Crying Or Colic?
There’s no doubt about it: Dealing with a crying infant is simply part of being a parent. But what about infants who simply cannot be consoled? Nonstop crying can be incredibly overwhelming for a new parent. But is it just crying? Or is the dreaded “colic“? And is there any way to stop it?
By standard definition, a baby who cries more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, consistently for longer than 3 weeks (and is otherwise healthy) is considered to have colic. Studies show that colic affects FROM 10-15% of all babies (and about 50% of crying infants fuss for over 1 hour a day). While certain aspects of colic, from cause to cure, remain unknown or misunderstood, here’s what we do know:
- Infants with colic usually begin displaying symptoms approximately 2 weeks after being born.
- After the first 3 or 4 months of life, colic generally goes away.
- Gender and feeding style (bottle vs. breast) do not increase a baby’s chances of getting colic.
- The presence of colic in a baby does not indicate that the child will be less intelligent or less healthy that a baby without colic.
For most scientific researchers, colic has been a rather confounding subject. Many factors may lead to the irritation that comes with colic, but no specific “cause” can really be identified.
Some often-cited (though incorrect) causes of colic are:
- Lactose intolerance (and the digestive trouble that ensues)
Another theory about colic is that it is caused by a baby sensing her parents’ anxiety. That is also completely false. Babies aren’t little psychologists. They can’t tell if a parent is anxious, irritated, or fearful. In fact, if colic were caused by anxiety, premature babies should have a high level of colic, because their parents are usually extra-stressed. But, premature babies have no more colic than full-term babies.
Tackling the Colic Issue
The first approach to calm a baby with colic is to master the “5 S’s” (popularized in the DVD/Book The Happiest Baby on the Block). When done correctly, these simple techniques usually calm colic crying in minutes, or less. If the “5 S’s” fail to soothe a baby’s colic, it is important to review the DVD to make sure the techniques are being done correctly. Approximately 95% of the time the “5 S’s” fail, it is because they are not being implemented correctly. Kids with colic are usually totally healthy. However, if the colic persists in spite of these time-honored techniques, it is very important to consult a doctor to make sure there is no illness triggering the colic. Especially if the infant crying is associated with other symptoms like poor weight gain, fever, etc.
The most common problems associated with colic are milk protein allergy and various types of infections (urine, ear, etc.). One of the most frequently-diagnosed problems said to cause colic is acid reflux (GERD).
However, mounting evidence indicates that GERD is hugely over-diagnosed. A baby with colic who is growing well and vomits fewer than 5 times a day rarely, if ever, has GERD.
If your physician determines that your infant does indeed suffer from an illness that is causing colic, you can work together on a set of specific steps and behaviors to help soothe him.
NOTE: It’s important to consult your doctor before giving ANY sort of medicine to your baby. For example, gas drops made of simethicone have been shown to be no more effective than water to improve a baby’s colic.
If you’ve reached your emotional limit and the “5 S’S” are not helping your baby’s colic, call a friend or relative for a little help and take a break. You never want to allow yourself – or anyone else – to get so frustrated that you shake your baby. That type of rough handling can cause severe brain damage or even death.