Colic is intense and prolonged crying in an otherwise health baby.
It can happen at any time but is usually common in evenings. It can begin any time after birth and usually subsides around 3-4 months of age.
A baby is said to be colic when he/she cries for 3 or more hours, 3 or more days a week, for 3 or more weeks straight.
Some of the other symptoms associated with a colic baby are:
- Crying without any apparent reason (even when the baby is fed, changed, burped, and is not sleepy).
- Predictable in the times it occurs – for example, my baby would cry from 10pm at night until 2am in the morning, almost every day at the same time.
- The cry is usually very intense and are more like painful screaming.
- Consoling does not usually work like it does in a baby needing diaper change or who is hungry.
- Baby can show signs of body tensions like stiff legs, clenching of the fists, and bloated/tightened stomach.
The causes of colic are unknown, but some factors may include gas, food allergies (this from the mom’s diet if breastfed – see below for more), formula intolerance, imbalance of healthy bacteria in the digestive tracts, under or overfeeding, or stress from the environment.
Colic does not cause any harm to the babies per say, however, it can be very stressful for the parents. It could lead to stress in the family especially between couples, post-partum depression in mothers, and/or anger, exhaustion, and guilt in parents as well.
“My baby was colic, and I did not know it until she was 3 weeks old.”
It started a few days after we came from the hospital.
My baby was a little fussy during the day, but I associated that to gas and hunger. But at night, around 10 pm, she would start crying incessantly and not stop until several hours later.
We did everything we could from diapering, feeding, burping, shushing, warm baths, rocking, and everything that a parent would try to calm their crying child.
Sometimes it worked, other times it did not!
Several hours later she would calm down and then sleep peacefully.
This went on for 3 weeks, until one day my husband unexpectedly stated that she was colic.
Then all those readings I did prior to birth came rushing back.
Of course, she was colic!!
We immediately looked up what could be causing this and realized that it was my diet, especially the cow’s milk from my diet.
After giving birth, I drank a lot of milk products – ginger/fenugreek seeds in milk, hot cocoa, warm milk with turmeric, and all this was to help me heal and enhance milk production.
I did not realize that the milk in my diet was affecting my baby.
My husband stated that she was probably unable to digest the protein in the cow’s milk, causing her to have indigestion, upset stomach, and gas.
There have been several researches on the relationship between colic babies and mother’s diet. One research from the Pediatrics Journal suggested that excluding high-allergenic products from the mother’s diet could reduce the colic symptoms in the babies.
Food products that have been suggested harmful are cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, soy, shellfish, grains/nuts, caffeine, spicy foods, and basically any food/fruits/vegetables that can cause gas.
I already avoided spicy food, caffeine, and many gassy foods just for my sake. And, now having known the culprit to her cries, I eliminated cow’s milk from my diet as well.
Nothing changed immediately, however, my baby is now 6 weeks old and her colic symptoms have reduced. She sleeps longer periods as she should, and have also given me several all-night sleep sessions 😊
Some tips that can help when your baby is colic are:
Diet – moms should watch their diet closely post-partum regardless of colicky baby or not. This can help reduce the chances of colic as we are unsure what our new babies are allergic to anyways.
Elevation – raising the baby’s head just a little can help reduce those acid reflux that he/she may be having.
Warm compression – we took a burp cloth, made it warm using a heating pad or iron, and placed it on the baby’s tummy. Please make sure that you test the warmth on your elbow before putting it on the baby and do not put it on the bare skin.
Burping – even if the baby had not eaten recently, the very first thing we did was try to burp her before doing anything else. Many times, gas would come out and she would calm down for a few minutes.
White noises – this was very helpful for us. We would turn on the air vent over the stove and bounce around in the kitchen with the baby. It would soothe her and help her fall asleep. Some mamas also suggest white noise videos on YouTube or even using the vacuum cleaner noise to help calm their babies.
Swaddling – another big one that helped us. Feeling too hot or too cold would also lead to a crying baby. Dress the baby weather appropriate of course, however, I also recommend swaddling the baby. This can give them a warm feeling they had in the womb and make them comfortable.
Repetitive moving – when trying to comfort the baby, use repetitive movements. For us, rocking back and forth holding her close to my chest would soothe her. She also loved it when we did squats with her as it would subside her crying for some time.
Stay calm – feeling angry, guilty, or frustrated will not solve anything. Crying is the only way your baby can talk to you. So, remain calm, get help during the colic sessions, and step away for a few minutes when you do have help to help your sanity!
The first several weeks were a battle for us.
We felt so helpless and guilty for not being able to help our little one when she was having her crying session. She is exclusively breastfed so changing my diet was key to turning things around.
There are other options out there like changing to anti-colic formulas, Gripe water, probiotics for babies, or anti-colic tablets.
We did not try any of these because we knew what was causing the problem. We also did not want to give our daughter any medicine or herbal treatments for the fear of making things worse.
Disclosure: Everything I have discussed here are from personal experience. Please discuss it with your pediatrician prior to trying anything suggested here.