing the same things as you may be helpful.
- Make your health a priority – when you make healthier choices like eating well, moving daily, and doing your best to make sleep a priority, you simply feel better.
- Remember it’s temporary – Colic subsides typically after 3-4 months.
- Have a backup – find a friend or relative who can simply give you a break when feeling overwhelmed.
Most importantly, don’t forget to talk to your doctor. Many parents are so focused on caring for their baby that they forget about themselves. Be sure to speak to your doctor about what you are experiencing as a result of colic. They may be able to help.