The term “colic” has been around for years, often used to describe any infant who is crying for a prolonged period of time. Most parents wonder if their baby has colic and if so, what can be done to handle it, improve it or make it stop.
What is Colic?
According to many sources, colic is inconsolable crying in an infant that lasts several hours a day, beginning in the second week of life and continuing until around 3 months of age. A paediatrician named Dr. Morris Wessel performed a landmark study on chronically fussy children around 40 years ago. His definition of a colicky infant was a child who cried for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, for over 3 weeks. This is often referred to as the “Rule of 3’s” which are now known as the Wessell Criteria.
Did you know?
- About 20-25% of babies meet the definition of “colic”
- Some experts believe that colic occurs in all babies, but what differentiates it from baby to baby and from being diagnosed as “colic” is to what degree the baby cries.
- Many colicky babies may pull up their legs or extend their legs, clench their fists, and pass gas. Some may have hardened or distended tummies filled with gas.
- Colic usually reaches its peak at 6-8 weeks after birth.
- The crying is often worse in the evening.
- Colic ends for 50% of cases at around 3 months and in 90% of cases by 9 months of age.
- The crying of a colicky baby often seems discomforting, intense and as if the baby is in pain.
How can I prevent colic?
In pregnancy, avoid stress – as this has been linked to stressed babies who cry more. Chronic stress can also affect the development of your unborn baby and the time of gestation (the length of your pregnancy). It may also increase the likelihood of complications in the future physical and mental growth of your child, as well as childhood behavioural issues.
Watch your baby’s awake times
Babies that sleep regularly during the day generally have less colic. It’s normal for a baby to be up for 45 minutes to an hour and then need to sleep again (the dream!)
Do not over-stimulate your baby in the late afternoon
Don’t embark upon exciting outings after 4pm such as to the shops or to social gatherings. Batten down the hatches and keep things calm in the run up to bedtime.
Watch your baby for signs of overstimulation
If you notice your baby looking away, sucking on their hands and grizzling, particularly in the late afternoon, these are signs that you might need to begin calming your baby in the run-up to bedtime.
Use movement to soothe your baby
Don’t worry about spoiling your baby – a sling is a great tool for preventing colic. The babocush is also a great help as the gentle vibrations and heartbeat sound can really help soothe colicky babies.
Swaddle, swaddle swaddle!
Typically speaking, swaddling is an effective method for babies up to 9–14 weeks of age, by which time your baby will have found their hands and will enjoy soothing themselves better. Swaddle for both day and night sleeps. Try the Cuddlewrap, which is specially shaped to keep your little one’s hands near their mouth.
My first baby had colic, will my next baby also suffer?
No two babies are the same; our first baby was a dream, she never suffered from colic and rarely cried but our second was inconsolable with it and cried A LOT! You’re more likely to know the warning signs and have some tricks up your sleeve if your second baby suffers, meaning you'll find it easier to manage, particularly if you're following the above steps.
Are bottle-fed babies more likely to suffer from colic?
Colic is more commonly related to over-stimulation and evidence has shown that there is no real correlation between colic and what a baby is being fed. Babies who are breastfed are just as likely to suffer as bottle-fed babies. It’s rare for an allergy cause irritability or colic in babies but always consult with your doctor in order to rule this out.