Baby Colic: Everything You Need To Know (A Mom's Guide)

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Baby Colic: Everything You Need To Know (A Mom’s Guide)

I remember being soooo excited to become a mom.

I knew it was going to be hard at times, but I knew I was ready to handle absolutely anything.

That’s what I thought before my son was diagnosed as a colicky baby.

I knew something was off when he turned about a month old.

He never seemed happy and he cried … a lot.

I went back to work sleep deprived, a bit down, but the thought of seeing him when I returned back home pepped me up.

Little did I know or understand, that between the hours of 5 pm and 7 pm, he’d cry. 

I’m not talking about a whimper.

I’m talking about an inconsolable howl.

He never missed a beat, he never stopped for a breath. He couldn’t be held, he couldn’t be put down.

He literally cried himself to sleep each night (as did I).

After a week straight, I knew he was colicky and I knew I had to get him in to see a doctor.

The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel … colic doesn’t last forever.

It’s hard to process and it’s difficult to cope during these times, but as a parent, you must!

If your baby has colic, read on.

It’s important you fully understand what it is, how to deal, and when you need to call the doctor for additional help!

What Is Colic?

Colic is a term assigned to babies that cry often and unstoppably.

These babies are often fussy and irritable for no reason at all, or because they are in pain of some sort in their abdomen (which can be caused from gas or allergies).

Nothing can usually be done to soothe them so they often have to “cry it out” and outgrow this challenging stage.

Doctors will often label your baby colicky if they cry for more than 3 hours a day (usually the same time each day), for more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks at a time. (Source)

My son was a textbook definition!

How Do Babies Get Colic?

Colic is somewhat of a medical mystery.

Doctors certainly agree that it’s “real” but the root cause can’t really be pinpointed.

Many doctors believe the following are reasons why your baby may be exhibiting their unsettled behaviors. (Source)

  • Overstimulation. Babies who are exposed to constant lights and sounds can have difficulty tuning them out. As a newborn, they are able to block out sights and sounds in order to eat and sleep, but they lose this tactic around their first month (which is when colic starts to kick in full force). They often become overwhelmed, overtired, and stressed out when things get too bright or too loud. So, their only outlet is to cry.
  • Poor digestive system. If your baby’s behind digestively, they may end up with a tummy full of gas because their system is working too slowly after they eat. This can make them pretty uncomfortable and very upset.
  • Acid reflux. Your baby may be suffering from acid reflux (spitting up, poor weight gain, fussiness, trouble eating) and this could put them in lots of pain and discomfort as a result of an underdeveloped flap that keeps acid from moving back up and into the throat and mouth. 
  • Allergies. If your baby is bottle fed, they may be colicky because they are combating lactose intolerance. This could cause pain in their stomach and may make them extremely irritable.
  • Environment. Some pediatricians believe that babies who are around cigarette smoke have a heightened chance of being colicky. 

5 Symptoms To Look For

Thinking that your baby has colic? Here are five key symptoms to keep your eyes peeled for:

  • Repeated and relentless crying. Your baby will cry the same time each day, for pretty much every day for multiple weeks at a time. If you look on the bright side, at least you know how your day will always play out (too soon to joke?)
  • Arched back. Your baby will arch their back when they are crying in a way that doesn’t allow them to be comfortable (because they are already in discomfort). They will clench their fist and also wriggle around in your arms or on the floor.
  • Lots of spit up. Because acid reflux goes hand in hand with colic, you may notice your baby has more spit up than the average tot, or they may even projectile vomit during or immediately after a feeding.
  • Constantly fussy. A colicky baby has a hard time getting comfortable. They are extremely fussy when they aren’t in the midst of a crying bout. They won’t want to play, eat, or even be held/cuddled (which can be extremely frustrating for moms).
  • Gassy. A colicky baby is full of gas. You may notice that if they aren’t frequently tooting, their little bellies are as hard as a rock!

5 Colic Remedies You Can Try

While there isn’t much you can do to “cure” colic, you can try to alleviate the symptoms.

Here are five popular remedies:

  • 1
    Bicycle. You can “bicycle” the gas out of your baby’s belly. Simply place them on their back on the floor and gently grab their legs and start cycling them around like they are riding a bike. This helps loosen up and release gas, which makes their tummy less hard, gives them some relief, and helps them feel better.
  • 2
    Special bottles. If your baby is bottle fed, you can switch to an angled, vented design. This helps deliver less air bubbles during a feeding and it also makes them spit up much less. (Check out our guide to choosing the best bottles, formula, and drops for colic).
  • 3
    Switch formula. Your pediatrician may want you to experiment with different formulas to see if your baby gets any relief. Keep in mind it can take up to a week to notice any differences in their behavior. Your baby may need soy, or a specialized formula that has proteins that are already broken down, so there’s less (or no need) to digest anything.
  • 4
    Gripe water. This natural water is designed to help calm your baby, reduce gas, and help settle their stomach. Moms swear by this because the special water reduces crying time and helps a baby sleep.
  • 5
    Loose clothing. Keep your baby in loose clothing so nothing presses on their belly and hurts them additionally. When you can make your baby as comfortable as possible, they will be in a better mood. 

4 Ways For You To Cope With Colic

Babies aren’t the only one who need help coping with colic ... parents need help too.

If your baby has been diagnosed as colicky, you need to take some time for yourself and have strategies that you can utilize to stay calm and remain patient.

  • 1
    Get a sitter. When your baby has colic it is imperative to make time for yourself. Hire a sitter to watch your baby for a few hours each week so you can go out for lunch with your friends or do something you enjoy, like shop or attend an exercise class.
  • 2
    Recruit family. Friends and family can take shifts to help you and your partner out. I often had my mother come to my house in the evening so I could cook dinner or toss in a load of laundry. The more hands on deck, the better.
  • 3
    Rest up. All the fussiness and crying can really take a toll on your mind and body. Make it a point to go to bed early so you can wake up refreshed and ready for another day.
  • 4
    Join a support group. You aren’t alone, and colic is more common than you think. You could really benefit by having a group of moms who are understanding, who can provide you with tips and tricks, and who can actually be a shoulder to cry on.

When To Call The Doctor

Colic goes away after a few months, but for some babies, it can go on and on.

A doctor may need to be called because your baby may have something more going on than just colic. 

My son needed a specialized formula and also acid reflux medication. If I didn’t take him to the doctor, I never would have given him what he needed.

Some babies may need to go to a specialized doctor for further testing and be evaluated.

If your baby is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, make an appointment right away:

  • Weight loss. This is evidence that the colic is affecting your child’s eating habits and they are failing to thrive.
  • Wheezing. This can indicate difficulty breathing and symbolize something more serious going on.
  • Blood. If you see blood in your baby’s mucus or stool, seek help right away.
  • Crying that doesn't stop. If your baby is crying non-stop for more than a few hours, seek out medical attention. Colic crying is lengthy, but it generally doesn’t last all night or all day.
  • Loss of consciousness. If you notice your baby starts to go in and out of consciousness, dial 911.

Bottom Line

Having a colicky baby was beyond difficult: it really put my patience and parenting skills to the test.

You don’t have to do it alone, so be sure to accept help from family and friends until the colic plays out. It usually only lasts a few months, and generally never over your baby’s first birthday. 

Consider the tips and tricks to help alleviate symptoms and never be afraid to call the doctor for an evaluation, examination, or to gain additional help.

Kate Trout
 

Hi there, I'm Kate! I started Maternity Glow to be a place for new and expecting moms to come to for practical pregnancy advice, parenting tips, and baby care tricks.

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