I know that all infants are prone to crying, but I feel like my newborn has been crying excessively. Sometimes it just means he’s hungry, tired, or needs his diaper changed, but there are other times when he seems inconsolable, no matter what I do. I’ve read that this may be a sign of colic. How can I know for sure, and what should I do?
It is normal for infants to cry and fuss somewhat, but excessive crying from a healthy, well-fed baby for more than three hours at a time may be a sign of infantile colic. Colic in infants typically begins at two to three weeks of age and lasts anywhere from 3 to 4 months.
Currently, the exact causes of colic remain unknown, but there are several strong “suspects.” Some doctors believe that colic occurs when food passes too quickly through the baby’s digestive tract. Others theorize that some babies have gastroesophageal reflux disease, which causes stomach acid to make its way into the esophagus, and can be extremely uncomfortable.
While its causes remain somewhat of a mystery, if you suspect your baby of being colicky, there is a concrete course of action you should certainly take: make an appointment with your pediatrician! There are no specific tests for colic, but it is important to rule out several other causes of sudden-onset screaming in infants such as a hernia, ear infection, or abdominal infection. There is no proven single treatment to make colic disappear, but there are ways to soothe your baby until his colic goes away.
Avoid overfeeding by nursing or giving the baby a bottle when he or she is colicky. Keep in mind that colicky babies do not cry because they are hungry. It is better to adhere to your baby’s regular feeding schedule.
Breastfeeding mothers should avoid consuming milk products and other gas producing, irritating foods. For formula-fed babies, it may be helpful to switch to a low-allergy formula such as Alimentum or Nutramigen.
Other helpful measures include walking with your baby, wrapping him snugly in a blanket (swaddling), playing music, or burping your baby more often during feedings.
If at any time you begin to feel overwhelmed or frustrated by the baby’s crying, ask a family member or friend to watch your child. It is also okay to put your baby down in the crib if no one is readily available. Taking a break is a good way to help you relax, which may also improve your baby’s disposition.
The good news is there are no long-term effects associated with colic, and the condition is temporary. After 3 or 4 months, all symptoms should cease, and both you and your baby will be much happier.