Occasional persistent crying occurs in all newborns from time to time, and for a variety of reasons. However, babies who have regular bouts of intense crying may be diagnosed with colic. Colic is defined as continual or persistent crying without any apparent reason, typically lasting between 2 and 4 hours a day for at least 5 days a week. It usually begins at around 2 or 3 weeks of age, and subsides on its own by 12 weeks. Colic is not uncommon. It affects about 10 to 15 percent of all infants.
The most common symptoms of colic are the sudden onset of screaming and crying that can last for more than two to three hours at a time. They have prolonged bouts of intense, high-pitched crying. Some infants draw their legs up and clench their fists, as if in pain. Spells of crying tend to occur at around the same time each day, often in the early evening. Babies with colic may be inconsolable; nothing their parents do seem to soothe them. In spite of persistent crying, these babies do not have any apparent symptoms of illness.
However, if bouts of crying are accompanied by vomiting, abdominal bloating, fever, or other signs of illness, it should be reported to a doctor immediately.
Causes of Colic:
The exact causes of colic are unknown. However, there may be several reasons for the persistent crying of a baby.
Colicky babies may cry because of discomfort caused by abdominal gas. Burping the baby during and after feedings may help relieve gas, and minimize bouts of colic. As well, using baby bottles designed to reduce air intake may be helpful for bottle-fed babies. Breastfeeding mothers may avoid foods such as broccoli and cauliflower which can cause gas in their babies. Breastfeeding mother's diet should be discussed with the doctor beforehand.
Colic may be caused by an immature central nervous system. Because their nervous systems aren't fully developed, some babies may be hypersensitive to stimuli (such as noise, light, etc.) that older children and adults are able to tune out. At the end of the day, these babies may be more prone to feeling wound up and stressed out, which results in long periods of crying. A calm environment may help to pacify a colicky baby.
Parental anxiety may also cause colic. Babies can sense a parent's stress and may become anxious themselves, resulting in crying continuously. It's important for both the parents' to keep the stress to a minimum, as much as possible.
In rare instances, colic in bottle-fed babies may be caused by an allergy to cow's milk protein which is found in formulas. Sometimes symptoms improve or even disappear when milk-based formulas are removed from a baby's diet. Be sure to always consult the doctor before making any changes to the baby's diet.
Unless the baby has reflux or a formula allergy, there are no medicines to make colic go away. Some tips to help deal with colic include:
• Reassurance that colic is a benign problem that always clears up on its own without any long term effects.
• Some things that may be tried to comfort the colicking baby include:
- rhythmic rocking
- going for a walk or ride
- warm baths
- rhythmic sounds
- using a pacifier, windup swing or vibrating chair.