Symptoms and Caring for a Baby with Colic

By Misty on in Baby Sleep Disorders Baby Sleep Help Health Concerns with No Comments

Symptoms and Caring for a Baby with Colic
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When I had my first child, I expected some crying and fussiness from him. He was a baby after all. Although I was quite young, just 19, I had taken care of babies before and knew I could easily soothe any baby with just a little rocking or bottle feeding.

What I didn’t expect was to bring home a baby from the hospital who no matter what I tried could not be soothed for more than a few minutes. I tried feeding him, holding him constantly, rocking him, playing with him, bathing him and taking him for walks. Nothing stopped the crying. After about a week of this with no sleep, I decided to take him to my pediatrician certain I was going to be told something was terribly wrong with my baby.

I was surprised when my doctor told me that it was nothing serious, just a case of colic. I had heard this word before and had associated it with something horrible and was sent home after being told that only time would heal it.

I was worried. How was I going to handle a crying baby all the time? How much more time could I handle before I cracked? I knew I needed to find out more information about colic and of course way back in the early 90’s, we didn’t have Google to solve our problems. My doctor brushed it off as a normal thing babies went through and didn’t give much information. Who else could I trust and turn to with my questions? Mom to the rescue!

Come to find out, I was also a baby with colic. My mother was so frustrated with me on some days that she claimed she wanted to take me back to the hospital!

After several phone calls and lots of crying, I learned as much as I could about colic and took some of her motherly advice on how to handle a baby with colic, which I will now pass onto you.

What is Colic?

Colic is not a condition that is completely understood, even by the medical community. It typically is diagnosed in babies who are otherwise healthy and well fed but have frequent and intense fits of crying. It will first be seen in babies by about one or two weeks of age and will be gone by about three or four months.

Some experts think colic is caused by indigestion or sensitivity to milk based products. Others believe it could be reflux, bad gas, an immature nervous system, increased hormone levels or just certain temperament in the newborn. Studies have not been 100% supported by evidence for any of these causes yet.

Symptoms of Colic

Severe cases of colic are pretty easy to spot. While most experts agree that colic has no long term effect, I highly recommend taking your baby to a pediatrician just to rule out any other more serious medical issues if you see some of these symptoms in your baby:

  • Crying suddenly with no apparent reason or cause, very loud and furious. Unable to be comforted even when being held by a parent.
  • The crying can last anywhere from one to 4 hours continuously.
  • When crying their belly may be distended, their legs will be flexed and extended straight out and their hands are cold and clenched.
  • The baby’s face will turn red and flush during the intense fits of crying.
  • Sleep in a baby with colic will be sporadic and often times, baby will wake from sleep in fits of crying.
  • Feeding time may be challenged as baby may have these crying fits even while feeding.
  • Frequent gas may be passed by baby.

A well known pediatrician, Dr. Morris Wessel, defined infant colic as “one who, otherwise healthy and well-fed, had paroxysms of irritability, fussing, or crying lasting for a total of three hours a day and occurring on more than three days in any one week for a period of three weeks.” That’s a lot of crying and a pretty obvious sign that your baby may have colic.

However, I do want to also point out that not all babies who cry, even frequently, have colic. Some babies are just criers or could have other medical conditions that could be causing the crying.

How to Care for a Baby with Colic

This is where the motherly advice came into play. I can’t thank my mother enough for getting me through those few months with my son and I hope some of this advice will help you too.

  • Burp your baby often. Gas is uncomfortable and can build up quickly in a crying baby. Alleviate some of this by burping as often as you can, especially during feedings.
  • One strategy I used often was to place a warm water bottle right on his tummy. I would turn him on his side, place the water bottle up to his stomach with a towel between him and the water bottle and it was a great soother for him. Just be sure the water bottle isn’t too hot.
  • Another temperature controlled method is bath time. The warm water of a bath would keep my baby calm for the duration of the bath, but would also make him drowsy enough to fall asleep for awhile after.
  • Car rides were a life saver. I know this may not be a convenient method, but I could drive around for a long length of time and the lull of the engine and the car hitting the pavement would put my little guy right to sleep and he would stay asleep the entire time.
  • Babies with colic love to be held, but of course this isn’t always feasible for a busy mom or dad who have other things to do around the house. To keep your hands free, try a baby sling to hold baby close to you. Not only will this keep busy snuggle up close to your chest but it will leave you with the ability to use your hands for other purposes.
  • If you’ve exhausted all other possibilities, you may want to change up your formula. This did not end up being a cause for my son, but there are many who think colic could be related to lactose intolerance. If that’s the case with your baby, you may want to switch to a soy formula for a short time to see if a change is made.

It can be frustrating and challenging caring for a baby with colic and it’s quite common to feel tired, frazzled and upset at the situation. Don’t feel guilty, this is quite normal. However, if you are feeling any form of anger and are worried you may lose self control and possibly harm your baby, put your baby in a safe place, like her crib or bassinet and step away to get help immediately. Ask a close friend or family member to help you by taking over for a short while so you can regroup and come back with a fresh head and a calmer attitude.

Remember, colic doesn’t last forever. Until it’s over you may not see a full night’s sleep, but with a few strategies in place you might see a few more longer duration’s of sleep.

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