Babies cry…that’s just what they do, and every parent knows it. But what if your baby cries unconsolably more often than usual and you start to worry that something’s wrong?
Colic is one of those terms that is thrown around loosely to new parents, but it’s something that is commonly misunderstood and misdiagnosed. Here’s a look at what colic really is and how you can take a natural approach to soothing your crying baby.
The Definition of Colic
Colic is defined as frequent and prolonged crying in an infant who is otherwise healthy and taken care of. Colic is not the type of crying that results from a baby simply being hungry, tired, or needing a diaper change. It is distress that occurs for no apparent reason and that cannot be relieved by any type of consoling. Many pediatricians will diagnose a baby with colic if he or she cries according to the “rule of threes” – for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, and for more than three weeks in total.
Colic Symptoms in Babies
Colic is most common in babies around the age of six weeks to four months old. After this time, excessive crying usually tapers off. But those first few weeks or months with a colicky baby can feel like an eternity to new parents.
Colic often comes with predictable timing and happens usually in the early evening. Babies are fussy even after they stop crying, and the crying is intense with symptoms of body tension and reddening of the face.
Causes of Colic
Doctors don’t really know what causes colic, which comes at the frustration of many new parents who receive this diagnosis. However, there have been studies that link the symptoms of colic to the baby’s digestive system developing or an imbalance in the digestive tract. Infrequent burping, food allergies, or general stress may also contribute to colic in babies.
Some babies are just more emotionally sensitive than others, which is a personality trait more than a medical issue. There are countless theories about colic among parent groups and in online forums. But the important thing to remember is that true colic is a temporary condition that is just a phase that will pass like all other phases that babies and children go through.
Treating Colicky Babies
Since there is no actual cure for colic, finding relief for both babies and parents is all about soothing and coping. Feeding your baby in a semi-upright position and burping the baby after drinking milk may help to relieve gas-related crying. Walking around while carrying your baby, going on a ride in the stroller or car, or giving the baby a warm bath may help.
Some colicky babies respond well to movement in an infant swing or being rocked in a rocking chair. Reducing stimulation and distractions can help during evening fussiness, as well as swaddling in a blanket or swaddle sack, playing a sound machine, or giving the baby a light back rub. Some parents have found success with giving their babies probiotic drops to aid their digestion as well.
But as a parent, it definitely helps to give yourself a break during intense crying sessions by having a partner or trusted friend or babysitter take turns with the baby during particularly difficult times. These early days can be incredibly stressful and exhausting as a parent, but it never hurts to ask a pediatrician or other medical professional for advice to determine what is causing your baby to cry so much and to learn about solutions that might work for your family.