Taking Care of Colic
If your baby has episodes of severe and (what feels like) never-ending crying, there’s a chance baby might have colic - a painful and uncomfortable abdomen. Here's how to recognize it and how to help manage colic.
A mother has the amazing ability to recognize each of her baby’s unique cries. She can pick out the slight difference between a “hungry” cry versus a “soggy diaper” cry for instance. But there are a few instances where, after numerous attempts to soothe, nothing is working. The culprit might just be colic.
Colic occurs in anywhere from 5-25% of infants, often starting within the first month, and can last up to 3 months or longer. Babies with colic will have sudden and severe crying that often starts later in the day and may be associated with feeding. A colicky baby is one that follows each of the “rules of 3”:
- Baby cries for at least 3 hours (in a day)
- This type of crying occurs at least 3 days per week
- This pattern last for at least 3 weeks in an otherwise healthy, well-fed baby.
Other clues for colic
- While crying, baby draws up their legs or arches their back
- Their abdomen feels hard and rigid
- Baby clenches their fists
- No other sign of disease or illness
What causes colic?
Colic can occur when baby’s digestive tract is slower to develop. The movement of milk or formula through their digestive tracts can be impaired. Gas can get “stuck” as it doesn’t pass through at the same rate as those with more developed intestinal tracts. But there are other digestive reasons why colic can occur.
Most commonly found in formula-fed babies, ingredients such as cow's milk, casein, whey concentrate and lactose might be an issue for your baby. Babies can be diagnosed with early lactose-intolerance or an allergy to cow's milk proteins or sugars. These proteins and sugars can be irritating to the digestive tract or the infant may lack the enzymes required to break them up fully – leading to excess gas formation.
Air swallowed during feeding
Gulping down air with breast milk or formula can also cause gastric distress. The air has to go somewhere and if baby can’t burp it out, it can be very uncomfortable. It’s important for any baby that is bottle-fed to make sure there is no air in the bottle before feeding.
Keep baby tilted upright after feeding. This will aid in digestion, but also can help prevent ear infections.
Altered gut bacteria
We all have a bacterial flora in our intestines that helps with digestion and immune function. If there is an imbalance in the types of bacteria in our guts, it can cause gastric distress, gas build-up and an irritated gut lining.
The diet of a breast-feeding mom
The diet and health of the mother can greatly affect her baby. Eating foods that your baby is sensitive or allergic to can be passed onto baby via breast milk.
Soothing the colicky baby
Have baby checked
Have your health practitioner clear baby for all other possible illnesses.
Alter your own diet
Certain foods that can aggravate infant colic if you're breastfeeding include: cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, and cow's milk. A naturopathic doctor can also assist in food sensitivity testing or may recommend a hypoallergenic diet.
Use soothing techniques
Calming a fussy baby is another skill you'll need to master! It's stressful to deal with hours upon hours of a crying infant, so seek support to assist with any maternal anxiety.
- soothe baby with the sound of your voice or with music
- walking or gentle bouncing motions
- move baby’s legs in an alternating fashion as if baby is riding an invisible bicycle
Gentle abdominal massage
Massage with lotion or non-allergenic, petroleum-free oil, stroking in a clockwise direction to promote the movement through the digestive tract.
Try some calming and gas-relieving herbs. Add a cooled infusion (tea) of chamomile or lavender to bath water.
Talk to your naturopathic doctor about the possible requirement for infant probiotics, carminative (gas-reducing) herbs, and/or homeopathic remedies.
American Pregnancy Association. Colic: facts, causes, and treatment.
American Family Physician Infantile Colic.