Men's Articles

Curing Colic


Why do some babies cry for no apparent reason and only at specific times of the day? How can you differentiate a normal cry from a colicky cry? What can you do to overcome this problem?

Your baby cries every evening for hours at a time, and the crying has worn you down to the point where you feel like joining in the crying too. What could be upsetting your baby? All infants cry and show some degree of fussiness. However, if a baby who is otherwise healthy cries for more than three hours per day, he may have colic.

Colic Uncovered

I had thought I knew enough of colic to be able to detect it in my baby. Although she displayed the obvious characteristic - swollen and tight tummy and was always crying out seemingly in pain - the crying episodes did not occur at the same time of the day, everyday. I hence ruled out colic even though her paediatrician diagnosed it to be. I soon realised there is more to colic than meets the eye.

Colic is an uncontrollable, extended crying in a baby who is otherwise healthy and well fed. Babies with colic cry for longer than three hours a day and for more than three days a week. Thus contrary to what I knew, it may not be a daily occurrence. Although colic is not thought to be due to pain, babies with colic may look uncomfortable or appear to be in pain. When they cry, they may lift their heads, draw their arms and legs toward their tummies seemingly in pain.

Sometimes, they may stretch out their arms and legs and stiffen, then draw them up again. They may even turn bright red from crying. When they cry, they may swallow a lot of air. This may give the babies gas and make the babies' tummies look swollen and feel tight, which may make them even more uncomfortable. Colicky babies usually get fussy towards the end of the day, though colic can occur at any time.

About 20% of babies get colic and it equally affects both boys and girls. Colic typically appears within the first few weeks' of life and goes away invariably on its own by the time the baby is three months' old. Normally, colic is not a serious condition. Research has shown that babies with colic continue to eat and gain weight normally, despite the crying.

Causes

To-date, there is no widely accepted explanation for colic. However, colic is generally ascribed to abdominal pain resulting from trapped gas in the digestive system though research suggests that more often than not, colicky babies develop gas by swallowing too much air while they are crying. Some evidences propose that colic occur because there is a problem with the movement of food through the baby's digestive system; either it is moving too fast or too slow.

Others claim that another possible cause of colic is a combination of the baby's sensitive temperament and an immature nervous system. The baby's temperament may make him highly sensitive to the environment, and he may react to normal stimulation or changes to the environment by crying. And because the baby's nervous system is immature, he is unable to regulate the crying once it starts.

Treatment

There is presently no generally accepted medical treatment or proven cure for colic but there are numerous measures that may help. Different babies respond to and are comforted by different measures; hence parents may need to try the various methods for one that works for their baby.

Medication

Some medical professionals believe that the condition is presently untreatable, and is best left to run its course. However, medication may help to relieve abdominal symptoms. Gripe water and Infacol may be worth trying to treat trapped gas; some parents swear by this, but for many others including myself, these products do not seem effective on colic.

Change Babies Formula

Parents who bottle-feed their babies may want to try a different formula. For mothers who breastfeed, it is worth continuing because weaning the baby from breast milk may worsen the colic.

Change Mothers' Diet

Some breastfeeding mothers find that certain foods in their diet seem to aggravate colic and cutting these foods out actually help. These might include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts and parsnip. Beans, onions, garlic, apricots, melon, spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol may aggravate colic, too.

By re-introducing such foods gradually, mothers may be able to identify which food, if any, is causing the problem. In a case where there is a family history of lactose (milk sugar) intolerance, breastfeeding mothers could try eliminating cow's milk from their diet, as some babies are not able to digest lactose well. But this usually improves as they get older.

Change Bottles And Feeding Positions

If the baby seems to have a lot of wind, make sure he is burped frequently. Babies who are bottle-fed may swallow air from the bottle, so try feeding the baby in a different position, or use a bottle and teat designed to reduce the amount of air the baby swallows during a feed.

These include curved bottles, bottles with a collapsible bag inside, teats with vents or bottles with vents. Try using a teat with a smaller hole on the bottle if bottle-feeding takes less than 20 minutes. Avoid feeding the baby too quickly. Feed the baby more often and less at a time. Warming the formula to body temperature before a feed may also help.

Techniques To Help Soothe Babies

There is a general agreement that soothing measures such as the use of pacifiers and rocking are often effective in calming the baby during crying periods. The following techniques may be helpful in soothing colicky babies:

  • Carry your baby in a front sling or back carrier.
  • Place your baby across your lap on his belly and rub your baby's back.
  • Place a warm water bottle on your baby's stomach (ensure it is not too hot).
  • Gently rub your baby's stomach.
  • Put your baby in a swing. The motion may have a soothing effect.
  • Rock your baby in a rocking chair or cradle.
  • Put your baby in an infant seat in the back of the car and go for a ride. The vibration and movement of the car often calms a baby.
  • Walk with your baby or put your baby in a stroller and go for a walk.
  • Play soothing music. Some babies respond to sound as well as movement.
  • Offer your baby Woodward's Gripe Water. It claims to relief wind, and calm your baby.
  • Take a shower together. The warm water may be comforting.

Whichever method you choose to console your baby, do not worry about spoiling the baby with your attention. Rather, you are showing your baby that you will respond to his needs.

Care For The Parents/Caregivers

Colic can be very frustrating, stressful and challenging for parents. Babies who do not stop crying can be hard to care for and these babies may pick up the anxiety from the stressed parents, which may in turn worsen their colic. Moreover, the feeling of the parents not being able to relieve their child's discomfort or pain can induce stress, depression as well as feelings of helplessness and low self-esteem.

It is thus important not to blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying as colic is nobody's fault. Try to relax and delight in the thought that your baby will eventually outgrow this phase. Meanwhile, it is vital for parents and caregivers who are overwhelmed and frustrated to seek help and take a break even for an hour or two.

If no one is immediately available, try going into a nearby room and watch TV or listen to the radio. However, ensure that your baby will be safe without immediate supervision. Crying will not hurt your baby. Be sure to give yourself time away from your baby before making another attempt at consoling the baby so that frustration does not build up.

 

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