Your crying baby just can’t seem to calm down; and no matter how much you offer him an opportunity to nurse or bottle feed — he’s just not happy. What is wrong? Could he have colic? We asked experts to weigh in on what you can do to
better understand, manage, and possibly prevent colic. (Please note: Always speak with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns about your child’s health or behavior.)
For parents of colicky babies, the struggle to find information and ways to comfort their crying little ones can be overwhelming. Feelings of helplessness, frustration and concern weigh heavily on moms and dads of babes who seemingly cannot be calmed.
We spoke with experts to find out more about this often misunderstood issue — and have tips to help you better manage the condition.
What Is Colic?
Colic is described as crying episodes that occur in usually healthy, well-fed babies,” says Eileen DiFrisco, MA, RN, IBCLC, LCCE. says Eileen DiFrisco, a registered nurse, Lamaze International’s President Elect and Lamaze Certified Childbirth
Educator. “(Colic) occurs at predictable times for about three hours a day and can last three weeks or longer.”
“About 15-25 percent of all newborns may experience colic,” DiFrisco adds. “Most babies will have a fussy period during the day and for many it is at the end of the day. Colic usually occurs between 2 weeks, peaks around 6 weeks,
and resolves at 3-4 months.
How Do I Know If My Baby Has Colic?
Be sure to check with your child’s pediatrician if you have any concerns about your baby’s health. He or she can help you assess potential colic symptoms and rule out anything potentially serious.
Be sure to discuss any of the following symptoms with your doctor, as they may indicate your baby has colic:
- Extending legs while crying.
- Doesn't want to be consoled and cries uncontrollably for no apparent reason
- Has evening-focused crying bouts
- Constant clenching of fists
- Has a hard, distended stomach
- Spits up often
- Is very gassy
What Causes Colic?
The cause of colic is unknown,” reports DiFrisco. “Researchers have explored a number of possibilities, including allergies, lactose intolerance, changes in the normal bacteria found in the digestive system, a digestive system that hasn't
fully developed, anxious parents, and differences in the way a baby is fed or comforted. Yet it's still unclear why some babies have colic and others don’t.”
Can I Help Prevent Colic?
No one knows where colic comes from, but babies who are breastfed seem to experience it less and it’s usually more common in first-time parents,” says DiFrisco. Salerno suggests that breastfeeding, if possible, may help. Additionally, she recommends looking at the food you and Baby are eating. Gently massaging your little one may also help disperse gas and prevent colic.
How Can I Help Comfort My Baby?
Calming your baby, putting your baby skin-to-skin, and minimizing stimulation may help decrease the episode,” says DiFrisco.
“Wearing your baby while walking or rocking” can help too, adds Beth Salerno, a New Jersey-based postpartum doula and mother of three..
Some other things you can do to comfort your baby include:
- New environments or sounds. A simple change can help baby break out of a crying spell. Taking your child outside or running baby's feet under lukewarm water might help.
- Check with your pediatrician to see if probiotics might be of benefit in helping your baby improve digestion and lessen discomfort.
- Review your diet. Certain foods for breastfeeding mothers may irritate their babies. Try elimination diets under doctor supervision to try identifying irritants.
- Switch formulas. Trying a different or more easily digestible formula may help baby. Speak with your pediatrician for advice.
Where Can I Find Help?
Make sure you’re getting support from your community, family and friends,” says Salerno. “Depending on where you live, a postpartum doula may be able to help you and give you a break. It’s really important that you make some time
to take care of your needs so that you can gently and patiently respond to your baby's needs.”
Don’t worry, Mom: This too shall pass! Colic resolves itself on its own and is “done by three months and will usually not re-occur,” reassures DiFrisco.