Parents often tell me that they think their baby is “colicky.” What is colic exactly and what can be done about it?
Colic is a term used to describe when an infant cries frequently and intensely and is very difficult to soothe. By definition, crying occurs for more than 3 hrs/day, more than 3 days/week, and for more than 3 weeks straight.
All babies will cry, and sometimes it feels excessive. Remember that it is NOT your fault! Crying starts around 2 weeks and peaks at 6 weeks of age, usually tapering by 3 or 4 months. Crying is most frequent in the late afternoon or evening. The cause of colic is unknown and may simply be a natural pattern of development. In order to diagnose colic, your physician needs to ensure there is nothing worrisome on your child’s history or physical examination. Colicky infants are otherwise healthy and growing/developing normally.
1. Check that your baby is not hungry, that she doesn’t have a dirty diaper, and that she is not too hot or cold. Check that she doesn’t have other symptoms like fever.
2. Try simulating the fetal environment – swaddling, swinging, or using a jiggling motion may be helpful. Go for a ride in the car or for a walk in the stroller.
3. Try using soft music or a steady white noise such as “hushing” or a vacuum cleaner.
4. Some find “colic holds” that place some pressure on the baby’s stomach helpful.
5. Try using a pacifier to soothe your baby. Turn off the lights and go to a quiet space – sometimes over stimulation can make an infant upset.
6. Try giving your baby a warm bath.
7. Although there is no good evidence to support the use of over the counter treatments, some parents have found them helpful. These may include Simethicone or gripewater. The drug dicyclomine is not recommended.
8. There is some evidence supporting the use of a hypoallergenic formula in bottle fed babies who have a family history of allergies and for babies who are intolerant of cow’s milk. If you are concerned about a cow’s milk protein allergy, speak to your doctor.
9. No benefit has been shown with chiropractic treatment, massage, car-ride simulators, or crib vibrators in the context of colic.
Remember that colic is normal in young infants, but can be frustrating. If you feel stressed or upset, ask someone to take care of your baby for a while. Otherwise, leave your baby in a safe place such as her crib while you take a short break. Remember that sometimes it may seem like nothing works! But be reassured that it will get better!