Many people assume it is normal for newborns to cry; however, they do not know that around 15% to 25% of babies’ shed way more tears than the rest. So, if your otherwise healthy baby goes through frequent spells of crying and screaming for no apparent reason – and there is nothing you can do to console them – experts might suspect colic. Please note that this condition is not a diagnosis; instead, it is a behavioral observation.
Keep reading on to learn what exactly colic is, its signs, causes, and some helpful tips and remedies to control and put a halt to the crying spells.
What we’ll cover:
Here are all the things that we’ll be covering in this blog post:
- What Is Colic?
- How Much Is Too Much?
- Colic in Babies: When It Starts and Ends?
- Symptoms of Colic
- What Causes Colic in Babies?
- What Colic Is Not?
- Tips to Calm A Colicky Baby
What Is Colic?
As stated earlier, colic is not a corporal disease or disorder; in fact, it merely signifies the long spells of unexplainable crying and screaming in babies.
How Much Is Too Much?
It is crucial to understand that determining whether your newborn is crying is “excessively” or “normally,” you might be mindful of how much you can endure. Many experts, however, use the “rule of three” to determine whether your baby is suffering from colic or not.
According to the “rule of three,” otherwise healthy newborns who cry in total for more than 3 hours each day, for greater than three days per week, and more than three weeks might potentially have colic. Nonetheless, it would be best not to concern yourself too much with any formal colic definition as there are no tests to confirm this condition. Even experts disagree on a universal colic definition, its cause, symptoms, and treatment.
Colic in Babies: When It Starts and Ends?
In general, colic in babies initiates around two to three weeks of age. Several pieces of research suggest that a baby with this condition will usually experience crying spells between six in the evening and midnight.
Now that is, of course, when parents also start feeling worn out. Although the constant crying and screaming might make countless parents want to pull their hair out, we want them to remember (despite how hard it might feel) that this phase and the crying spells would not last forever. Colic in babies generally peaks around six to eight weeks and then gradually squanders, vanishing entirely once the baby reached three to four months of age.
Now that you know a bit about colic let us explore some of its significant signs and symptoms.
Symptoms of Colic
“How to differentiate between colic and normal crying?” we tend to get this question a lot. It is crucial to note that normal crying or yelps usually arise from a need, such as feeding, changing, holding, etc.
More importantly, they emerge in no particular patterns during the day and night. Such babies can be deemed fussy, and they tend to get soothed with cuddling, rocking, or merely holding. Colicky babies, on the contrary, go through unprovoked and unexplainable periods of crying and screaming that fail to stop even after consoling.
Colic cries are not the same sort of call you would receive with “Feed me. I am hungry,” or ‘I am tired and want to sleep,” or “Change the diaper. I am dirty“. If your baby cries out of hunger, they would feel better once you have fed them. With colic, however, it is almost impossible to tell what the baby wants.
To help you discern whether your baby is suffering from this condition, we have outlined an essential checklist on colic signs and symptoms:
- Intense crying that might appear more like screaming or an illustration of pain/discomfort
- Severe fussiness even after the crying and wailing has lessened.
- Discoloration of the face, such as paler skin around the mouth or reddening of the face
- Crying or screaming for no apparent reasons (unlike when outbursts are displays of hunger, tiredness, or the want for a nappy change)
- Predictable crying patterns usually happening in the evening
- Bodily tension, such as the tense abdomen, stiffened or pulled up legs, clenched fists, stiffened arms, or arched back.
Note: Sometimes, there is somewhat relief in symptoms of colic once the baby or has a bowel movement or passes gas. Gas is generally the result of engulfed air during long periods of crying.
What Causes Colic in Babies?
As explained earlier, what causes colic in babies – and why some newborns go through it while others do not – remains a mystery. It is important to remember that this condition is not a sign that your little one is ill. However, food allergies, reflux, and exposure to cigarette smoke tend to make things worse as they instigate more aggravation and tears.
Likewise, colic is neither a symptom that your baby has abdominal pain, though the way babies grimace, pull their legs up, arch their back, clench their body, and scream till they turn red or purple can make it appear so.
So, there are no fool-proof reasons as to what causes colic in babies. However, there are some theories. Here they are:
Digestive Problems – Some newborns go through increased gas or suffer from inflated stomachs during their intense crying episodes, making some doctors believe that gas pain onsets the constant cries and screams.
Gas-creating foods transported through breast milk, such as nuts, caffeine, and even some vegetables, can cause excessive stomach gas. In addition to this, gas is also a common occurrence among babies with lactose intolerance – and milk allergy. Acid reflux in newborns might be another cause of digestive problems in babies.
