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Understanding Colic

Parenthood is a journey filled with joy, but it also comes with its share of challenges. One of those challenges that many parents face is dealing with colic in their infants. But what exactly is colic, and how can you navigate through this phase with your little one? Let's dive into the world of colic and explore its causes, symptoms, and some practical tips for parents.

What is Colic?
Colic is characterized by a baby's inconsolable crying, occurring for three or more hours a day, at least three days a week, and persisting for three weeks or more in a month. This intense crying often occurs around the same time each day, typically in the late afternoon or evening. The good news is that colic usually begins in the second week after birth, peaks around the sixth week, and tends to subside by the third to fourth month. Rarely does colic persist beyond six months.

Do All Babies Suffer from Colic?
About 30% of both breastfed and bottle-fed babies experience colic, and it affects both sexes equally. While first-borns may seem more prone to colic, later siblings are just as likely to suffer from this condition. It's essential to note that colicky babies generally gain weight and are otherwise healthy.

Symptoms of Colic:
Colic manifests through various symptoms, and if your baby experiences one or more of the following, colic might be the culprit:

Crying an hour or more after a feed.
High-pitched, intense cry.
Incessant, inconsolable crying at a regular time each day or night.
Pulling the knees to the chest.
Abdominal bloating.
Excessive flatulence.
Frequent, explosive, watery stools.

Causes of Colic
Understanding potential causes of colic can help parents manage and alleviate their baby's discomfort. Some common factors include:

Milk Sugar Overload: Insufficient lactase production can lead to undigested milk sugars fermenting in the large intestine, causing gas production and bloating. Strategies like expressing foremilk before feeds and allowing the baby to finish one breast before offering the other can help.

Intestinal Hormone Imbalance
: Motilin, a hormone in breast milk, may contribute to colic when it peaks in the evening. Close physical contact and massaging the baby's feet can help suppress painful intestinal contractions.

Lack of Beneficial Bacteria: Babies born via C-section or exposed to antibiotics may lack beneficial bacteria, contributing to colic. Probiotics, naturally occurring in breast milk or added to formula, can be beneficial.

Maternal Diet:
Some breastfeeding mothers find that excluding certain foods from their diet reduces colicky symptoms in their babies.

Formula Milk Protein Allergy: An allergic response to proteins in cow's milk can cause colic. Specially treated formula milk or milk without proteins may be recommended by a healthcare professional.

Skull Misalignment: Misalignment of the skull due to childbirth may put pressure on the vagus nerve, causing intestinal spasms. Cranial osteopathy has been shown to be successful in treating colicky symptoms.

Tight Clothing:
Snug-fitting diapers or clothing can restrict movement and contribute to bloating. Ensuring a comfortable fit is essential.

Overstimulation: Excessive stimulation can irritate the nervous system and lead to uncontrollable crying. Establishing a daytime routine with rest breaks can help avoid overstimulation.

Lack of Exercise or Carrying:
Regular exercise and tummy time promote intestinal mobility, while constant carrying in a sling or pouch can reduce colic by as much as 45%.

Parental Stress: While parental stress doesn't cause colic, it can increase parental stress, leading to more bouts of fussiness and crying in babies. Support for parents is crucial during this challenging time.

Colic can be a challenging phase for both babies and parents, but understanding its causes and implementing practical strategies can make a significant difference. Whether it's adjusting feeding routines, considering probiotics, or simply enjoying some skin-to-skin contact, there are various approaches to soothing a colicky baby. Remember, you're not alone in this journey, and seeking support from helplines and workshops can provide valuable assistance during this challenging time.

Taken from Dr Lin's Article Colic 2014 (Updated May 2021)

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