5 things all parents should know about colic
Congratulations – you had a baby! Only now your little angel won’t stop crying. And not just crying like every baby does, but constant, inconsolable wailing. What’s going on? It may be colic. Here’s what you need to know.
What colic symptoms look like
Your baby is considered colicky if she’s younger than 5 months old and cries for more than three hours in a row, on three or more days a week, for at least three weeks. That’s a lot of crying, but some colicky babies cry even more – throughout much of the day or night, for example.
Other signs you’re dealing with colic? Your baby seems to cry even when she’s not wet, tired, or hungry, and often at the same time of day (typically during the evening hours).
Your baby also may clench her fingers, arch her back, and look flushed. She may even extend or pull up her legs and pass gas as she cries, all signs that she might be having gas pains.
Colic affects up to 40 percent of babies, with most showing signs when they’re around 2 or 3 weeks old. For preemies, the signs emerge about two or three weeks after the original due date.
Why some babies are colicky
Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what causes colic. It happens in both breastfed and formula-fed babies, as well as in firstborn children and those born later in the birth order.
Some experts think colic is the way sensitive babies release stress, especially during the evening hours when it’s harder to cope with the sights, sounds, and sensations around them.
In some cases, colic may be a sign of sensitivity to food in a breastfeeding mother’s diet, or to the milk protein in formula.
Many parents wonder if gas might be the cause, but experts don’t think so. Though colicky babies do tend to swallow excess air during crying spells or feedings, which can lead to more gas and discomfort.
How to deal with gassiness
If your baby seems gassy, you can help him avoid swallowing too much air during feedings by using Dr. Brown’s bottles, which have an innovative vent system that’s known to reduce burping, gas, spitting up, and crying. These bottles also have a unique design that keeps air bubbles out of breast milk and formula, and provides vacuum-free feeding that’s similar to breastfeeding. This makes it so your baby can feed at a comfortable pace without gulping a lot of air.
If you breastfeed and your baby cries a lot in the evenings, try pumping your milk and using a Dr. Brown’s bottle to reduce gas at the feeding times when your baby tends to be more colicky. (You may also want to keep your baby more upright during feedings, and burp him often to try to prevent gas pain.)
Our recommended bottles
Ways to comfort your colicky baby
If you think your baby might have colic, let your baby’s doctor know. He or she may want to check your baby for illness or discuss possible changes to your diet or your baby’s formula.
If the diagnosis is colic, give these strategies a try:
Swaddle: This mimics the snug sensation of the womb to help your baby feel secure.
Try motion: Cuddle your baby close and rock her back and forth, or put her in a sling and take a long walk. The body contact and rhythmic movements may help to settle her down.
Offer a pacifier: For many infants, sucking is extremely soothing. Consider offering your baby a pacifier, such as the HappyPaci by Dr. Brown’s. The pacifier is shaped like Dr. Brown’s bottle nipples, providing your baby both comfort and familiarity.
Give a massage: Soft strokes on your baby’s back, belly, arms, and legs can comfort and distract during crying spells.
Use white noise: Your baby might be lulled to sleep by the sound of the dryer, fan, vacuum, a rainfall recording, or gentle shushing noises.
6 / 6Colic isn’t forever
Colic often peaks when babies are about 6 weeks old, and begins to fade away between 3 and 4 months. Most infants (80 to 90 percent) are over colic by the time they’re 4 months old.
So when things get tough, keep in mind that colic isn’t a disease. And although it can be incredibly stressful for you, it won’t cause any long-term harm to your baby.