COLIC IN BABIES

Does your baby keep crying for hours and all your efforts of pacifying him/her goes in vain? No matter what all you try, you are not able to soothe or calm down your baby? And every night around the same time, these heartbreaking episodes keep repeating? If this is the case, then your baby is suffering from COLIC. Every newborn gets fussy and cries sometimes as it is the best way for them to communicate their needs at this tender age. But, It is very difficult for a new mother to understand it in initial stage. They usually contact pediatrician for medicine which can provide relief to their babies. But, there is no such medicine for colic babies.

During the first three months of life, it is normal for infants. However, a baby’s normal fussiness sometimes turns into extended periods of crying that keeps on going on and on and can’t be soothed. These unstoppable episodes could indicate the baby has colic. When a baby frequently goes through periods of screaming and crying and can’t feel comfort in any situation it indicates that he/ she may be suffering from colic. In this article we are trying understand better about colic and some tips and remedies for colic babies.

 What is Colic?

There is no particular medication for colic babies as it is not a disease or disorder. It is a combination of confused behaviors happening in almost 1 out of 5 infants. It is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy infant. Colic can be very disturbing for parents because the baby’s suffering occurs for no apparent reason and no amount of consoling seems to bring any relief. These episodes often occur in the evening, when parents themselves are already exhausted.

According to Ayurveda, colic is the pain in and around the navel. It is generally associated with constipation. In infants, the dhatu (body tissue) is still new and developing, also the Agni (digestive fire) is low or mand. This means that the babies cannot digest everything that is eaten by the mother or the formula food that is given to them. Hence, the mother has to be very careful about what she eats while she is breastfeeding. As per Ayurveda, aggravation of vayu (air) causes the colic pain.

How to diagnose Colic?

Usually a Doctor would diagnose your baby with colic based on the “Rules of three”. When an infant who isn’t sick or hungry cries for more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, he/she will be diagnosed with Colic. There is no specific test to diagnose colic in babies but the doctor may rule out any other potential causes of excessive crying.

When does it Start and End?

Colic in babies is likely to start around 2 weeks of age, if your infant is full-term, or later if they were born prematurely. Mostly it begins to taper off on its own by 3 or 4 months of age. The colic may stop all of a sudden or go away slowly, with some good days and some bad days until most of them are good and it’s clear the stage has passed. Colic in babies can happen regardless of your baby’s sex, their birth order, and whether you breast-feed or bottle-feed. Kids who had colic grow up no differently from those who didn’t.

 Colicky baby symptoms

How do you know for sure if your baby is suffering from Colic? Here are some signs and symptoms of colic in babies to look out for:

  • The crying lasts a total of at least three hours a day, at least three days a week and for at least three consecutive weeks.
  • Crying often occurs at around the same time every day, usually in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can vary.
  • Intense crying that seems more like screaming or an expression of pain.
  • Your baby seems to be crying for no apparent reason, unlike crying to indicate if he/she is hungry, tired or to express need for a diaper change.
  • Baby may pull up his legs, clench his fists and generally move his legs and arms more.
  • Your baby will often close his eyes or open them very wide, furrow his brow and even hold his breath briefly.
  • Your baby’s face will turn red or you can see pale skin around his/her mouth.
  • Bowel activity may increase, and he may pass gas or spit up.
  • Eating and sleeping are disturbed by the intense crying. Baby agitatedly seeks a nipple only to reject it once sucking has begun, or dozes for a few moments only to wake up screaming.
  • Your child might swallow a lot of air while they’re crying and this can cause gas and make  their belly tight or swollen.
 What causes Colic in Babies?

