The incessant crying from colic is challenging for parents to cope with. Many parents may blame themselves if their baby has colic. It is important to know, however, that colic is normal and that there are certain steps you can take to soothe your baby.
The three main signs of colic include:
- crying nonstop for hours
- crying at regular times of the day
- crying that cannot be soothed
About one-fifth of babies develop colic. This condition often begins abruptly around the second and fourth weeks. Then, it often stops on its own around three to four months, but may last up to six months of age.
Even babies without colic may be more fussy around six weeks of age, when crying duration tends to peak at around three hours a day. After that, it may decline to one or two hours of crying a day by the time your baby is three or four months old. For many babies, crying tends to be worse in the early evening.
Possible Causes of Colic
No one is certain what causes colic, though there are several theories. Experts do know that it is not a sign of your baby manipulating or rejecting you. It is also not caused by anything you are doing wrong.
Colic may simply mean that your child cannot "self-console" (calm his or her own nervous system) and is unusually sensitive to stimulation. As your child grows, this inability to self-console will improve and the constant crying will begin to disappear.
Colic may also be a sign of food sensitivity, either in a breastfeeding mother's diet or in a type of formula.
Tips for Dealing with Colic and Excessive Fussiness
- If you are concerned that your baby may have colic, first call your healthcare provider. He or she may want to check and make sure the crying isn't due to illness or other medical condition.
- Don't worry about spoiling your newborn by holding them. The feel and scent of a parent soothes babies. Touch also reminds your baby that he or she is not alone.
- Introduce a pacifier or let your baby suck on your finger.
- Swaddle your baby in a thin blanket.
- Use music and motion to soothe your baby. Walk with your baby in a carrier or rock them. Run the vacuum in the next room or turn on a white noise machine. Or take your baby for a ride in the car.
- If it has been two hours since the last feeding, you may offer another feeding.
- Though it is difficult, try to stay calm. Your newborn can sense your mood.
- Take your baby outside to get fresh air.
- Lie baby down safely in his or her crib and listen outside the door. If after a moment he stops crying, he may have needed some time to settle and rest.
- Avoid herbal and homeopathic remedies such as colic tablets and gripe water. These are not standardized and may contain harmful substances.
- Talk to your pediatrician about using a probiotic like Soothe Drops.
- If you suspect food sensitivity, talk to your pediatrician. If you are breastfeeding, he or she may suggest you eliminate a certain food from your diet. If you are formula feeding, he or she may suggest a different kind of formula.
- Do not shake your baby. Shaking an infant can cause brain damage, blindness, and even death. If you feel anxious or upset from the constant crying ask for help from a family member, friend, or partner. Let them watch your baby while you give yourself time to recover and calm down.
- It is helpful to remember that while colic is difficult to endure, it always disappears with time. Many parents find they have to simply wait for their baby to grow out of this stage.
Self-Care and Colic
While it is important to soothe your baby, it is also important to focus on caring for yourself as well during this challenging time.
Even getting out of the house for a couple of hours may be the reprieve you need to return home with a more positive attitude. If you are experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of your baby's colic, contact your doctor so you can receive support and treatment.