Understanding baby colic

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Understanding baby colic

Neeta and Shashi were proud new parents, and they doted on their three-week old baby Rishi. Little Rishi seemed like a happy baby with a sunny disposition. And while new parenthood takes its physical and mental toll, the couple were tired, yet managing well. One evening as Shashi changed Rishi’s diaper and set him down for a nap, Rishi began to wail loudly and continuously. Neeta tried feeding him, burping him and rocking him, none of which worked. Shashi took his son for a walk hoping that the movement will help him settle. But nothing helped, until an hour later when Rishi stopped crying as abruptly as he had started. A few nights of the same episode, and the parents made a trip to the pediatrician. After checking for signs of any other illness, the pediatrician, visibly relaxed, told them that it was colic, and that they didn’t have any cause for worry.

While yes, as a new parent you don’t really have reason to worry too much if your baby is colicky, it can be quite unsettling. Dealing with a crying baby is never easy, and when it’s an everyday affair, it can seem impossible. We bring you Colic 101, explaining what colic is, and what you can do to help your baby as well as yourself while dealing with it.

What Is Colic?

When your baby cries inconsolably, while otherwise healthy, it is called colic. Here’s how your doctor will diagnose colic-

  • Your baby is less than five months of age
  • He cries for three hours or more at a stretch
  • The crying occurs at least three days of the week
  • The crying bouts last for at least three weeks

Colic stops in most babies when they reach three months of age.

What Makes My Baby Colicky?

Not even a doctor has definite, textbook answers to why colic happens in a baby.

  • There have been numerous beliefs that the crying could be related to abdominal pain caused by trapped gas or overfeeding
  • One popular reason is that a newborn’s digestive system is not well developed and it cannot easily breakdown the proteins in breast milk or formula, causing painful gas
  • Some experts also believe that bouts of crying could be due to the urge to let off steam for sensitive babies. Since the episodes of crying are usually in the evenings, babies may get over stimulated due the sounds, lights or sensations around them

Note that your colicky baby could be more gassy. Although gas is not the reason for colic, your baby might swallow more air while crying, causing painful gas.

How Can I Help My Colicky, Crying Baby?

The most common approach is frequently burping your baby. Frequent burping prevents formation of gas and reduces any discomfort associated with it.

Other methods that you can try are--

  1. Swaddle your baby tightly avoiding the head. This is known to make the baby comfortable as it reminds him of being in the womb
  2. Use a pacifier or let him nurse or suck on a clean finger
  3. Use white noise.Your baby is used to hearing gentle, rhythmic sounds in the womb. You can trycalming him with similar sounds
  4. Take a walk with your baby in a sling, or even go for a drive if possible. The movement, and the sound of your heartbeat can be calming for your baby. Holding him close and rocking him might help, too

The techniques above may just be a temporary solution as your baby is most likely to resume crying in a few minutes. Continue to offer comfort by holding your baby and cuddling him.

Are There Any Home Remedies That I Can Try?

Colic is not an illness, hence requires no medication. There are a number of medicines available specifically for colic, but what they do is deal with gas. Some parents swear by these medicines, while for some, using them made no difference at all.

You may try some of the following home remedies-

  1. Asafetida: A tiny pinch of asafetida mixed in warm water is known to help release gas. Rubbing asafetida on your baby’s tummy may also provide relief
  2. Gripe water: Gripe water is an old remedy for gas, acid reflux and hiccups. It is known to be chemical-free and contains homeopathic ingredients which are safe for babies. The dosage and instructions depends on your baby’s age and are mentioned on the label
  3. Massage: You may massage your baby’s tummy in circular motion to help release trapped gas
  4. Rotating baby’s legs: Stretching and folding one leg at a time (as in cycling) also helps let out trapped gas and is a fun activity for your baby, too

I Am Breastfeeding. Can My Diet Cause My Baby To Be Colicky?

A small amount of what nursing mothers eat is known to pass on to the baby through breast milk. Spicy food, nuts, milk products, vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage are among some of the gas forming foods. If your diet is heavy on these, they may cause gas for the you, which is also passed on to your baby

  • If your baby has colic, you could try eliminating rich, spicy foods, milk and milk products from your diet to see if there is any difference in your baby
  • Foods such as chocolate, caffeine in your diet may also contribute to the discomfort in your baby
  • On the other hand, drinking fennel tea, cumin or ajwain water a few times a day is known to be beneficial for nursing mothers, and the benefits are passed on to the baby too

My Baby Is Formula Fed And Is Colicky. What Should I Do?

