Colic is very distressing for parents and it is a common reason that parents bring their babies into my office.
If your child is experiencing colic it does not mean you are doing anything wrong, in fact, colic is benign. Colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying in a healthy baby and will typically resolve by the time the baby is 3-4 months old.
What Is Colic?
There is no official definition of what defines a colicky baby. Generally, researchers use a guideline of crying for greater than 3 hours a day for 3 or more days per week for at least 3 weeks in an otherwise healthy baby less than 3 months of age.
What Causes Some Babies To Be Colicky?
Unfortunately, no one knows what causes colic. There are a number of theories including gastrointestinal, biologic and psychosocial sources. The word colic comes from the Greek word “kolikos”, which roughly translates to colon. This is why a large number of theories for the cause of colic focus on stomach or gas related reasons.
Some of the possible gastrointestinal causes of colic that have been researched include: cow milk protein intolerance, lactose intolerance, gastrointestinal immaturity, and alterations in gut flora.
Tips for Soothing Colicky Infants
First off, understand that at this time your baby is difficult to sooth and that you are doing the best that you can. The feelings of frustration, anger and guilt are normal!
It is recommended to start with modifying your feeding technique and practicing soothing strategies. If feeding techniques and soothing strategies are ineffective, consider dietary changes.
If you are bottle feeding, try bottle-feeding in a more vertical position. Utilize the help of a lactation consultant for breastfed infants.
Consider trying one or more of the following techniques for soothing the infant:
- Try a pacifier
- Go for a walk in the stroller or baby carrier
- Change of scenery (or minimizing visual stimuli)
- Rubbing baby’s tummy
- Rocking the baby in your arms or an infant swing
- A warm bath
- White noise
If your infant does not respond to feeding modification or soothing techniques, a time limited trial of dietary interventions can be tried, especially if cow’s milk protein allergy (CMPA) is suspected. CMPA is the most common food allergy in infancy affecting 2-7.5% of infants. It can present during the first few months of life, often within days or weeks after introduction of a cow’s milk-based formula into the diet, or with exclusive breastfeeding if cow’s milk protein from maternal diet is excreted in breast milk.
If you suspect your baby has CMPA, remove cow milk protein from your baby’s diet. For breastfeeding moms, mom’s must exclude all dairy products from their diet. For formula fed infants, a special formula made with broken down proteins (extensively hydrolyzed formula) does not cause a reaction in most infants, such as Nutramigen A+ with LGG. If your baby is experiencing colic related to CMPA, Nutramigen A+ with LGG has been shown to improve symptoms of colic.
If you have a colicky baby, know that you are doing the best you can. Take breaks from the crying baby by placing them in their crib. Please see your health care provider if colic persists or if you are concerned.
This article is sponsored by Mead Johnson Nutrition, the maker of Nutramigen A+ with LGG