The happy laughter of our babies is music to the ears. It gives us a feeling of joy and contentment. When the situation is reversed and they cry it tears at our hearts. The natural response is to soothe whatever ails them. We do know and understand that crying for a baby is a natural auto response for most of their early communications. They lack the ability to speak and articulate their wants and needs, so they cry. The cry maybe for a diaper change request, a feeding demand, a cuddling need or a cry of discomfort. One of the main reason for the latter is sometimes attributed to ‘colic’. Colic has been attributed to most of the crying episodes of babies who may cry for long periods. This cry we wish not to hear as the fix is not always in our powers.
Colic is often misunderstood, therefore, the first thing is recognising what it is. This blog post will look at clarifying what colic is and how it may be treated.
The information contained in this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be taken as medical advice. If you suspect your baby suffers from colic it is best to seek medical assistance.
Colic, what is it? The basic definition is an otherwise healthy baby who cries inconsolably for no known reason. The actual medical definition of colic is the occurrence of bouts of crying that is defined as:
If a baby is fed, dry and well rested and their cries are not due to any of these or an illness then the cry may be labelled ‘colicky’. However, if a baby does not meet the four definitions medically classed as ‘having colic’ the cry may be related to other causes like wind pain. Note that the definition excludes babies who have a defined illness or medical condition. If a cause for the crying can be identified, then the baby is no longer classed as having colic.
It is believed that colic affects about 5-28% of babies in the first few months of life. What are the causes of it?
Studies have not yet answered the question of ‘what causes colic’, but they do have theories as to the possible causes for colic:
Thus, the causes remain undetermined with the best defence being knowing your baby and also what triggers the colicky episodes.
The subject has not been fully researched to provide a definitive answer as to what causes the symptoms this does not mean that there is no help. In 2000 a pair of researchers conducted A Systematic Review of Treatments for Infant Colic looking specifically at the treatment options. The following was highlighted:
A recommended course of action for a breastfeeding mother is to pay close attention to the colic episodes of her baby and also what her dietary intake was. Keeping a record of this will help both the mother and doctor with determining the treatment course to take. The same principle applies to formula fed babies; a pattern of symptoms can be traced to what the baby consumes.
What should you do if you suspect your baby has colic?
The first step in coming to a diagnosis of colic is to rule out what is not colic. So, if your baby cries a lot the checklist is:
✅ Bub is clean and dry
✅ Tummy is full and well burped
✅ Well rested and occupied with some form of entertainment or interactive play
✅ No discomfort from pain or teething, illness or constipation
If all these can be ruled out and Bub still cries enough to meet the criteria for colic, then it is time to move to the next step. Keep a symptom diary for Bub and a food diary for Mom (if Bub is breastfed) and for Bub (if Bub is formula fed). It would also be good to keep track of parental mental health to see if any bouts of anxiety or depression coincide with increased crying in Bub.
Once you’ve gathered all your information, speak with your doctor. You can then discuss possible treatments such as dietary modification if the food diary indicates that might help. You might also discuss possible naturopathic treatments, especially if you haven’t been able to identify any patterns.
Have you found a treatment that helped your baby with colic? What did you do? Share it in the comments, it might just help another family in a similar situation.