While the exact cause of colic in babies is not known, experts believe that it’s neither the result of genetics nor anything that happened during pregnancy or childbirth, nor is it any reflection on parenting skills. It may result from numerous contributing factors. It is difficult for researchers to pinpoint colic features, such as why it usually begins late in the first month of life, how it varies among infants, why it happens at certain times of the day and why it resolves on its own in time. Here are some theories on possible causes of colic in babies:

An immature digestive system:

The quality of a mother’s diet has a little influence on her milk. Since the baby’s digestive system is too young, digesting hard food is a big task for it. As a result, food may pass through too quickly and not break down completely, resulting in pain from gas in the intestines.

Infant acid reflux:

Research has found that infant GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) can trigger episodes in colicky babies, though it doesn’t cause colic. Symptoms include frequent spitting up, poor eating and irritability during and after feedings. The good news is, most babies outgrow GERD by age 1 (and colic usually goes away long before then).

Food allergies or sensitivity:

Some experts believe that colic is the result of an allergy to cow’s milk proteins (or lactose intolerance) in formula-fed babies or it may be a reaction to specific foods in Mom’s diet in breastfed babies. 

Tobacco exposure

Several studies show that moms who smoke during or after pregnancy are more likely to have babies with colic, and secondhand smoke may also be a culprit. Though the link exists, it’s unclear how cigarette smoke might be related to colic. 

Over stimulated Senses

Newborns are still trying to get used to the sights and sounds of being out in the world. During the initial days, newborns are tuned to adjust to the lights and sound around them, which allows them to sleep anywhere without being disturbed. But by the end of the first month, babies become more sensitive to the stimuli in their surroundings. These new sensations make them overwhelmed at the end of the day and to release this stress, they keep crying & crying. 

 Colic Diagnosis:

There is no test for colic. When you visit a doctor, he/she will ask about the baby’s symptoms and medical history. Doctor will examine the baby focusing on energy level, breathing, weight, body temperature, skin tone. They might order some tests to rule out other problems.

What is the Treatment for Colic or Remedies for Babies?

As there is no clear cause of colic, there is no specific treatment. Colic will get better with time and you may just have to wait for the fussiness to improve. Your baby’s pediatrician might recommend some medicines like colic drops that will help with colic problems. Other than that, try these remedies or tips one at a time, so that you will know if it is working or not:

  • Make sure your baby isn’t hungry. As babies urinate frequently, they can feel hunger very quickly. You have to breastfeed them in short durations  
  • Make sure your baby’s diaper is changed from time to time. That untidy or wet feeling can make babies uncomfortable and can be a reason to cry. The other reason could be the diaper is too tight. It may be time to move on to the next size.
  • Always burp your baby after every feed as while having breastfeed, baby can’t help but swallow up some air. This air trapped in the stomach and intestines can cause gas and stomach pain which can make the baby uncomfortable later. You may need to try different burping positions other than that traditional shoulder one.
  • If you are bottle feeding, try changing to another bottle which helps your baby to swallow less air.
  • Check with your doctor if different formula milk will be better for your baby. If the baby is on formula milk, it may cause digestive issues. Though it has no proof that colic appears due to formula as it has been seen in babies on breast feed too.
  • Tummy time is very important for colicky babies. Laying your baby on their tummy, across your stomach or lap is very calming for them. You can also rub your baby’s back, which is both soothing and may help gas pass through. Tummy time also helps your baby build stronger neck and shoulder muscles. Remember to only put your baby on their tummy while they’re awake and under supervision.
  • Get close to your baby. Cuddling, wearing or carrying your baby not only gives him/her the pleasure of security and physical closeness to you, but it may help you tune in better to his/her needs. Holding the baby bare skin against your own is very soothing for the baby. Do not worry that holding your baby too much will make him/her spoiled or clingy. The baby needs all your cuddling and attention, so leave all your worries behind and just cuddle away.
  • Massage your baby once or twice a day and also give a warm bath, as it helps to ease the discomfort caused by colic. While massaging gently press the abdominal so that if the baby had swollen air while feeding, it may pass through easily.
  • Use white noise like that of a vacuum cleaner, dryer, fan, dishwasher or recording of a heartbeat to comfort your baby. White noise machines create a comfortable, womb-like environment that calm anxious babies. It also helps babies to stay asleep longer.
  • Swaddle your baby in a warm blanket to soothe him/her. It recreates the snug packaging inside the womb which can make baby feel safe and can help to calm him/her down.  
  • In some cases, colicky babies want to eat all the time and that might be because they find sucking very soothing, not because they are hungry. Pacifiers can be useful in such cases and can be helpful to calm down babies.
  • Swing or rock your baby as newborns find gentle movements very comforting. Many parents report that movement can help control severe crying spells.
  • Moving objects can be equally soothing for babies to see. Like a slow moving ceiling fan, baby gym and or any moving toy can help to produce a silencing effect on the baby.
  • Take your baby out for a walk or a car ride. These are some attempts which may sooth fussy, crying, colicky babies. Infant’s crib to stimulate can be satisfied by these motions.
  • Respond promptly to your baby’s cries as it has been found to reduce the crying in the long run. Pick him/her up and cuddle as it makes the baby feel safe and secured. The cozy feeling and your heartbeat recreate the surrounding of the womb.  
  • Limit visitors and avoid exposing your baby to new experiences in stimulating environments, particularly in the late afternoon and early evening. Watch how your baby responds to certain stimuli and steer clear of any that seem to offend.
  • Sing and talk to your baby. It will make the baby feel sleepy fast, as it slowly calms down his/her nerves and helps to soothe the baby.

