Colic (intense and excessive crying) is one of the most common problems reported during the first few months of an infant's life. The most widely accepted definition for colic is excessive crying lasting more than 3 hours a day, 3 times a week, for at least 3 weeks.
Although the exact cause of colic is still unknown, there are many theories on why a baby may have colic. For example, some believe that babies cry because they are hungry, while others believe it is because they have eaten too much or are intolerant to certain foods ingested by the mother or to proteins found in certain infant formulas. To date, none of these theories have been proven.
In addition to the infant's intense, excessive and inconsolable crying, certain behaviour characteristics are associated with colic. These include:
- Stomach distention
- Knees tightly drawn to the abdomen
- Clenched fists
- Facial redness
Colic does not lead to any other complications. In fact, colic in newborns generally appears suddenly around their third week of life and disappear just as suddenly around three months of age.
It is always recommended that you see your doctor to make sure that the crying is not related to any other medical or physical problem that may require particular attention.
Once the physician has ruled out all other health problems and diagnosed the child with colic, the only thing a parent can do is wait, since the only known cure for colic is time. To date, no medications have been shown to cure colic. The following measures however, may help you calm and soothe your baby:
- Hold your baby in a vertical position while feeding and burp frequently;
- If breastfeeding, try to temporarily stop eating certain types of food such as dairy products, peanuts, nuts and eggs to see if this could be the source of the problem. Meeting with a nutritionist or doctor may prove useful and even necessary;
- If breastfeeding, make sure that the baby has really "emptied" the first breast before giving him the other breast. The milk available at the end of a feeding has a higher fat content than the milk available at the beginning of a feeding;
- If feeding your baby a formula, change the formula (we recommend that you discuss this option with your doctor);
- Try feeding your baby more often but less at a time;
- Wrap your baby in a soft blanket;
- Give your baby a warm bath;
- Gently rub your baby's stomach;
- Make your baby suck;
- Gently rock your baby;
- Carry your baby in a sling or carrier;
- Provide your baby with skin to skin contact (place the baby, in his diaper, on the shirtless chest of an adult);
- Take your baby out (for a walk in the stroller or car ride);
- Sing lullabies or listen to soft, relaxing music.
You may, on occasion, feel exasperated and at wit's end. Take some time to regroup. Make sure your child is safe and leave the room while you regain your composure. Never hesitate to ask for help when you are feeling overwhelmed and remember that in time, your child's colic will go away.