Shared Anxiety – It isn’t rare for a new mother to be anxious or stressed out by the end of her day. Many experts think that a mother’s stress level and anxiety are conveyed to the baby, causing them to be “stressed out.”
Brain Chemical Imbalance – Another standard theory is that colic branches from an imbalance between serotonin and melatonin’s brain chemicals. According to some pediatricians, colicky newborns have a greater level of serotonin in their bodies, which makes the intestinal muscles contract and leads to intense cries.
Colicky babies fuss more at night, supporting the above notion, and many pieces of research show that serotonin levels begin peaking during and after the evening.
According to this theory, the imbalance will naturally resolve once the newborns begin producing melatonin – a brain chemical that eases intestinal muscles. Not many people know this, but newborns get sufficient melatonin from the mother while they are in the uterus; the level, however, drops after labor.
It remains low until the newborn begins to produce it on its own at three to four months – interestingly, roughly at the same time when colic generally vanishes.
So, if you have been feeling guilty about please be assured that you that you did not cause the colic. You do not have to live with the guilt that you have done something wrong or cannot do anything to console your little one.
Overstimulation – Some experts view this mysterious condition as a natural developmental stage as newborns try to adjust to all the new and different experiences and sensations that arise with life outside the womb.
This condition of overstimulation is also termed the “fourth trimester” by some doctors. After staying awake for hours trying to understand and absorb all the sounds, sights, and smells of the surrounding world, newborns may reach their threshold and cry aloud.
What Colic Is Not
It is critical to remember that constant crying does not always mean that your baby has colic. There are significant chances that they may be going through an underlying medical condition that has gone undiagnosed, such as gastroesophageal reflux, constipation, allergies, UTI (urinary tract infection), or a hernia. Suppose your baby continues to cry constantly for no apparent reason, even after the first four months have passed. In that case, it may indicate another unknown condition requiring medical attention.
Milk allergy – An allergy of this kind can occur if you feed the baby formula or consume a nursing dairy. Milk-protein allergy usually peaks two to four weeks after childbirth. Generally, newborns who experience it cry excessively and have red streaks of blood or mucus in their stool. In addition, they might also develop a dry, scaly rash on their face or body.
Constipation – Another reason many babies cry uncontrollably is that they might be struggling to eliminate hard stools. Remember, when it comes to newborns, constipation is defined more by effort than time. Therefore, do not fret too much over the hours or days since your baby last dirtied the diaper.
Reflux or Excessive spitting – These two things might also play a massive role in unexplainable crying. But remember that reflux is pretty common in newborns, and unless it is severe, you need not worry. Experts suggest that traditional measures effectively relieve the problem by keeping the baby upright for half an hour after feeding or asking your pediatrician for an acid-reduction medication.
Tips to Calm A Colicky Baby
Remember that as your baby grows, the constant cries and screams will subside naturally. But, if you are like us and can’t keep calm without doing anything, here are some tips to calm your colicky baby. Some babies respond well to several of these interventions, while some do not respond to any. Therefore, be patient and keep ongoing.
Swaddle the baby – Many parents claim that swaddling has helped to calm and soothe their colicky babies. For this, you should wrap down your newborn’s arms snugly against their sides, but be careful to leave the legs loose and flexed so that their hips have ample room to move.
Give a massage – Infant massages have proved to help foster relaxation in colicky babies. Gently rub your baby’s belly, arms, back, and legs with tender strokes. You can even learn more complex massages by reading about the art of infant massage.
Rock the baby – Studies reveal that a smooth and slow-motion keeps newborns calm. After all, for nine months, they are held and rocked 24/7 in the uterus.
Stomach/side-lying – Position the newborn across your lap or forearm with their head resting on your hand. Experts claim that it is easiest to soothe crying babies when lying on their stomachs or side.
Although colic is an entirely normal condition, it is certainly not something you should remain quiet about because there’s a good chance that the baby might be going through something else. Apart from the fussiness, other things that could signify a more serious medical condition involve fever, frequent vomiting, poor weight gain, bloody or loose stools, lethargy, poor feeding, and eczema.
If you think your baby has colic, we advise you to keep a journal and track how often your little one cries, eats, sleeps, poops, and pees. Doing this will help you to identify whether there is a pattern to the crying or not. Finally, remember that you can take steps to diminish the duration and intensity of colic spells, ease your stress, and boost confidence and assurance in your parent-child connection.