Babies cry for different reasons, they cry when they are hungry, thirsty, when they need more attention and when they are sleepy but when a baby cries non-stop for more than three to four hours in a day and for three to four days in a week then it's likely to be a case of infant colic. The word colic is derived from a Greek word meaning pain, but infant colic is not due to pain. It is essential that the parents stay calm and composed else they will stimulate the baby's colic. Never get frustrated, it can worsen colic in the baby.
What is infant colic?
Uncontrollable and continuous crying of a baby for long hours even while the baby is feeding well and healthy usually is indicative of infant colic. The baby cries severely for long stretches. Colic in infants is not dangerous however it worries the parents till the infant settles down. Almost 20% of babies suffer from infant colic. Infant colic sets in as early as two weeks and can last up to three months or even more.
Possible causes for infant colic
The exact cause for colic in infants is not known. Earlier colic was related to the baby's digestive system. Gas in the abdomen aggravates colic but it cannot be said that colic is caused due to gastrointestinal problems. In fact babies suffering from colic pass a lot of gas but gas does not cause colic. Another possible cause for colic in infants could be attributed to the infant's temperament and undeveloped nervous system. Temperament of the baby makes the baby react in different ways to the changes in the surrounding environment. Since the nervous system of the baby is undeveloped, the baby is incapable of controlling its cry once it begins.
Symptoms of infant colic
- Uncontrollable crying during late afternoons and evenings
- Baby is very uncomfortable
- Infants raise their heads and pull their legs towards their tummies
- Their face turns red in color
- Feet of the baby get cold
- Babies clench their wrists tightly
- Infants refuse to sleep and if they are made to sleep they do not sleep continuously
- Few infants refuse to feed while experiencing colic.
Treatment and prevention for infant colic
Colic in infants is common and requires no medical treatment. Medicines are available to soothe the abdominal symptoms and release the trapped wind.
- Try changing the formula feed if your infant is bottle fed.
- If you are breast feeding the baby, continue doing so as sudden withdrawal of breast feed will aggravate the colic of your baby.
- Mothers who breast feed their babies have to follow a strict diet schedule. Identify the food item you consume that causes colic in your infant and try avoiding it. Onions, spicy food, cabbage, cauliflower, excessive caffeine could worsen colic in your baby.
- Burp your baby after every feed to ensure that the baby retains no wind in its system. Parents can try bottles shaped particularly for babies to minimize swallowing of air while feeding. You can try feeding the baby in different positions too.
- Never overfeed your baby as this worsens the colic in the infant.
- Few infants are intolerant to lactose and they find it difficult to digest lactose. Breast feeding mothers have to reduce the intake of cow's milk in their diet too.
Tips for parents to deal with infant colic
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- Hold the infant in a comfortable position. Carry him in a back pack or front sling.
- Lightly swing the baby using a baby swing.
- Swaddling the baby comfortably in a blanket.
- Take the baby out for a walk or for a drive.
- Try giving the baby a shower in warm water.
- Gently rub the tummy and the back of the baby.
- Either try breast feeding the baby or give him a soother to suck.
- Keep the baby away from bright lights and excessive noise.
- Hold him near any appliance of the house that will cause cadenced vibrations and therefore calm him. For e.g. dishwasher, clothes washer-dryer, vacuum cleaner etc.