How To Survive Those Tough Months
Infant colic is a very unwelcome guest in a new family. Still some 10-20% of all newborn babies will develop colic.
While no one knows exactly what causes colic, there are some theories as well as treatments that can help you to deal with your colicky baby and many sleepless nights.
Infant colic can be increadibly hard on the family, but in the middle of everything, remember that it does pass.
Infant Colic And How To Deal With It
What is colic?When your baby is labeled as being colicky, it can be very stressful. It can help to understand exactly what having colic means. The name colic is given to infants who suffer with severe, unexplained crying spells on a daily basis. Many times this occurs early in the evening. So infant colic is not a medical condition. Or rather - it is not a condition that medicine has found a reason for. Hopefully in the future, the doctors will find the reasons, so these poor fellows and their parents can get more effective help.
The definition of colic is (usually) that a young baby cries for more than 3 hours more than 3 days per week and that all other reasons for the crying have been ruled out. Some places the definition is that the baby cries for three hours every day. 10-20% of all infants in developed countries get colic and it is just as common among breastfed babies as formula fed. The start of colic is uncommon among babies that are younger than 2 weeks old and older than 3 months old. Colic is very uncommon in developing countries.
Possible causes of baby colicWhile no one knows for sure what actually causes colic in infants, there are some theories on why it happens. One theory is that the baby's intestines are somehow over active, creating cramps and pain.
Another theory is that it is mainly gas that creates the problem.
There also sometimes seems to be a connection between mom consuming dairy products and colic in her infant (if she breastfeeds).
All these theories are based on the baby's behavior during the crying spells. It looks very much as if the baby is in great pain.
However, recent research indicates that the babies' brain reactions are more similar to anger than pain. Somehow I think I could endure better the thought of my baby being furious than in pain, even if it is very stressful anyway. As far as I know, however, no one has yet been able to explain why the babies would be angry. A theory that relates to this, however, is that colicky babies are more sensitive to over stimulation than average babies, and hence need more peace and quiet.
SymptomsThe symptoms of infant colic are quite distinct. They will suffer with uncontrollable crying spells and may even pull their legs up into a fetal position as in an attempt to alleviate pain. You may also see the baby stiffen his or her legs rigidly while clenching their fists.
Your baby may turn red from crying and may at times show signs of relief when passing gas.
The signs of colic generally start at 2 to 3 weeks of age and last up to 3 to 6 months, usually 3-4 months, though. This will not affect how your baby grows or how he or she will develop.
Possible treatmentsOnce you and your pediatrician have determined that your baby indeed has colic, you will want to have some sort of treatment plan to follow to see if you can alleviate some of the symptoms.
However, since the causes of infant colic are so poorly understood, the treatments available are not that great either. As a general rule, the doctor will do a series of tests to rule out any medical problems. For example, ear infections, urinary tract infections, acid reflux and cow's milk intolerance can give similar symptoms.
One of the home remedies you can use is to feed your baby in an upright position to help eliminate too much air from being swallowed.
You should also try to be sure that you feed your baby in a quiet, calm room.
If you are breastfeeding, you may want to cut out spicy foods as well as dairy products as you could be passing it to your baby when your breastfeed and some colicky babies appear to get better when particularly lactose is completely excluded from mom's diet. To learn more about what to eat while breastfeeding, click here.
If the baby is formula fed, using a formula with no lactose in it may also help.
If you smoke, stop. Nicotine is known to cause tummy pain in infants.
Many babies suffering from infant colic react positively on baby massage. You'll find my review of an excellent book on the topic here.
Another interesting book (found below) is by a pediatrician who explains why acid reflux is often mistaken for infant colic and what you can do to help your baby.
Another rather cute remedy is a baby tummy wrap that you can make warm. Remember how increadibly good it felt to put a warm wrap on yor own tummy when the first contractions set in? A heated tummy wrap can be a great comfort for stomach pain, not just for babs with colic. Just don't overheat it!
When it comes to medicines, colic gripe water is found by many parents to somewhat help their babies.
There is also a "real" medicine that has proven effects on colic, but since it also has adverse side effects it is usually only given to children with particularly severe colic. Ask your pediatrician for advice.
Tips for parentsOne of the first tips for parents is to try to remain as calm as possible and never take your frustrations out on your baby. Easier said than done maybe, but extremely important, of course.
If you just can't take it anymore, it is better that you put your baby down some place safe and walk out of the room for a while, rather than risking to hurt your baby.
Keep in mind that babies like to be cuddled or swaddled, so wrap your baby up and try walking with him or her or rocking while you cuddle.
Also remember to take turns. It is extremely hard and stressful to take care of a newborn baby that just won't settle no matter what you do. If you are a single parent, this is really the time to test your friends. Even just 10 minutes away from your crying child can help you cope with the situation.
YOUR colicky stories
Tell Your Colicky Story!
How did you survive the colicky months? Do you have any tips for parents that are now in your situation?
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