 Is Gripe water good for Colic?

Some parents swear by gripe water as a way to calm a colicky baby, but no reliable studies have shown its effectiveness in relieving colic symptoms. Gripe water is not regulated by health authority and we can’t say what’s actually in gripe water and in what quantities. Therefore, always check with your pediatrician before giving your baby gripe water or any other treatment marketed as baby colic drops.

 When should you see a Doctor:

  • After trying all the above mentioned remedies to soothe colic in your baby, if still crying persists and nothing seems to help, It may be the time for you to visit the doctor. Some signs to seek medical advice are:
  • While crying baby’s lips or skin turns blue
  • Baby is vomiting repeatedly during cry
  • Baby has diarrhea, or has blood in stool

 What Questions should you ask your paediatrician?

  • When the baby will get over with colic
  • The best way to feed the baby to avoid colic
  • Any particular position to hold the baby to make him/her feel comfortable
  • Any medicines which can provide relief
  • How can I help myself from getting frustrated

 What are the Foods to avoid in case of Breastfeeding?

A study published in Pediatrics suggests that excluding highly allergenic foods from a nursing mother’s diet could reduce crying and fussiness in her newborn’s first six weeks of life. If you are breastfeeding your baby, watch your diet to see if any of the food items consumed by you might be causing discomfort or gas in your baby. If you suspect that your baby starts crying badly after feeding him/her breast milk, keep a check on your diet or on things you are eating. Once you figure out what food may cause gas or may be hard to digest, you can modify your diet to avoid the culprit. It is possible that some foods may affect breast milk and contribute to intestinal gas and other digestive issues in babies. Though more investigation is needed, still there are some foods associated with affecting a mother’s breast milk.

Milk products, caffeine, garlic, onions, cabbage, turnip, broccoli, beans, apricots and other acidic fruits are found to be gas causing. Avoid foods high in carbohydrates and starch. Also check for food allergens in your diet like eggs, soy, dairy, wheat, peanuts and fish which might be causing the discomfort in your baby. Fried foods, spices and condiments should also be avoided as they can cause indigestion. Avoiding all these things for a few weeks can help to figure out whether they relieve the colic baby symptoms.

 What are the Foods that can help Breastfeeding Moms with Digestion and Gas problems?

