What Really Causes Colic?
Whenever you ask the parents of babies with colic why they are crying, nine times out of ten, they believe that their infants are suffering from some kind of pain. That’s a reasonable guess for several reasons. Babies with colic:
- resist the normal comforts of feeding and holding.
- often writhe and grunt.
- may start and stop their screaming very abruptly.
- have a shrill cry that sounds exactly like the sound they make when they’re in pain (like after getting a shot).
After centuries of old wives’ tales about the causes of colic, researchers determined that colic is not, in fact, caused by thin milk, witches’ spells, or possession by the devil. Even the contemporary, more “common-sense” theories on colic are debatable (some argue that constipation or even anxiety is to blame). While no single “cause” of colic has ever been determined, scientists do agree on 10 fundamental traits of babies with colic. These “colic clues” are:
- Crying caused by colic usually starts at 2 weeks, peaks at 6 weeks and ends by 3-4 months of age.
- Premies are no more likely to have colic than full term babies. (And, their colic doesn’t start until they are about 2 weeks past their due date.)
- Babies with colic have twisted faces and piercing wails, like a person in pain. Often, their wails come in waves (like cramps) and stop abruptly.
- Their colic screams frequently begin during or just after a feeding.
- Babies with colic often double up, grunt, strain and seem relieved by “passing wind” or pooping.
- Colic is USUALLY much worse in the evening (the “witching hour”).
- Colic is as likely to occur with a couple’s fifth baby as with their first. The amount of baby experience a parent has doesn’t make any difference.
- Colic can improve with rocking, holding, shhhing and gentle abdominal pressure.
- Babies are healthy and happy between COLIC bouts.
- There are many cultures around the world where babies never get colic.
You might ask, ” Is it ever OK to let my baby yell?” I don’t believe it’s a tragedy if your little one cries for 10 minutes while you are in the bathroom or preparing dinner. The loving and cuddling you’ve been giving her all day long easily outweighs that short-lived frustration. But, for the first few months, you should soothe your baby whenever she has colic bouts. Young infants rarely cry or have flashes of colic unless they’re upset about something and it’s our challenge, and duty, to figure out what they need and how to give it to them.