CRYING AND COLIC: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW + 5 WAYS TO SOOTHE BABY'S COLIC
Colic is at best a poorly defined infantile condition. The term basically suggests that an infant has periods of intense, unexplainable crying for 3 or more hours a day, 3 or more times a week. The child will often clench their fists and pull their knees up to their stomach. All babies cry, but this crying is inconsolable. They’re not hungry or tired and they don’t need a diaper change. A child with colic often has episodes in the later afternoon and early evening, although it can happen at other times. Colic tends to set in when a baby is about 6 weeks old and it usually subsides around 4 months.
If this describes your child, you’re definitely not alone. Many parents endure hours of screaming, and while your baby is very upset, it seems to be harmless for the baby. Studies show that nearly all babies with colic turn out just the same as babies without colic, and it doesn’t seem to be indicative of having a short temper later in life.
Unfortunately, no one really knows what causes colic and science has yet to come up with a good answer. Sometimes colic can be caused by gas or a food allergy. However, colic that is actually being caused by something organic makes up only 5 to 10 percent of cases and is easily remedied with the right medication, a diet change on the part of the breastfeeding mother, or by switching formula.
For the rest of colicky babies, there are several theories on what causes these intense episodes of prolonged crying. The most popular and accepted theory is the idea of neuro-development or brain-maturity. The idea behind it is simple. A colicky baby’s brain is still maturing. Babies with colic tend to be more easily over-stimulated than babies without colic. The overstimulation makes them cry and their brain isn’t mature enough to calm down once a crying episode has begun. And once a child reaches about 4 months old, their brain has matured enough to handle stimulation and therefore not cry. This is also why colicky babies tend to start crying in the late afternoon. All of the stimulation and stress of life going on around them, throughout the day, has simply built up to the point that a baby can’t handle it anymore and they begin to cry.
Here are a couple suggestions for trying to calm a colicky baby:
1. Maintain a low-stress lifestyle. Babies can sense if their parents are stressed and this, in turn, can stress them out.
2. Avoid over-stimulation. Try not to have a bunch of things going on at once. Babies with colic tend to do better with the sound of white noise, rather than the TV or music.
3. A warm bath and a massage. Putting a baby in a warm bath and gently massaging them can help calm them down.
4. Go outside. Put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk. Often times going outside will help calm the crying.
5. Hold your baby. Studies show that babies, who are held more, are less likely to cry. If you have things to do, put your baby in a baby carrier.
6. Create a womb-like sensation. Help calm your baby by following the 5S’s: swaddling, slushing sounds, sucking, holding them on their stomach, side or over your shoulder.
7. Put the baby in a car or bouncy seat and set them on a running washer or dryer. Sometimes the movement will calm them down. NEVER leave your baby, while doing this, and always hold onto their seat to keep it from falling.
If your baby has colic, have hope that it does eventually end. But in the meantime, it can be nerve-wracking. Surround yourself with support. Enlist friends and family members to take care of the baby for an hour, so that you can get some rest. Talk to other parents of colicky infants. It will help you to not feel so alone. If you ever get frustrated, really discouraged or even angry, it’s O.K. to take a break. Put your baby in a safe place like their crib and leave for a couple minutes to calm down and collect yourself. It is far better and safer for everyone than to risk getting angry with a baby.