  • Try switching to a new formula and see if it suits your baby
  • Bottle fed babies take in more air when drinking from the bottle. They need to be burped often to help relieve them of the pressure that builds up as they swallow air. Using anti-colic bottles for your baby may be beneficial

How Will I Know If My Baby Is Sick Or Colicky?

If your baby is crying more than usual, and the bouts of crying last for hours throughout the day, then there could be another underlying cause.

Watch out for the any of the following signs-

  1. Colicky babies are otherwise healthy and should have a good appetite and sucking reflex. If your baby doesn’t eat well or has trouble sucking, consult a pediatrician
  2. Babies often spit up after eating. Spitting up is usually just a mouthful of milk that the baby spits out. If it looks like that your baby is vomiting – projectile, and bringing out a large quantity of milk or food, and is losing weight, consult a pediatrician. Frequent vomiting is not a sign of colic
  3. Colicky babies have normal stools. Diarrhea or blood in the stool is not a sign of colic. Your baby will need to be seen by a doctor if he has bloody stools

The Constant Crying Is Stressing Me Out. How Can I Cope?

Parents of a colicky baby are likely to get overwhelmed leading to high stress levels and also post-partum depression. Here are some ways you can cope:

  • To relieve the stress, ask your spouse, parents, or a reliable friend to occasionally look after your baby so that you can take a short break
  • You may also discuss the matter with your baby’s doctor or talk to someone on how the crying is affecting you. Sometimes just talking to someone can take away part of the stress
  • Cry it out. A little crying on a friend’s shoulder, or even while chatting on the phone can help you feel better, too

It is easy to blame yourself and feel helpless in such a situation. All parents at some point have trouble comforting their baby. Take comfort in knowing that your baby is not sick and this phase will pass.

How did you deal with your baby’s colic? Tell us in the comments section!

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Vidya Prashant

| Jun 30, 2017

thanks a lot

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Dikshita Koundinnya

| Jun 29, 2017

thanks a ton

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Rasika Tomar

| Jun 15, 2017

very helpful... my baby is in the same condition and i was clueless..... thanks a lot..

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Tracy Miranda

| Dec 01, 2016

very useful thanks for the info

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Shamili Sha

| Nov 30, 2016

really helpful.. tq so much

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Shilpa Pawar

| Nov 30, 2016

really nice and good info very very useful

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Agila Thangavelu

| Nov 30, 2016

thanks very useful article

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Raja Raghavendra

| Nov 30, 2016

very useful info

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| Nov 30, 2016

thanks's d most helpful information....

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Akshata Naveen

| Nov 30, 2016

thanks a lot... it is very helpful...

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| Nov 30, 2016

thanks nice article

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poonam jamgaonkar

| Nov 30, 2016

Thanks a lot... very useful blog

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| Aug 24, 2016

my daughter is nw 3 nd half mnth old .at nite usually frm 9 pm to night she will cry if other take her other than me. if i took shr stop crying. i am gvng bth formula nd bm. is that sign of colic?

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| Aug 23, 2016

thank u for the valuable information

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Ashi Malhotra

| Aug 08, 2016

thanks great article

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Massarat Sajjad

| Jun 14, 2016

great article. I will definetly try these methods to ease my baby

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| Jun 07, 2016

Great and useful article . Thank u

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Priya Sharma

| Jun 07, 2016

thanks v v useful . my 1 mnth old baby every day suffering from colic pains

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Rutvi Sonawala

| Jun 07, 2016

Excellent and very informative. Thanx

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gowri Manohari

| Apr 16, 2016

Thanks alot for this useful information.. yesterday I faced this with my 1 month baby.. He cried from 4 pm til 10 pm.. I worried alot and at last I gave him colicaid... after tat he came to normal.

