How to Tell If Your Baby Has Colic

how to tell if your baby has colic

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No matter what you try, you can’t comfort your baby. And the crying episodes continue every day at the same time. This seems like it goes on forever, especially when you are already exhausted. So, what is it you are missing?
 
The usual suspect here is colic.

What Is Colic?

Babies communicate by crying; that’s the only way they know. And as parents, you tune into your parental intuitions to respond to them in the best way possible to meet their needs.
 
But when the crying occurs for no obvious reason in an otherwise healthy baby, this means colic. Colic is not a disease but a predictable period of significant stressing and crying in a healthy baby. It occurs in roughly 1 in 5 infants. Colic episodes often start between late evenings and late nights, when parents themselves are already tired. With no solution other than passing the time to soothe the baby, this only adds to the frustration and exhaustion.
 
However, there’s a thumb rule for establishing colic in babies: it occurs at least three hours a day, three days a week, and continues for at least three weeks.

How to Spot Colic in Your Baby?

Trying to decode the cries doesn’t come naturally right at the start. But with these symptoms, you can spot colic in your baby and waste no time soothing them.
  1. The baby cries for around three hours a day, three days a week, and for three or more weeks.
  2. The crying episodes occur at the same time, every day, often in the evening.
  3. The crying is intense, more like screaming or wailing, often coupled with an expression of pain.
  4. The baby may cry for no apparent reason, unlike crying for a diaper change or hunger.
  5. The baby may clench their fists, stiffen their legs and arms, arch their backs, or often move their arms and legs.
  6. Facial discolouration, such as skin flushing, may occur. 
  7. There may be an increase in bowel activity. Babies relieve after spitting up or passing gas, which results from swallowing air during crying. 
  8. The baby may show fussiness even after they have stopped crying.
  9. They may have a light sleep between crying, only to wake up, seek a nipple, reject it, and cry again.

Is There Any Difference Between Colic Crying and Normal Crying?

There isn’t any clear definition to determine the difference between colic and normal crying. However, experts suggest that colicky babies tend to cry louder, in a more intense and high-pitched voice, like they are in some pain. They are inconsolable and cry for longer hours as compared to normal crying, in which babies stop crying after their needs are taken care of.

Causes of Colic

To pinpoint the exact cause of colic is difficult. Experts are sure that colic is not genetic, nor is the result of anything that happened during pregnancy or childbirth. Some possible theories that contribute to the cause of colic are:
  1. An immature digestive system may cause acid reflux, indigestion, or gas in babies.
  2. Overstimulation of senses may cause a baby to stress.
  3. Infrequent burping and gas.
  4. Intolerance or allergy to lactose or formula that may cause stomach ache.
  5. Childhood migraine.
  6. A nervous system that isn’t fully developed.

Treatments and Methods to Treat Colic in Babies

Let’s look at some ways to give your baby some relief from colic.

Practices to Soothe Your Baby

  1. Attend to Your Baby: Respond to your baby’s cries as this may help with the overstimulation. Holding, rocking and patting your baby can lessen their cries and make them feel more secure. 
  2. Create a Calm Space: Limit guests and strangers around your baby and create a peaceful environment for them to relax. Keep distractions to the minimum. Sing or talk to your baby in a soothing voice while you rock or walk with them. You can also use white noise using a white noise machine, a vacuum cleaner, or a ceiling fan.
  3. Try Swaddling: Swaddle your baby in a warm blanket or keep them close to your chest. This will make them feel secure and safe.
  4. Colic Carry and Burping: Apply pressure to your baby’s tummy or try colic carry. Place your baby on the tummy and gently rub or pat their back to release the pressure in their stomach. You can also help your little one burp to release gas and reduce fussiness.
  5. Pacifier: The sucking reflex is calming for babies when they are irritable. A pacifier can help self-soothe themselves.
  6. Medications: Ask your paediatrician for anti-gas drops or probiotics to relieve gas pain, only if necessary. Remember never to give any medication without consulting a doctor.

Feeding Practices to Calm Your Baby

  1. Gripe Water: For generations, many parents have sworn by gripe water to treat gas, acid reflux, indigestion, and discomfort in infants and babies. Gripe water is an Ayurvedic formulation, not a medication, comprising a mix of natural ingredients, such as Dil Seed oil, Sarjikakshara, etc. Woodward’s Gripe Water is a safe formulation that has been trusted for ages and continues to do so by soothing colicky babies. It is formulated especially for babies to treat their tender stomachs and protect them from several gastrointestinal issues.
  2. Ask About Changing Baby Formula: If you bottle-feed, you may ask your paediatrician to switch the formula brand or your formula with hypoallergenic whey baby formula.
  3. Check Your Diet: If you are breastfeeding, you can ask your doctor to eliminate those food items from your diet that are likely to cause allergies or gas, such as cabbage, cauliflower, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
  4. Position: Try feeding your baby in an upright position as it may help with burping and releasing gas.

Things Parents Need to Take Care Of

Caring for a colicky baby can be stressful and exhausting and may provoke anxiety in parents. Here are a few tips for parents to tone down their anxiety and focus well on treating their babies:

  1. Give Yourself a Break: Take turns with your spouse to soothe your baby through the night. You can also ask a friend or family member to take care of the baby while you catch up on some well-deserved and much-needed rest.
  2. It’s Not Your Fault: Don’t be too harsh on yourself, as colic in your baby is not your fault. It is a natural process that comes and goes away on its own.
  3. Remind Yourself It’s Temporary: Colic episodes decline as the baby grows. So, be strong and prepare yourself well.
  4. Take Care of Your Health: Taking care of your baby does not mean cutting up on your health. You must eat healthily, go for brisk walks or practice soothing yoga or meditation.
  5. Talk About It: There’s nothing wrong with talking about your feelings. You can talk to your spouse, friends, parents, paediatrician, or a therapist. Talking will put your emotions out front and give you a clear vision of the situation.

When to Call the Doctor

The best approach to diagnose colic is by consulting a paediatrician. They will rule out any underlying potential cause and treat colic quickly. You must also contact your doctor if:

  1. Your baby’s crying is accompanied by fever, diarrhoea, less movement, or vomiting.
  2. Your baby’s crying has changed suddenly. 
The colic phase is challenging for both babies and parents. But the important aspect is that it does not last forever. During this time, your little one needs your love and care to feel secure and peaceful. With the above tried and tested strategies like keeping Woodward’s gripe water at home for unexpected colic episodes and swaddling your baby in a warm blanket, you can soothe your baby quickly and pass this phase like a breeze. For any doubts you may have, it is best to consult your paediatrician.
 
References:
https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/health-and-safety/what-is-colic/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/colic/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371081
https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/what-is-colic
https://familydoctor.org/condition/colic/
 
About the Author: Srishti Arora is a Dietitian and Managing Director at Nutrivarcity. She has done her Master’s in Food and Nutrition and has been working since 2008 with different MNCs. In 2016, she introduced her independent venture in Delhi. She has been awarded by Navdrishti Times and NNHSA.
 
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions (including content in any form) expressed within this post are those of the author alone. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The responsibility for intellectual property rights of this content rests with the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with him/her.
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