When babies cry for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, in an otherwise healthy child, it is usually baby colic. The crying tends to recur at the same time of day, often in the evening. Also called infantile colic, it affects up to 40 percent of babies commonly starting at six weeks of age and usually goes away by six months. It is not a disease and is not dangerous, but can be quite stressful for both children and parents.
The causes of baby colic are not clear, but research is ongoing and there are many theories. It might be caused by gas in the baby’s stomach, if the baby swallows a lot of air while feeding. Allergies to cow’s milk protein or gastrointestinal sensitivity are other possible explanations.
If healthy babies cry repeatedly and persistently, it may be a sign of infantile colic. They usually have difficulty lying still, stretch their bodies uncomfortably and often pull their legs up to the stomach. Stomach pain, gas in the stomach or difficulty emptying the rectum may be other symptoms – you may hear sounds from the tummy that indicate gastrointestinal problems.
The definition of baby colic is crying more than three hours for more than three days a week, in an otherwise healthy child. However this crying can be caused by other disorders – for example, ear inflammation or constipation.
Prevention and protection
Try to learn to recognize patterns when your child screams. If you don’t see a clear connection to the baby’s needs in terms of food, closeness, changing diapers or anything else, it can sometimes help to try to minimize the amount of air the baby swallows during feeding. Air creates gas that can lead to discomfort and abdominal pain – this is why babies spit up after feeding. It can also be good to review feeding habits and try calming measures.
Remember that colic is not dangerous for the baby. It is easy to feel helpless and frustrated as a parent – of course, do what you can to relieve your child’s symptoms, but also relax.
Some advice to help to relieve colic:
- Minimize the amount of air the baby swallows.
If you breastfeed, your baby should preferably have the whole nipple in its mouth, to minimize the amount of air the baby swallows during feeding. If breast milk comes quickly, you can squeeze out some milk first or take breaks during breastfeeding. If you feed with a bottle, smaller holes in the teat can be a solution.
- Create a calm and harmonious environment for the child.
Infant massage has shown to relieve colic; also a warm/hot bath for preventative purposes, just before the time the child usually starts screaming, can be helpful. Monotonous sounds and rocking movements can also help.
- Exclude cow’s milk.
Some researches show that reactions to cow’s milk proteins can be a cause of colic. If you breastfeed, try to avoid cow’s milk for a period of time to see if it has any effect on your baby. Try non-dairy milk substitutes instead.
- Avoid caffeine and some kinds of food.
In connection with breastfeeding, it can help to avoid caffeine, as well as gas-forming food and drinks.
- Stop smoking.
Smoking affects the child negatively in several ways – colic is no exception.
At pharmacies there are non-prescription drugs and products that can relieve gas problems, including antigas drops.
There is no specific treatment or medication for children with infantile colic. Yet solutions can be found to ease, if not completely remove, the problem. It is important to review a child’s feeding habits and your own diet, if breastfeeding. You can also try antigas drops or probiotics. Sometimes babies feel better when pressure is placed on their abdomen. The problem usually goes away by itself at three to six months of age. In some cases, a medical examination may be required to diagnose any allergy to cow’s milk proteins – or other causes of a baby’s persistent screams.
When to consult a doctor
It can be difficult to interpret a baby’s screams. In order to make sure that it is colic, you may need to consult your healthcare provider.
If your child is screaming the whole day, you should seek emergency care. This is also true if your child seems abnormally tired or does not want to eat or drink.
How APPOTEK can help
You can contact us at APPOTEK for help with baby colic. A nurse or a doctor will make an individual assessment based on the child’s symptoms during the care meeting. The child can then be prescribed treatment or referred for further care.