Colic: What it is and What to do

The very word colic is enough to raise fear in the hearts of mothers everywhere. Even if you have not had a colicky baby yourself, chances are you have heard the tales from other mothers of endless crying, sleepless nights, and failure after failure to soothe the baby. All babies are a challenge and can cry for long periods of time for no apparent reason, but a baby with colic is a different story altogether.

What is Colic?

The basic definition of colic is a baby who is healthy and well-fed, but screams or cries inconsolably for at least three hours a day, three days a week, for an extended period of time, generally a minimum of three weeks. If your baby fits this description, colic is likely. Unlike the crying of a normal baby, a colicky baby has no apparent reason, at least none that the parents or doctor can uncover, for the crying. This can cause parents a great deal of frustration; as every mother and father knows, there is nothing worse than being unable to provide comfort to your child.

Colicky babies usually have their spells of crying at the same time of the day, and the crying is usually very intense and high-pitched. Colic-related crying seems to start out of nowhere, and you may notice changes in baby’s posture such as clenched fists and tense muscles. A colicky baby will often cry so hard as to cause a flushed face and heavy breathing.

What to Do If You Suspect Colic

If your baby is having intense crying spells lasting for hours on a regular basis, and you can find no cause for the crying, you probably are facing colic. It’s a good idea to see your baby’s doctor to rule out other possible causes of the crying that might not be readily visible to you, such as ear infection or reflux. Your doctor will perform an examination and if nothing is found, you will likely be given a diagnosis of colic.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis really means that there is not much the doctor can offer by way of assistance. Unlike reflux or infections, there is currently no medical treatment for colic, mainly because no one really knows what causes it. There are some things you can try at home, however, to improve the situation.

Soothing a Colicky Baby

You may feel that you have tried everything to soothe your baby without any success, but that doesn’t mean you should give up trying. Sometimes it will take a great deal of trial and error to find what works for your baby, and different soothing techniques may help at different times, so try things again that may have failed in the past. At the very least, you will feel like you are doing something for baby.

Colicky babies may be soothed by motion, so try a swing or taking your baby for a ride in the car. You can also rock the baby in your arms, although this may become tiring after a while – it is worth it for some peace and quiet. Some colicky babies will also respond to being swaddled, as they feel more secure that way.

If nothing else works, you might have to ride out the storm. The good news is, babies usually outgrow colic by about 3 months old, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Take turns handling the worst of the colic episodes so that no one reaches the end of their patience. Colic can be very trying, but it will end eventually.

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