Colic is the name given to the mysterious sustained crying in babies aged between 2 weeks to 12 weeks.
It is usually characterised by
There are numerous theories about what causes colic - digestive distress, natural stress relief, overstimulation resulting in stress at the end of a long day etc., None are to be proved.
However, research has shown that there is a strong link between maternal smoking and colic with more than one study showing a doubling of the probability of colic1. There is also some research that shows that cow's milk in the baby's diet or the breastfeeding mother's diet may also contribute to colic.
There are no proven cures. Indian parents (especially based on advice from the previous generation) give gripe water to infants. There is no medical research that shows this is effective. Paediatricians generally advice against giving babies gripe water.
Medicines based on simethicone have been tried for reducing colic but again have not produced significant improvement. A 2007 report on a study using probiotics seemed to suggest that they had a beneficial effect on colicky babies but more research needs to be done on this2.
Do not administer any medication or remedy to your baby without consulting your paediatrician.
The unexplained crying is a rollercoaster ride for parents. First they try to find solutions - feed the baby, burp him, comfort her etc. None of this works. So they go through heartbreak as helplessness sweeps over them. As the phenomenon continues, it turns to irritability towards those around them. If not interrupted here, the next consequence can be anger directed towards the baby.
First, try the simple remedies like checking for a wet diaper, hunger, burping, pacifier etc., If none of these work, there are a number of ways for the parent to try and comfort the baby. Some may work for you while others may not. But one thing is certain, the crying will go away in virtually all babies by the end of 12 weeks.
Despite all this, your baby may continue to cry. Do not try to tackle it alone and do not feel that you are a bad parent. Studies have shown that up to 20% or more of babies born in the developed world suffer from colic3. Get help from other members in your family and let them comfort the baby for a while.
Do not feel guilty about taking a break from comforting the crying baby. Do this before you become resentful and angry with the baby. Go refresh yourself and reduce your stress. It is the best option for you and your baby. Above all else, remember that the crying will likely go away by week 12.
1. Shenassa, Edmond D., Brown, Mary-Jean "Maternal Smoking and Infantile Gastrointestinal Dysregulation: The Case of Colic" Pediatrics 2004 114: e497-e505
2. Savino, Francesco, Pelle, Emanuela, Palumeri, Elisabetta, Oggero, Roberto, Miniero, Roberto "Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection Strain 55730) Versus Simethicone in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Prospective Randomized Study" Pediatrics 2007 119: e124-e130
3. Lucassen, P L B J, Assendelft, W J J, van Eijk, J Th M, Gubbels, J W, Douwes, A C, van Geldrop, W J, "Systematic review of the occurrence of infantile colic in the community", Arch Dis Child 2001 84: 398-403
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