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Colic In Infants: The Fact Sheet

Colic in infants is the dread of every parent-to-be. We read about it early into our preparation to become parents, and the thought of it never really leaves our head. If it sounds to you like an exaggeration, you were most likely spared from ever dealing with a colicky baby.

Colic is generally defined as prolonged periods (usually lasting for 3-4 months) of daily inconsolable baby crying. In most cases colic in infants starts during the second or third week of baby’s life. It happens the same time every day, usually around 6pm (less often between 2-6pm) and may last for 2-3 hours.

Colic in infants: crying and arching

Colic is a general term for a list of undefined causes. In general all babies cry: some do more than others, some less. As a new parent and before you learn your baby’s cry pattern, figuring out the reason for baby’s distress is a difficult guessing game. Is the diaper wet or dirty? Is it time to eat? Is it nap time? Was he/she hurt? Cold? Hot? Swaddled too tightly? Did he/she overeat? Visit Crying Babies section to read about colic-unrelated crying.

With the elimination of the source, and with gentle holding and nursing, most babies can usually be consoled and comforted. These are not colic cases. Colic is taking baby fussiness to an extreme. Colicky babies are unable to be soothed and calmed. They cry vigorously, arch, pull up their legs, take short breaks and then cry again.

There have been multiple attempts to define causes of colic in infants. But unfortunately, till these days there is no comprehensive “top 3 reasons” list.

I think screaming and crying are baby's ways of communicating with us. Babies come out of the womb – a comfortable, perfect-fitting, snugly, warm place with familiar sounds and light.

Just think about this transition! Think about how you feel when you move, change your workplace, even how you feel when seasons change and so does brightness and the light of everything around you. But you are used to it, you are aware of the upcoming changes and this awareness ensures preparedness.

Babies don’t have the luxury of knowing what exactly is going to happen to them after they get squeezed out into a noisy bright place called world. No wonder colic in infants begins soon after the delivery. Colic is an adjustment period. Adjustment to new sounds, noises, textures, smells, and images.

When viewed from this perspective it is clear why no particular reason was found to be the culprit. I think it is the combination. Yes, babies come to this world equipped with many useful skills to make their survival easier. They know sucking – they’ve done a lot of this in the womb; they know how to tell their mom’s voice and heartbeat – they’ve heard it in the womb. But most of the learning curve for other vital skills happens during the first 3-4 months.

Colic Symptoms

This is what colic is all about. Adjustment… Seeking comfort and security… Establishing themselves... And all these translate into physical symptoms.  

  • Babies may feel gassy, because their intestines are getting adjusted to breast milk. It is the ideal food for babies, but it is still different from what they used to be getting in the womb. If you are still unsure about breastfeeding, read about these benefits of breastfeeding.
  • They may feel discomfort in their little tummies, as a result of food sensitivity, reflux or an allergic reaction to something a mother ate or to the formula ingredients.
  • They may feel anxiety, because of the unfamiliar light, sound or a combination of the two.
  • They may feel too warm or cold at times – their skin is so gentle and sensitive.
  • They may get irritated by rough clothing or touch of a rough towel, because nothing like that ever touched them in the womb.

Many babies do not have colicky period. They may simply adjust faster, easier or in general be less sensitive to changing surroundings. This is also why colic usually happens in the evening. Isn’t it the time when we ourselves are the most stressed and tired?

Take Home Lesson?

Out of all issues, colic in infants should be viewed with the most holistic approach, meaning viewing baby’s body as a whole. It is a mistake to look for one single cause of colic. Colic is many causes coming together.

As hard as it may be to find the reason for colic-caused crying, so much easier it may be to find the perfect soothing technique. It is important to understand, however, that for many colicky babies nothing works and they cry unceasingly and then stop as abruptly as they started. If this is your case, do not get discouraged and don’t doubt yourself as a parent. Don’t take failure to calm down your colicky baby as your failure as a parent. Thousands of doctors with all the available knowledge and resources at hand have been trying for years now to solve the mystery of colic and even they fail.

Also, do not take your baby's scream personally. He/she is not getting on your nerves, but is just expressing his/her worries and concerns. Thousands of mothers are experiencing exactly the same at the exact same time. It is neither yours nor your baby’s fault.

Breastfeed on demand. Colic usually subsides at nursing times, as the baby is near his/her favorite person doing his/her favorite thing and there is no need to be worried and cry.

There are some measures that may help relieve colic. Here is a list of top 12 remedies for colic. If nothing relieves the condition, check with your pediatrician for possible medical issues. Then accept it, remember colic in infants is temporary, so just live through this time.

If you want to learn even more about colic and its causes, "Colic Solved" by Bryan Vartabedian is a book for you to read.

There are many ways to show your love and devotion to your kids and to win their trust. Breastfeeding is the most natural one.



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