Colic is a condition where an otherwise healthy baby cries (or rather screeches) for a long period of time for no apparent rhyme or reason. If a baby is going to be a colicky baby, the first signs of this distressing condition will present itself during the first two weeks, and will end (almost miraculously) at the age of four months. However, colic has been known to last for as long as 12 months, much to the despair of parents.
The colicky baby’s cries will usually intensify or worsen at a specific time each and every day, which is typically early in the evening (around 4 or 5 o’clock). Moms with colicky babies, who are trying to prepare the evening meal or see to the needs of their older children, will often refer to this period as -the suicide hour . Colic is not a disease nor it is seen as an illness that can be cured, but the persistent crying of the innocent infant can lead to serious problems, including:
- Heated arguments between exhausted and desperate parents, who are sleep deprieved at their wit’s end;
- Inability to breastfeed (because of the stress and exhaustion);
- Shaken baby syndrome, where parents are unable to handle the screams of the infant, which often last for hours at a time.
- PPD or postpartum depression;
- Colic may lead to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) where continual crying leads to the infant’s exhaustion or when the agonized baby turns onto their stomach.
Possible causes of colic
The medical fraternity has been fascinated and puzzled by the complexities of colic for years. What is the cause, how is colic caused? Unfortunately most of the causes for colic are mere guesswork and there is no single (proven) cause for the condition. For all intents and purposes, colic is a medical mystery and although there may be a lot of good theories as to the whys of colic, doctors have not been able to establish a common thread which links colicky infants.
Development. This theory makes sense, as baby does outgrow colic and just as quickly as it appears, it disappears (roughly at four months). The theory puts forward that the infant’s bodily functions are immature or under developed and because of this fact, after feeding, pain is experienced as the food is being digested.
Emotional. Here the theory is that first time moms are stressed and anxious and their inadequate feelings are felt by their newborn baby. Studies have shown that first-born babies are more likely to have colic, while mothers who are confident in their mothering abilities will not have a colicky baby. This theory is rather controversial and does not explain the -suicide hour’. Yet, colic has been a much more common condition in babies of teen moms, or unplanned babies!
Diet and allergies. Most babies with colic are usually lactose intolerant. Baby formulas which are fortified with iron have been shown to reduce colic symptoms. If intolerance to lactose is linked to colic, breastfeeding moms should avoid dairy products, such as cheese, full cream milk, yoghurt, cheese, etc.
How to treat the symptoms of colic
Even though the condition cannot be treated, the symptoms can and there is medication (either prescribed or purchased over the counter) that will be able to offer temporary relief for the symptoms of colic. There are also a lot of good and effective natural remedies that can deliver relief. South African moms are urged to try Rooibos tea that is mixed with breast or formula milk. Moms before us have all trusted the goodness of Rooibos tea to ease colic.
Another good natural remedy is chamomile, as well as ginger and peppermint. These teas can also be mixed with the baby’s milk.
Lifestyle changing tips to ease colic symptoms:
- Do not smoke around the infant;
- Relax and be patient. If the crying becomes too much walk a way for a while (not too long) but give yourself some space to calm down and relax.
- Ask for help.
- Act on the baby’s cries fast. Leaving a baby to cry will cause the infant to become worked up and distressed and this will lead to more crying.
- Give the baby as much contact as possible during the day. Try to carry the baby during the day – this has been shown to reduce colic.
- Do not use milk-based formulas, and moms who are breastfeeding should avoid dairy products and also restrict their intake of coffee, tea, softdrinks (in particular cola drinks) and chocolate.
- Breastfeeding moms could also attempt to change or vary their own diets to see if the changes have any effect on the infant.
- Try to feed the baby smaller amount, more often. If the baby’s digestive system is immature the smaller amounts at frequent intervals may help.
- Get in touch with other moms who are trying to survive colic and start a support group.