In this article, you will find everything you should know about the symptoms and causes of colic in babies.
Colic is particularly distressing for both the baby and the parents and it can be devastating mainly because of the excessive crying for hours.
1- Parenting a Colicky Baby
Colic is highly common and occurs in up to 40 percent of babies in the first 3 months.
As a brand new mother of a colicky baby, admittedly, there were times I felt completely defeated and drained!
- The main reason for writing this guide is to give some concrete explanations and offer some solutions to those confronted by colic. This guide will help you recognize the causes and symtoms of colic in babies
As a colicky baby's parent, you face extra difficulties that seem overwhelming. You are deprived of sleep and confused. You feel helpless and maybe even desperate. You doubt yourself and you wonder what's wrong with you?
There is nothing wrong with you.
It can happen to anyone. Any parent can come up against raising a baby with colic.
Thankfully, you are not alone.
- Fortunately, babies with colic grow and develop normally. They are just as likely as other babies to be healthy and happy. SOURCE
According to The Merck Manual,
Parents should be assured that the colicky baby is basically healthy, that this behavior will cease in a few weeks, and that too much crying is not harmful.
2- What is Colic in Babies?
The word "colic" is used to describe babies who cry excessively for no obvious reason during the first three months of life.
The word "colic" also stems from the Greek "kolikos", the adjective of kolon; many people believe that colic is a gastrointestinal disturbance.
No standard definition of the term "colic" exists.
Although there is not a precise definition, the first formal medical and widely accepted definition of colic was developed by Dr. Morris Wessel.
According to Dr. Wessel
Colic is defined by the rule of 3's: Starting at 3 weeks of age, a baby with colic usually cries for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week, for more than 3 weeks.
p.s. The criterion of persistence for three weeks has been dropped by most authors because few parents or clinicians are able to wait three weeks before evaluation or intervention.
3-What Causes Colic in Babies?
Medical experts have a couple of theories about what causes colic in babies but are yet to demonstrate any major source of it.
Pinpointing the exact causes of colic in babies is difficult, but there are some frequently cited theories on the causes of colic in babies in the current literature. You can see the causes in the list. Also, there will be detailed explanation of the causes just below the list.
The causes of colic in babies are:
- Stomach problems is the first and most common cause of colic in babies.
- Other cause of colic is about brain development.
- Maternal anxiety.
- Hormonal changes in the infant's body.
- Lactose intolerance or intolerance to cow’s milk or powdered milk.
- Baby’s temperament is one of the causes of colic in Babies
- Indigestion, trapped wind, temporary gut sensitivity or even overfeeding.
- Immature development of babies' organs is another cause of colic in babies
- A colicky baby might be sensitive to iron or certain foods in the breast-feeding mother’s diet.
There are two different types of stomach problems:
1- Discomfort due to problems with the baby’s digestive system causes colic in babies. An infant’s digestive system is not fully mature until he or she is one hundred days old. Therefore, gas, constipation, and stomach cramps may cause such great distress that the infant cries out in pain.
The good news is that newborns who have this medical problem can be medically treated. Infants who are suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (also known as infant GERD) can be treated with certain medications. These medications must be prescribed by a medical doctor. Please consult your pediatrician immediately if you believe your newborn may be suffering from this problem.
2- Abdominal pain due to intestinal illness such as stomach acid reflux or food intolerance/allergy can be the cause of colic as well.
Infants who are suffering from food intolerance or allergy may also find a cure. When a newborn has a food intolerance/allergy, the caregiver must first find the cause of the problem in order to find the cure. Once the food or ingredient causing the problem is found, then it can be avoided to provide the infant with some relief.
Brain development: When a baby’s nervous system is not fully matured, it can cause for some babies to feel more overwhelmed and as a result the baby will cry. Babies have been in the womb for nine months with minimal stimulation. Once born, they encounter new sounds, smells, sights, and touch. You could imagine how overstimulating this new situation could be for the little ones.
Maternal anxiety: According to that theory, the anxious expectant mother delivers her anxieties onto her baby, which in turn causes the infant to cry. With all of the research on anxious mothers, it is hard to deny that this does not play some role in the potential cause for a colicky baby. However, it is obvious that this is not a sole cause of colic. You must have seen plenty of mothers who have extreme anxiety both during and after pregnancy but have calm, peaceful babies who cry minimally in their first months of life.
Baby’s temperament: Sensitive babies will respond more intensely to things that cause them distress and as a result colicky babies get upset and cry more. Both the researchers and many parents agree that a baby is born with a certain temperament.
In a nutshell
After researching the current theories on causes of colic, we can say that there probably is not one sole cause of colic-unless the infant was struggling from one of the stomach disorders listed above.
4- The Signs and Symptoms of Colic
Due to the varying causes of colic in babies stated above, the signs and symptoms of a colicky baby could be quite different.
- Remember, every baby is different and what may cause colic symptoms in one newborn may not be causing colic symptoms in another.
The signs and symptoms of colic include:
- Increased muscle tone is one of the common symptoms of colic
- The arms are stiff, tight, and straight. (The elbows can also be bent.)
- Also the muscles around the stomach area are hard to the touch.
- One of the signs of colic in babies is Clenching of the fists
- Drawing up of their knees to their stomach is another symptom of colic.
- The baby's face is red, and the skin around the mouth is pale
- The colicky baby sounds as though he is in tremendous pain. His face may be twisted and strained.
- Difficult to soothe – Babies with colic are difficult or impossible to soothe, no matter what the parents do.
- If the colic symptoms are caused by gastrointestinal problems, signs of relief may not be apparent until after the infant passes gas or has a bowel movement.
- Crying occurs in the late afternoon or evening which can last for several hours
- A colicky cry is often described as a piercing, relentless scream. It may cease as abruptly as it starts and is often heard during or immediately after a feeding.
Keep in Mind
Colic symptoms cease at one hundred days. Remember, this is the date that an infant’s digestive system is fully developed and therefore, struggles with “tummy troubles” are supposed to magically disappear.
- Look out for the way your baby holds its hands and legs, if checking for colic: if they pull in their legs towards the abdomen in a squeezing motion and clench fists or trash around due to severe abdominal pain, it is usually colic. When accompanied by loud and continuous crying, which has many new parents thinking the baby may be hungry, it usually points to a case of colic.