If your baby has been crying at least 3 times a week for 3 or more hours for the past three weeks, she may be colicky. Colic affects up to 1 in every 5 babies. Having a baby with colic can be a highly stressful situation for us parents (trust me, I’ve been there!) It affects up to 1 in every 5 babies, and nobody really knows for sure why it happens!
Colic can happen to any baby, full term or preemie. However, premature babies have an increased chance of developing it. It usually resolves on its own when the baby is 4 to 6 months (adjusted, if she’s a preemie), and there is nothing to worry about. That is, except the countless nights of excessive crying.
What we have to keep in mind is that they’ll eventually go away. And, although nothing but time can fully resolve colic, there are things you can do to soothe your crying baby.
Keep reading to find out if your baby has colic, and how to calm a colicky baby.
How to Know if your Baby has Colic?
That’s a universal rule of parenting that we can’t escape.
However, they usually have reasons to cry. It’s how they communicate! (I know I know, that’s kind of a parenting mantra… but it’s true!) If your baby’s diaper is wet, or if she’s hungry, cold, or uncomfortable, she’ll cry. Can you imagine needing something and not being able to talk or move excessively? I’d cry, too!
The thing is, sometimes babies cry for no apparent reason. And when I say cry, I mean, really cry. Face contorted in pain, screaming from the top of their lungs, completely desperate over… nothing, apparently? Well, Houston, we have a problem.
Ollie used to cry excessively and we ran through the checklist. Over, and over again. Diaper, fine. Hunger, fine. Temperature, fine. Cuddling, fine! Everything seemed fine. Yet something clearly wasn’t.
After some days passed and the crying continued (always at the same time), we desperately took him to the doctor. There was nothing wrong with him. Well, almost nothing.
He was colicky.
How did his Doctor Know he had Baby Colic?
To know if your baby has colic, doctors usually use the”rule of three.” Your baby may be colicky is she has been crying:
- At least three days a week.
- For at least three hours a day.
- During a span of three weeks or more.
In addition, other signs of a colicky baby are:
- The crying starts at around 2 weeks old (or, 2 weeks adjusted if your baby is a preemie)
- Crying normally happens at the same time every day, normally during the evenings, but the timing can vary. Ollie, for instance, cried every day from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m.
- Your baby may be clenching her fists, or pull up her legs.
- She may seem in pain, shutting her eyes with strength and opening them wide at times.
- Your baby’s diaper is clean and she isn’t hungry or tired.
- There is no other obvious reason for the crying.
- Your baby seems inconsolable, may seem to look for your nipple or bottle and reject it after briefly sucking.
- She may wake up screaming shortly after falling asleep.
- She may pass gas or spit up.
Having a colicky baby isn’t fun, but it doesn’t last forever. Colics usually go away on their own between 4 and 6 months (adjusted, if your baby is premature).
And, most importantly, there are no long-term differences between babies who had colic and babies who didn’t have them.
Though difficult, it’s a temporary condition.
What Causes Colic in Babies?
Even though the exact cause of colics isn’t yet known, experts agree that several factors don’t have anything to do with colics:
- It’s not caused by genetics. So if your first child had infant colic, there is no associated risk of your second child having colic as well.
- Childbirth or pregnancy conditions don’t cause colics either (except for smoking). Don’t worry, it’s not something you did or didn’t do during your pregnancy.
- Parenting skills don’t cause colics either. You’re doing fine, mama!
So, what does cause colics?
Doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact issue, but there are several theories.
- Immature digestive system and this is where there’d be a greater risk of premature babies developing colics. Babies don’t have the digestive muscle strength that’s required for keeping milk down in the stomach. So the milk can travel up their digestive tracks freely, causing infant acid reflux. Infant Acid reflux is another suspected cause of baby colic.
- Food allergies or sensitivity: Also linked to an underdeveloped digestive system. Your baby may be sensitive to the formula o breastmilk she’s receiving.
- Tobacco exposure: Babies who live in a house where someone smokes are twice more likely to develop colic. This applies to pregnancies, too. If your unborn baby was continuously exposed to tobacco during pregnancy, she’s more likely to develop colic later on.
No matter the cause, colics are transitory and don’t have a lasting effect on your baby’s health.
How to Calm a Colicky Baby?
We tried everything, with some things having temporary calming effects for a few days. Nothing will completely resolve colic except for time. But these are the things that worked for us and made the whole situation much more bearable.
- Swaddle your baby: Swaddling creates a relaxing space for your baby. It gives her a feeling of security and takes her back to her months in mommy’s womb.
- Probiotic drops: As recommended by our doctor, we gave Ollie 5 daily drops o probiotics and it worked wonders. Consult with your doctor if these are an option or your baby. These are the exact drops we used.
- Create a calm environment for your baby: Play calming music or white noise. Reduce stimulation so that your baby feels sensory comforted.
- If you’re breastfeeding, have a clean diet: While your baby is breastfeeding, you may want to get rid of any potential allergens in your own nutrition. Dairy is usually the first culprit, but gluten, wheat, nuts, or sugar can also cause digestive issues that negatively affect the colic.
- Apply light pressure to baby’s tummy: Lovingly press your baby’s tummy to relive some of the discomforts.
- Consider switching formulas: Your formula may be too heavy for your baby. Ask your doctor if it’s ok to switch to a lighter one. We switched to Enfamil Gentlease. (Best. Decision. Ever.) During the months that Ollie was colicky, we switched to formula and I pumped to maintain my milk flow. He was calmer and the colic episodes were less frequent. I highly recommend it!
- Burp your baby: Burp your baby to make sure that uncomfortable gas doesn’t add to the colic pain.
- Offer your baby a binky: Babies have a strong sucking reflex. If you’re breastfeeding and your baby wants to suck after she’s fed, allow it. Or, offer her a pacifier.
- Hold your baby upright for 1 hour after feeds: This worked great for us. We held Ollie vertically while we were sitting down, for at least one hour. We just let physics keep the milk down help those digestive muscles a bit.
That’s a Wrap
Baby colic is tough. Tougher than tough. They are definitely in my list of top 10 hardest things about early parenting!
But, it’s a temporal phase, and, before you know it, your lovely baby will stop crying, and your stress levels will be back to zero! (Or, whatever is normal for us mamas!) In the meantime, you can always take a break when things get too difficult. Even if it’s a 10-minute break!
What are your techniques on soothing a colicky baby? Let us know in the comments!
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