Inconsolable crying in babies is understandably anxiety-provoking to parents. After all, crying can be caused by many things, pain and illness included. When parents have tried all means of soothing a child, it’s easy to imagine the worst. If only babies would be able to speak and tell their parents what’s wrong!
If you have a child who tends to cry and fuss frequently, for no understandable reason, consider the possibility that your child has colic.
What is Colic?
Colic refers to the condition characterized by a healthy baby who tends to have periods of intense crying, fussing and/or screaming for no known reason. Traditional medical definition classifies colic as crying episodes that last more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, although variations of colic outside these parameters also exist. It is believed that colic affects 1 in 5 infants.
Symptoms of colic typically appear within one week after birth, and can last up to the baby’s fourth month – after which they generally go away on their own. While crying episodes can happen anytime within the day, it usually reaches its peak during late afternoon or early evening.
What Causes Colic?
The exact cause of colic is still unknown, although many theories exist. This is why the phrase “healthy baby” is critical in the condition’s definition; infections, diseases and all kinds of illnesses have been ruled out in most (but not all) cases of colic. Proposed explanations for colic include overfeeding, gastro-intestinal upset, allergies or sensitivities, a child’s innate temperament, anxiety in a household, and difficulty adjusting to the environment outside the womb. Research findings so far show no bias towards any one of these explanations.
In general, colic is harmless, and is not associated with developmental delay or impairment of any kind. In fact, the bulk of the impact of colic is felt by the parents. Colicky babies have been known to trigger fatigue and burn-out, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, as well as anxiety and depression, among their primary caregivers.
What can Parents Do?
Traditional soothing techniques for infants are specially recommended when caring for a colicky baby. These techniques include rocking the infant gently in one’s arms, singing to the baby and walking the baby outdoors he or she is upset. Changing the baby’s position, e.g. turning them on their stomach, and swaddling (wrapping the baby in a warm blanket) have also been found to be helpful.
There are also medications that are specifically for colic, although many have expressed concern regarding medicating someone so young. It’s best to consult your pediatrician if you want to know your pharmaceutical options for dealing with colic.
Some nursing mothers have found that adjusting their own diet helps reduce their babies colic. For instance, removing gas-inducing foods like beans and cabbage may help the baby. Or, removing dairy products, wheat products or common allergens might sometimes make a difference. Some parents have discovered that their crying baby is reacting to something in the environment like cotton clothing or baby creams or powders – and when they remove the offending substance the colic suddenly stops. However, the majority of parents with colicky babies cannot trace down a specific trigger. They and the baby just have to deal with the upset.
Obviously, parents must pay attention to self-care. It’s easy to get defeated by the stress of caring for a colicky baby. There’s loss of sleep from the baby’s crying, frequent trips to the doctor to figure what’s wrong, worry over the baby’s health, and just the effort of keeping the child calm when he goes into one of innumerable cryng spells. When parents can get some time off of caring for their baby, they will come back more refreshed and able to handle some more stress. Babysitters can help or parents can relieve each other, taking turns caring for the baby as much as possible. It’s important to get out of the house, see other people, exercise and have some fun; all of this strengthens a person to deal with the hours of crying and fussing. Picture the baby growing a bit older and a lot quieter – it WILL happen! Realize that colic is temporary and keep your eye on what’s up ahead.
When should Parents be Concerned?
Excessive crying among infants is such an ambiguous symptom to interpret. It can be colic or something else. To be safe, parents need to check-in with their pediatrician regularly. They should always note any other symptoms that accompany crying such as fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or developmental delays. Most colic is nothing but colic and will disappear on its own in a matter of months.