The Ultimate What, When, Why and How Guide To Colic
9 min read
On average, a newborn baby will cry for up to three hours per day (1). After all, it’s their only form of communication to alert you that they’re hungry, tired or need changing.
If your little one cries in excess of three hours per day, a health professional may diagnose them with colic.
Although the cause of medically diagnosed colic remains shrouded in medical mystery, understanding what it is, when it typically develops, what the signs and symptoms are, and tips for managing them, may help you during this period.
Follow these handy links to discover the what, when, why and how of this common infant condition:
When it comes to colic, the main thing to remember is that it must be diagnosed by your doctor.
Medically diagnosed colic is characterised as a state of excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well-fed (1), where bouts of crying may last for three hours or more.
It’s based on the rule of three: crying for more than three hours per day, for more than three days per week, for more than three weeks (2).
These crying stints often occur in the afternoon or evening and it may often be difficult to calm a colicky baby.
But, try to keep in mind that children grow out of it and it will end (1).
Medically diagnosed colic is a common issue for young infants, affecting approximately one in five babies(1) and usually occurs between the ages of 2 and 16 weeks (3). It’s also worth noting that it occurs equally in boys and girls, as well as babies who are breastfed or bottle-fed.
Medically diagnosed colic tends to appear when the baby is 2-4 weeks old, usually peaks at 6-8 weeks of age (3) and generally stops by 4 months of age (4).
It’s important to remember that colic cannot be diagnosed without a health professional.
If you suspect your child may be experiencing colic, take them to your doctor for an official diagnosis and to rule out any other possible conditions.
Unfortunately, there’s no test for colic, so the only way to know if your baby is experiencing it is to have them checked by a doctor (3). Your doctor may advise you about the things you can do to help your baby (1).
If you have any concerns about your baby’s health or wellbeing, talk to your health professional.
Usually, medically diagnosed colic stops without treatment after a few weeks (3). But, life with a colicky baby may be difficult for parent and child alike, so you may wish to try these tips to manage your little one’s symptoms in the meantime.
Remember, there’s no ‘best’ way to comfort your child and different babies respond to different comforts.
No one knows exactly what causes it, but anecdotal evidence suggests there are some environmental factors that may contribute. Adjusting these factors while your baby is experiencing medically diagnosed colic may help to relieve their symptoms.
It’s been suggested that in breastfeeding babies, medically diagnosed colic may be a sign of sensitivity to food in the mother’s diet (5).
Therefore, eliminating potentially irritating foods such as milk products and caffeine may be helpful (5). For formula-fed babies, check that the formula is being made up correctly (1).
Harsh lighting may be uncomfortable for some babies.
Dimming the lights may help to reduce stimulation and contribute to a calmer environment (5).
Soft lighting may also help to settle these infants (3) as may darkening the room during daytime naps (1).
Your baby’s crying may be in response to feeling overstimulated (5). After all, they are experiencing new sensations every day. Setting a routine and limiting your baby’s exposure to new, stimulating environments may help to calm them (5).
Some parents may worry that medically diagnosed colic may be ‘passed down’ from family members.
However, any baby may become colicky and there’s no evidence to suggest that it runs in families (7).
Additionally, no two babies are the same, so even if one of your children experiences medically diagnosed colic it may not increase the likelihood of your other baby having it.
Given the mystery that surrounds its causation, it’s perhaps unsurprising that several myths have developed relating to the condition.
Remember, you should always talk to your doctor for any health-related advice, particularly when it comes to your baby. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, or if symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
Have you found this information helpful? If so, you may enjoy the following:
1. Better Health Channel (2018). Colic in babies. [online] Available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/colic-in-babies [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].
2. Al Hajeri, A. (2008). Myths and Facts about Infantile Colic. Bahrain Medical Bulletin, [online] 30(4), pp.174-176. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242019189_Myths_and_Facts_about_Infantile_Colic [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
3. Better Health Channel. (n.d.). Colic. [online] Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/HealthyLiving/colic [Accessed 25 Feb. 2020].
4. The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. (n.d.). Crying and unsettled babies – colic. [online] Available at: https://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Crying_and_unsettled_babies/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
5. What to Expect. (2017). Colic in Babies: Signs, Causes and Tips for Parents. [online] Available at: https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/health-and-safety/what-is-colic/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
6. Raising Children Network. (n.d.). Colic: what to do. [online] Available at: https://raisingchildren.net.au/newborns/behaviour/crying-colic/colic-what-to-do [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
7. Boston Children’s Hospital. (n.d.). Colic Symptoms & Causes. [online] Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions/c/colic/symptoms-and-causes [Accessed 28 Feb. 2020].
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