Colic. Do I have to go on? It’s one of the most common issues affecting newborns, but parents rarely get the support they need to get through those hours when their baby is in discomfort and pain. It can be a very emotive subject with parents not knowing why their once happy, placid baby is now crying for hours on end, without anything or anyone able to settle them. Here we look at colic: what it is, and what can be done to alleviate it, and how to get your child back to the bounciest, bonniest baby they can be.
What is it?
Colic is a common feeding problem in newborn babies. It develops due to an immaturity in their digestive system, trapped wind, or lactose intolerance.
Excessive crying is one of the key symptoms of colic. Excessive crying is defined as episodes of crying that last for longer than three hours, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks in an infant. It’s generally worse in the early evening. Other physical signs include the baby clenching their fists, squeezing their eyes shut, drawing their knees up to their chest and arching their back.
Who does it affect?
One in five babies will suffer from colic. Fact. It makes no difference if the baby breastfed or bottle fed or if they have been up in the arms or left to their own devices. Colic doesn’t discriminate and it’s not because you’ve ‘spoiled’ your baby with attention either. It’s a digestive complaint that ails many babies.
Colic develops around the two or three week mark and lasts until they’re three months old, with a peak around two months.
It is not certain what exactly causes colic, but we know it is a digestive issue. It causes trapped wind, and makes passing stools difficult for your baby. It could be due to lactose intolerance, explaining why it could be worse after feeding.
There is no foolproof cure for colic, and every baby is different. It tends to stop on its own at around the three-month mark. It is even thought to be a developmental stage for babies, as opposed to an affliction. But warm baths, keeping the baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feeding, gentle massage and frequent winding (not just after feeding) can help. As well as this, changing from breast milk to a lactose-free formula can help, if the problem is thought to be lactose intolerance. If you are breastfeeding, there are certain foods that are thought to be linked with wind, such as onions, cabbage, broccoli, spicy food and beans – it’s worth cutting down on these if you suspect wind, to see if there is any improvement.
Colic is not serious and usually passes as your baby grows. However, the symptoms do mimic some other, more serious illnesses. If your baby has a temperature, is not putting on weight normally, vomiting frequently, or passing pale, bloody stools, make sure to see your GP, as it could be a sign of something more serious. In any case, if your baby is distressed or you’re not sure what’s wrong, always consult your GP or medical care team. You can read more about colic on the HSE website.