Baby colic

Also known as infantile colic, is episodic crying of new born babies that lasts for hours and nothing you try seems to calm them down.

Doctors have described it as crying that;

*lasts for more than 3 hours in a day

*for more than 3 days in a week

*for 3 weeks or more in an otherwise healthy baby

Colic starts at about 6weeks of age and ends at about 3 months. Normally babies cry for attention when in need of a nappy change, when hungry or uncomfortable or wanting to sleep. They would calm down when these needs are met. For colic babies nothing of the above consoles them.

Colic is not a disease or a diagnosis, its cause is not really known. The good news is that it clears.

Signs and symptoms of colic

This is how you know your little one could be having colic;

  • Crying occurs at the same time everyday, mostly in the evening or night
  • Crying seems to occur for no reason( baby isn’t hungry, diaper is dry etc)
  • Feeding and sleeping is disrupted by the crying – refuses to suckle suddenly or sleeps for a few minutes and wakes up into ear shuttering wailing
  • Baby pulls up his legs and clenches his fists during the cry
  • Baby strains while crying as if in pain
  • He may pass gas or spit up during the cry

What causes colic?

The exact cause of cause of colic is not really known but there are theories that explain the possible causes;

  • Trapped intestinal gas due to immature digestive system– food and gas passes through the gut in a wave-like motion called peristalsis. The digestive system is controlled by a complex a complex nervous system which is said to be immature in new born babies. The systems are literally learning to function. Gas may get trapped in the baby’s gut causing discomfort and pain.
  • Gastro-esophageal reflux – almost all babies have a tendency to spit up while others are not able to clear the acidic gastric juices that reflux. When acidic contents remain in the oesophagus it leads to heartburn , pain and discomfort.
  • Over stimulation – some babies are irritated by excessive noises around them, they then respond by wailing
  • Your diet – elements of the mother’s diet could sometimes causes colic on baby. Dairy, soy, wheat and caffeine could be the cause
  • Over feeding – your baby could be over feeding leading to tummy discomfort and the resultant colic pain
  • Milk protein allergy- milk contains certain proteins . When baby’s immunity react to these proteins negatively, irritation and inflammation of the intestines may occur. This leads to pain and discomfort.
  • The fourth trimester theory – pediatrician Dr. Harvey Karp proposes missing 4th trimester theory to explain colic. In his theory he explains that colic is the result of baby’s immature nervous system being disturbed by the nerve signals occurring before a bowel movement (passing stool) known as gastro-colic reflux.
  • Bacterial imbalance- The digestive system is made up of bacteria naturally, usually known as normal flora. Imbalance of this bacteria could lead to tummy disturbances in babies.
  • Tobacco exposure– studies have shown that babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or those living with smokers tend to develop colic

Tips and remedies for colic

  • Gripe water – this water contains natural ingredients which are known to help expel gas from the gut
  • Keep a colic diary – Document your baby’s colic episodes each day in order to help you anticipate next episodes and probably pinpoint the causes.
  • Herbal tea – Traditionally fennel tea has been used as colic remedy, may be you could try it too.
  • Probiotics – Probiotics containing lactobacillus rauteri is known to help reduce colic episodes.
  • Motion- A gentle rocking , vibrating motion or slow dance has been shown to sooth some babies.
  • Watch what you eat– Try eliminating gas causing foods (e.g cabbage and cauliflower), acidic fruits, allergenic food (eggs, soy,wheat, peanut and fish)
  • Give a warm birth to relax the baby
  • You can try a pacifier
  • Always burp baby after feeds to expel gas
  • Try hypoallergenic formulas for formula-fed babies
  • Play soothing music

Should you see a doctor?

Even though you may be sure that your baby could having colic, always consult your pediatrician


The information on this article should not be used in place of professional guidance always seek your doctors advice first. By

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