Colic can be one of the major stresses in child rearing. The colicky infant usually cries for at least several hours a day, more often in the late afternoon and early evening hours. It begins in the first few weeks of life, peaks in the fourth to sixth week, and then typically resolves by the third or fourth month of life. Your child may display sudden and intense crying which is accompanied by stiffening, drawing up of the legs, and passing of gas.
The cause of colic is unknown. Although many people assume that it is a result of intestinal pain, the cause seems to vary with each infant. Air swallowing, immaturity of the intestinal tract, immaturity of the nervous system, a hypersensitivity to a protein in cow's milk, a sensitivity to environmental stimuli, and low progesterone have all been suggested as possible factors.
What to do about Colic
Don't Blame Yourself. It is natural to become frustrated and angry over a child who won't stop crying. Some parents will begin to question their parenting skills, thinking that " I must be doing something wrong !" Try to relax. Fortunately, colic usually resolves by itself over time.
Never Shake your Baby! Anxiety and frustration have led parents to shake their baby in an attempt to make them stop crying. Shaking can lead to bleeding in the brain and it must be avoided at all times! Call us immediately if you have just shaken your newborn or if you feel the urge to harm your infant.
Feed your Baby Calmly. Feedings should be quiet and not hurried. Handle your baby gently. Avoid distractions by discouraging telephone calls and well-meaning visitors, especially during the peak periods of colic.
Try a Variety of Calming Methods. Each baby responds to these methods differently. Try to find the right one for your child: gently rocking or walking, swaddling, "shooshing", an infant swing, soft music, "white noise" from the TV/radio, taped uterine sounds, auto rides, and pacifiers. A child carrier (eg. "Snuggly") has been shown to be of benefit when used consistently. Try bathing your baby or simply undressing her. Some parents have found success with putting their child in a car seat and putting it on top of the dryer when it is running. (Be sure to hold on !)
Minimize Air Swallowing. Use frequent burping and proper bottle position. If your baby is bottle-fed, make sure that the hole in the nipple is big enough. If your baby tends to pass a lot of gas, you may try Mylicon drops, an over-the-counter remedy which is harmless.
Avoid Cows Milk. A few studies have shown that a small percentage of infants are sensitive to a protein found in cow's milk.If you are bottle feeding, try changing from a cow's milk -based formula to a soy-based formula or a lactose-free formula. For nursing mothers, it may be necessary to avoid all milk products for one week to see if your child's colic diminishes. Some doctors will also recommend avoidance of other types of food such as chocolate, spicy foods, and "gassy vegetables" like cucumbers and broccoli. If these don't help, call us during office hours to consider further formula changes.
Plan Ahead. If your child is fussy during dinner time, prepare the meal earlier in the day so that you can devote all of your time to your baby. Housework may have to wait.
Take a Break. Many people feel reluctant and guilty about giving their child to another to take care of. Spouses, partners, friends and relatives can each take their turn with a colicky child. Don't try to do it alone!
Consider Probiotics A recent study in Italy evaluated 50 babies with colic...some were given Lactobacillus Reuteri while others received a placebo. The infants who received the probiotic had a significant reduction in crying. This study needs to be repeated in other centers. Keep in mind that the FDA does not regulate OTC probiotics and so the quantity of bacteria may vary among OTC products.
By Daniel Feiten MD
Last Reviewed:6/24/2011 12:00:00 AM
Last Revised:6/24/2011 12:00:00 AM