Does My Baby Have Colic? Here’s What You Should Know
Crying is one of the only ways that a baby can communicate their needs to us. In most cases, these cries tell us that they need to be fed, changed, or held, and the crying resides once those needs are met. But what about when your baby’s needs are all met, but hours of inconsolable screaming continue? This is when parents start to wonder if their baby may have colic.
What is colic?
All babies cry, but when a healthy baby cries excessively and inconsolably for long periods, they might have colic. Colic isn’t a disorder or a disease, but rather a condition that describes these unexplainable crying episodes.
If you’re concerned that your baby may have colic, you can ask yourself the “rule of three,” developed by Morris A. Wessel, M.D.:
Do they cry for more than a total of three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks?
If so, they may have colic. While this is normal in babies (about 1 in 5 babies have colic), you can still pay a visit to your doctor to rule out any other causes of crying and receive professional advice on how to manage colic.
What causes colic?
Medical experts do not know exactly what causes colic. Some argue that colic can occur from sensitivities to formula or breast milk, while others argue that it’s a baby’s way of adjusting to life outside the womb.
However, there is little to no evidence to support either of these causes.
What do we know about colic
Even though medical experts do not know why some babies experience colic and there’s no treatment for it, here’s what we do know:
- Colic starts between the 2–3-week age range
- After 3-4 months, colic usually goes away on its own
- The presence of colic in baby doesn’t indicate that the child will be less intelligent or healthy than a baby without colic
With these facts, parents can rest assured that colic will typically come to an end after a couple challenging months, and there aren’t any studies to show that colic affects children’s temperament or health in the long run.
Living with colic
Because medical experts don’t know the cause of colic, there unfortunately aren’t any ways to ‘cure’ it. If your baby has colic, you’ll instead need to focus on ways to soothe your crying baby until they grow out of colic. You can do so by following the “Five S’s” and figuring out which combination best helps soothe your colicky baby.
Give your baby a sense of security by swaddling.
Mimic womb-like sounds by shushing or using white noise machines.
Slow and smooth motion can help calm your baby. Wearing your baby in a carrier can also help with colic.
Babies have an urge to suck, which is why dummies can work well with some colicky babies.
Positioning your baby on their side or stomach with their head resting in your hand could calm them (but they should never sleep on their side or stomach).
Keep in mind that each child is different, so while some colicky babies may only need to be swaddled with a dummy in order to stop crying, others may need four or five of these tactics all at once.
What if your baby won’t stop crying?
Caring for colicky babies is extremely hard on parents. Many times, the worst colic spells occur from 6p.m. to midnight, the same time a parent is already exhausted. If your baby has colic, here are some things that can help you get through this tricky time:
Your baby will outgrow this phase, which is important to remind yourself during difficult times. When you’re going through a seemingly endless spell, take deep breaths and remind yourself that this is temporary, normal, and no one’s fault.
When caring for your colicky baby becomes too much, seek help from your friends or family members. Having someone come over and watch the baby while you nap or just take some time for yourself can be extremely helpful.
If no other soothing method is working, you can place the baby safely in their crib and briefly step away. Check back in on the baby after you’ve given yourself 5-10 minutes to regroup.
Where can I get help?
Your GP or paediatrician will be able to give you the best medical advice about colic, while your friends and family will likely be willing to help you through it. If you feel like you need some extra support, there are also plenty of online groups for parents with colicky babies. They may be able to share helpful information with you or just be a listening ear when you need it.
Using the above strategies, we hope you can find some relief during this challenging time. And remember, even though 3-4 months with a colicky baby can seem like a lifetime, this phase will pass.