Colic - symptoms, causes & treatments

Does your baby suffer from colic? Colic in newborns and young babies is not uncommon. We take a look at the symptoms of colic, possible causes that make infants colicky and the treatment options available to relieve baby colic.
Does your baby suffer from colic?

Colic in newborns and young babies is not uncommon. We take a look at some of the symptoms of colic, possible causes and treatment options.

Colic - symptoms, causes & treatments


What are the symptoms of colic?

It is not unusual for newborn babies to go through periods when they appear abnormally irritable or seemingly cry for no reason.

However, if you suspect your baby is suffering from colic, you should look for the following symptoms:
  • cries vigorously for long periods, despite efforts to console them
  • symptoms occur around the same time each day or night, often after meal times, and usually ending as abruptly as they began
  • shows signs of gas discomfort and abdominal bloating
  • has a hard, distended stomach, with knees pulled to the chest, clenched fists, flailing arms and legs and an arched back
  • experiences frequent sleeplessness, irritability and fussiness

In most cases, colic is the worst pain a baby has experienced in their short lives.

It is usually manifested as an acute abdominal pain with intense spasmodic cramping, but since colicky babies cannot describe exactly what distresses them, it is hard for parents to know the precise cause of their distress.

Infantile colic is most common in the first few weeks to four months of an infant’s life; rarely does it endure past six months of age.

Paediatricians often use the “Rule of Three” to diagnose colic: A baby that cries for three or more hours per day, at least three times per week, within a three month period.  

About 25 percent of babies worldwide meet the official “Rule of Three” criteria for medical diagnosis of colic.

What causes infants to become colicky?

While there are many theories about colic there is no single consistent cause that experts all agree upon.

However, a lot of evidence suggests that colic may be caused in different ways in different babies.

There appears to be several contributing factors that, when occurring in combination, are likely to result in colic pain and discomfort:
  • Newborns have an immature digestive system that has never processed food. The gastrointestinal system is literally just learning to function. Muscles that support digestion have not developed the proper rhythm for moving food efficiently thought the digestive tract. Furthermore, newborns lack the pro-biotics that develop over time to aid digestion. This explains why almost all infants outgrow colic within the first six months.
  • Certain foods eaten by lactating mothers contain volatile chemicals and allergens that in a small percentage of infants result in colic discomfort and digestive upset. Through lactation, trace elements of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, turnip etc) and other gas producing foods may be passed via breast milk to your baby and cause gas and bloating.
  • Infants often swallow air while feeding or during strenuous crying, which increases gas and bloating, further adding to their discomfort.
  • Since infants nervous systems are so immature, it is possible for them to get overloaded with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Infants that are easily overloaded often experience more severe colic, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or at night. In general, the more activity (errands, visitors, TV, phones etc) in your baby’s day, the higher the chances of your baby becoming colicky and fussy.

What treatment options are available to relieve baby colic?

Colic, and the months of distress and sleeplessness that it brings to both infants and parents, can leave you feeling frantic, frustrated, worried, exhausted, confused, guilty and inadequate.

Foremost, it is essential to build and maintain a loving bond with your infant.

If your baby experiences colic that does not appear to dissipate, you will probably be looking for a safe, natural and effective colic remedy to ease your baby’s suffering.

There are several treatments available for baby colic. You should consult your paediatrician first before giving your baby any medications, remedies or supplements.

Homeopathic remedies can be an excellent choice for treating infant colic symptoms. Homeopathy is safe and completely allergen-free and side-effect-free.

Less natural remedies contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which alters the naturally occurring pH of your baby’s stomach acid. Changing the delicate pH balance in your baby’s system can exacerbate a colicky condition.

Studies have also shown that sodium bicarbonate can deplete and interfere with folic acid and iron, indicating that it may affect the function or absorption of both.

Essential Oils and extracts (dill oil, clove oil, fennel extract, ginger extract, etc) are used by many gripe water brands.

However there are known safety issues with herbal oils and extracts. Many experts believe they are not to be taken internally by adults, let alone infants.

Be aware of all possible side effects before giving essential oils to your baby, no matter how small the concentrations.

In summary

If you are sure your infant is suffering from colic, there are concrete steps you can take to relieve the symptoms of your colicky baby. 

A variety of therapies include changing your baby’s environment and diet to direct internal treatment.

As always, consult your paediatrician about the range of alternative treatments available.

There are safe, natural and effective alternatives to pharmaceuticals and artificial chemicals. Homeopathy has been used for over 200 years to safely treat a variety of nervous and digestive disorders including colic.

Remember that babies are just getting accustomed to this world and, as they grow older, their colic will eventually subside. Their digestive systems will learn how to function well. In the first three months of life, babies are not well-equipped to calm themselves.

Self-calming is a skill that develops slowly over time and at different rates in children.

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Source: This article was written by Colic Calm.
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