You might have heard of the term ‘colicky babies’ but what does it actually mean? Colic is the name for excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. Colic is a common problem that effects between 10% and 30% of all babies and their parents (Yes, parents are affected as well. Colic can cause depression or stress related problems between parents as it can be difficult dealing with a baby who you can’t seem to settle.)
Colic tends to begin when the baby is just a couple of weeks old and mostly stops by the time your baby is around 6 months old. Colic is often diagnosed by the 3-3-3 observation. Your baby cries for at least 3 hours with no apparent reason, for at least 3 days a week, at least 3 consecutive weeks. This is not the only way people diagnose colic.
Luckily, studies have shown that colic has no consequences in later life such as behavioural or health problems. There also doesn't seem to be a difference in breastfed and bottle fed babies when it comes to colic.
Signs and symptoms of colic can include:
- intense crying in the late afternoon or evening that lasts several hours
- your baby's face being red and flushed when they cry
- your baby clenching their fists, drawing their knees up to their tummy
- arching their back while crying
But what causes colic?
That’s where it gets a bit tricky as there’s not 1 simple cause. However, there are a couple of theories that I will touch base on in this blog.
1. Tummy ache. It is believed tummy ache can cause colic as babies often bring their knees to their abdomen while clenching their fists. They often pass wind towards the end of a colic episode.
2. Lack of friendly bacteria. Colicky babies have fewer types of bacteria in their tummy that promotes the digestive process and have a larger number of gas-producing bacteria.
3. Hyper peristalsis. Peristalsis is the movement of the intestines that helps move food through the digestive system. Hyper peristalsis is when this happens too rapid and causes pain.
4. Nicotine. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mums who smoke more than 5 cigarettes a day or pregnant women who use nicotine patches are more likely to have colicky babies.
5. Normal development. It is also possible that the stage between 2 weeks and 4 months is simply a stage of neurodevelopment in which crying is an aspect of behaviour. Colicky babies are on then on the higher end of the scale.
As there's no specified cause of colic, there is also not a specified treatment for colic. This however doesn't mean that you can't try different strategies.
Some might help you and your baby while others might not.
1. Gripe water. Gripe water might relive symptoms of wind and indigestions. But be aware and check the ingredients before you give this to your baby as some brands contain sugar or even alcohol.
2. Pain relieving medication. There are several baby safe medications around such as: Simethicone, Cimetropium Bromide and Collimil. However, some of these might have side effects for your baby. So always talk with your GP if you want to go down the route of medication and make sure you are well informed!
3. Baby Massage or Baby Yoga. Both Baby Massage and Baby Yoga can help soothe your baby. There are specific tummy routines that can aid colic. When you have skin to skin contact with your baby you also stimulate myelination which increases the speed of messages being send from the nerve cells to the brain. Therefore, your baby will respond quicker to your soothing techniques.
4. Probiotics. Giving your baby friendly bacteria that decrease harmful bacteria in your baby’s digestive system. Some have shown up to 50% less crying within 7 days. At this point further research is being conducted, to find out more about the effect of probiotics.
5. Putting pressure on the tummy by introducing tummy time and gently rocking your baby are also techniques often used with colicky babies.
Remember! Colic is not harmful for your baby and it will eventually pass. It has nothing to do with your ability as a parent. FACT: Even in the care of a professionals a colicky baby continues crying.
Make sure you are look after yourself and ask for help from your partner, friends and family if you need this.
You are an amazing parent and your baby loves you very much.