Asafoetida (Heeng)

The secret of this ingredient is being shared for ages. Heeng is added to food preparations which are generally tough to digest like beans and whole pulses. It helps to boost digestion by increasing the activity of digestive enzymes. As per a study, it’s antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial properties are used to treat stomach disorders and cure gas, bloating, acidity, constipation and improve stomach health. Take a pinch of hing and mix it with a few drops of warm mustard oil and massage it on the navel of your baby. It is said to provide relief instantly. (What food helps with allergies in kids?)

Probiotics

Probiotics can aid digestive issues and help to maintain gut health. They are live bacteria (naturally occurring in foods) that are good for digestion and GUT. Fermented foods are the most natural source of live bacteria (probiotic). The most common fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics include kefir, pickles, kimchi, Ghee (clarified butter), dark chocolate and cheese. They are rich in probiotics. (How to make a probiotic nutritious chocolate?)

Prebiotics

Consumption of prebiotics could help to regulate intestinal gas metabolism. It is linked with providing smoother digestion, better immune system and lower inflammation. It is also shown to improve stool frequency and consistency, and when combined with probiotics may provide even more benefits in the digestive system and strengthen it. Prebiotics may help to soothe colic in babies by keeping their gut healthy. (What is an easy prebiotic meal?)

Yogurt

Yogurt is rich in probiotics (good bacterias) that helps to improve your digestive system. Having a little yogurt during an upset stomach may help relieve diarrhea too. Having more good bacterias in the system can conquer the number of bad bacterias, thereby maintaining good health. Presence of protein, calcium, Vitamin B2, vitamin B12, potassium and magnesium in yogurt helps to boost up the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract. (What are some foods for strengthening kids bones?)

Ajwain or Carom seeds

According to Ayurveda, carom is believed to have several medicinal properties. Carom contains a compound called thymol, which helps in secreting gastric juices and aiding digestion. People who experience the problem of gas regularly can also try consuming carom water. All you need to do is boil water with carom seeds and drink it once it cools down a bit. In Indian culture, nursing mothers are given this carom water soon after the delivery which helps both the mother and the baby with any gas or digestion related problems.

Mung Bean/ Moong Dal

Mung Bean/ Moong dal is an outstanding prebiotic. It has been used in Ayurveda for over 1000 years to make medicine for digestion. Sprouting Mung bean helps in activating enzymes that makes it easy to digest and also produces good bacterias (probiotic) in it. The high fiber content and probiotics makes this an ideal food for a breastfeeding mother and also a child beginning to start solids.(How to use Banana as a probiotic in a meal?)

Saunf or Fennel seeds

Fennel seed is an effective aid to digestion. It relaxes muscles in the intestine, which can help relieve constipation. The main component that gives fennel seeds these beneficial effects is Anethole. It can help to smooth and relax muscles of the gastrointestinal system, thereby reducing gas, bloating and stomach cramps. (What herbs and remedies are useful to control cold and cough?)

 Yes! Be kind to Yourself too

Colic is stressful for parents too. Some of the problems can be seen in mothers are increased risk of postpartum depression, early cessation of breastfeeding, feeling of guilt, exhaustion, helplessness or anger. Babies with colic can cry non-stop. It can be difficult to handle and irritating at the same time. You may feel physically and emotionally drained out as you hold, rock, walk and try to comfort your child for hours and still fail to see any improvement. You may also start crying with the baby. Just keep this in mind, no matter how stressed you are, never shake your baby too hard. You need extra energy to take care of a colicky baby.

Mostly babies start crying at night. In that case you have to sacrifice your sleep. Take rest whenever you get time. Take a nap with your baby during the day time when he/she is sleeping. Ask your husband, family, friends to take care of the baby for some time. A quick walk in fresh air as me-time can refresh you. Babies cry as it is the only way for them to communicate. Colic is not any of your fault or your baby’s fault either. Many other parents are also sailing in the same boat. It is a small phase that shall pass soon. Just keep control on your diet, rest well, eat well. Colic stage will pass away as quickly as it arrived. It just needs your time, love and patience.

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