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| Feb 26, 2016

I faced this situation with my daughter too.. shez 5 mnths now way we cud sometimes pacify her was to take her for a ride in car and keep patting her back... another best home remedy was to have beetel leaves.. kind of pan every day after my meal.. this takes away all d gas tat d food I ate wud hav produced... And yes.. ajwain , jeera ,hinge in food or in tea form also takes away gas molecules from moms food... good luck !!!

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| Nov 06, 2015

My daughter was colicky. She would cry from 4 pm to 8 pm daily n nothing pacified her. We were completely helpless. but it all ended naturally by d time she was 4 months old.

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Meera Len

| Nov 05, 2015

Hey everyone.. So my son had terrible colic till he was one.. I used to give him pediacol after his morning feed. And it has helped me a lot. As time passes the colic will subside. Being a new mum it was difficult to see my new born wincing in pain.. So I know exactly how it feels. hope this would help.

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Pallavi Srikanth

| Nov 05, 2015

My daughter is 1 and half years now. She has suffered with this type of colic pain in her first six months, which used to start by 8pm and end up by 8am. The only way she could get calmed up is by taking her on a car drive (in the middle of night) esp on bumpy roads. This helps them release any gas and make them sleep! Parents and care takers need lots of patience to handle such colic babies!

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Lakshmi Goswami

| Nov 04, 2015

Himalayas Bonnisan really works well in this condition what I have observed myself.

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Sushmita Nair

| Nov 04, 2015

Hey everyone.... M a New Mother & writing for the First Time In This Blog. My Baby Girl is 4 & Half Months Old. Both Breast N formula Feed. Since I Have Operated so The doctor Recommended Formula Milk For The Child Till I Was Able To Sit N Feed My Child. That Was only Possible after 4 Days. Now She's On My Milk. But At Times She Starts Crying And Refuse To Take My Milk. As It Requires some Amount Of Hardwork. So At That Time I'm Forced To Feed Her By Formula Milk. This Happens once Or Twice In A Day. But This Creats Gas And Further Lead To Colic Pain. M Using Colicaid. But Satisfying The Child With Medcine Everytime is Not Good N Safe Too. How Can I Change Her Habbit. Plz Suggest.

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Arpita Malick

| Oct 24, 2015

My 2 n half month baby have severe problem of colic. I had tried collicaid n gripe water b its didint work. Finally i switched to himalaya bonnisan drops. N she is improvig day by day!!! :)

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preeti gupta

| Sep 26, 2015

My baby hv colic prblm too. . .m strt giving gripe water after 2 mnths of his birth. . Gripe water z miracle really. . .its works!!!!

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Vandana jha

| Feb 02, 2015

My son who is just 1 & 7 months old, he is also having this problem once in a week. Our Dr recomended colicaids drop & must say its really a useful medicine.

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| Jun 04, 2014

even my daughter was having severe colic and she used to be so inconsolable.... u can try this home remedy too... light a candle or lamp;take 2 beetel leaves and apply pure castor oil(very pure ones which you will get in medical shops) and hold above the lamp flame for 2 secs. it will get warm. then you place the leaf on baby's tummy... in the meantime,place the other leaf coated with castor oil. when this one cools off, repeat the process with the other beetel leaf.... continue this for 5-6 times till the leaf becomes slightly withered.... after sometime,u can continue with a fresh pair of leaves... this is supposed to give good effects and it worked on my baby... basically u need to explore and find out what works for your baby.... even making the baby lie on her tummy on your lap might be a good thing to do....

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| Aug 27, 2013

Thank you Shikha and Bhavna. I surely hope this blog will provide the much needed help and information to those parents who are currently dealing with colicky babies. It is a difficult phase for any new parent and for the baby too!

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| Aug 17, 2013

hey anurima!! thanks for the detailed info , it will definitely be useful for all the new parents, i just wish i had this blog to refer to when my baby was small... it was a tough time for all three of us in the family...

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Shikha Batra

| Aug 16, 2013

Hi Anurima! Very useful information especially for new parents. I have recently been through this phase so can relate to it quite well. Though I was lucky to have my mother with me during this phase who guided me all through and used to give me ajwain water ( a bowl of water which was reduced to half after boiling with ajwain in it and pinch of salt) every night. When my daughter became 4 months old I started giving gripe water which helped a lot. But still can't forget those sleepless nights when she used to inconsolable cry.

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