What is Infant Colic? Is it a Common Condition

What Is Colic?

Infant colic is a common condition, affecting infants in their first months of life. However, it is not a serious medical condition and usually resolves by the age of 3-4 months. Colic is usually recognised by bouts of inconsolable crying, often for hours at a time, for no specific reason.

Colic most commonly occurs in the late afternoon and evening when your baby may cry out as though it is in pain, draw her knees up to her chest and go red in the face. Her tummy may appear swollen or bloated as if she’s swallowed a lot of air, and she might pass wind more than usual.

According to NBB Expert Paediatrician Dr Chilton “Colic has never been about pain in the abdomen or anywhere else for that matter; it’s not about heartburn or ‘wind’. It certainly isn’t about the baby’s stomach. Neither is it anything to do with mother’s mental state, nor the food she eats while is breast-feeding, nor the brand of formula if she’s not breastfeeding.”

“The reason it’s so hard for parents to figure it out for themselves is the cause is counter-intuitive and, no question, the baby looks like he or she is in excruciating pain. The baby doubles up, knees in chest, and screams like there’s a knife twisting in his gut. But it’s not about pain, it’s about over stimulation of the poor baby’s sensory nervous system.” Say Dr Chilton.

A colicky baby can be distressing for everyone in the house. Listening to long periods of crying can leave you feeling tired, stressed and emotionally drained. Despite the intensity of your baby’s cries, it is important to remember that colic is not a serious medical condition.

Signs of Infant Colic:

  • Inconsolable bouts of forceful crying with no apparent trigger
  • Baby draws knees up to chest
  • Passes wind more than usual
  • May get worse in the evening around 6pm (commonly known as the witching hour)

IMPORTANT

The following are NOT associated with colic:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Raised Temperature (over 38°C/100°F)

If your baby experiences diarrhoea, vomiting or a raised temperature (over 38°C/100°F) or if you are uncertain whether your baby is suffering from colic, seek guidance from your doctor immediately.

Treating colic:

Despite medical research, no one is certain exactly what causes colic. You can try the following methods to help baby:

  • reduce the level of stimulation
  • Check whether your baby is comfortable. i.e. nappy needs changing, or he’s too hot or cold.
  • Allow your baby to feed on demand
  • Offer a dummy or the breast. Sometimes your baby isn’t hungry but wants or needs to suck.
  • Calm your baby by speaking softly to them, sing to him or play soothing music.
  • Gently rock or carry your baby in a baby carrier or sling – sometimes movement and closeness to a parent can soothe babies. Alternatively you can take them for a walk in the pram or a drive in the car. The movement helps calm baby.
  • Try turning down the lights and calming your environment down, or white noise may help.
  • Try baby massage. Massaging their tummy in a circular motion.
  • A warm bath might settle your baby and promote sleep. A good opportunity for you to take time out and your partner step in.
  • Try to establish a pattern to feeding and settling, so your baby knows what to expect and can develop some ways of self-regulating.
  • Ask your child and family health nurse for advice when in doubt.

Allow plenty of cuddles, distressed babies can’t sooth themselves and need your help to do so. New research shows it is not advised to let babies “cry it out”.

If symptoms persist, consult your healthcare professional.

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