Having a baby with colic can be a scary and frustrating experience. Nevertheless, nothing lasts forever, and there are a few things you can do to lessen the symptoms and help it go away faster. With that in mind, here is an overview of colic, how long it lasts, tips for dealing with it, and more.
What Is Colic?
Colic is a relatively common condition that affects up to 1 in 4 newborn babies. It typically starts within the first 6 weeks and goes away within 4 months, although it may last up to 6 months. It is marked by extended periods of crying for no obvious reason. Babies suffering from colic are typically gassy, fussy, and have trouble getting to sleep.
Colic episodes often begin suddenly with loud, boisterous, non-stop crying and typically include crying that:
- Lasts for more than 3 hours a day
- Happens more than 3 times a week
- Occurs for more than 3 weeks
Symptoms of colic include:
- Crying with clenched fists
- Having a face that is bright red (flushed)
- Having a tight belly
- Crying with legs curled up to their belly
- Frequent burping and passing gas
Colic can only be diagnosed by a doctor. If your baby has some or all of these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician to see if they might have colic. They will talk to you about your baby’s symptoms and give them a physical exam to provide a diagnosis.
Causes of Colic
Although experts are not quite sure what causes colic, here are some possible contributing factors:
Inability to Self-Soothe
One possible cause of colic is that the baby is not capable of soothing themselves. Their nervous system is still developing, and they may be sensitive to stimuli of all kinds.
A theory suggests that babies who suffer from colic are simply struggling to adjust to the outside world. Although all newborns have to get used to the bright lights, loud noises, smells, etc., babies who suffer from colic seem to have an especially difficult time adjusting to these things.
Allergy or Intolerance
Another potential cause of colic is an allergy or food intolerance. If the baby is drinking breast milk or formula that contains allergens, and they can’t tolerate it, this may lead to belly pain.
While there is not much evidence to support this as a cause for colic, some colicky babies tend to pass gas more than non-colicky babies.
Tips for Dealing with Colic
Dealing with colic with your newborn can be difficult and stressful. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician about your baby’s symptoms and potential treatment options. In addition, here are some tips for dealing with colic at home:
Feedings: If the baby starts crying, make sure they aren't hungry.
Singing and Talking: Singing and talking to your baby can be a great way to distract them and help them calm down.
Change Their Position: Changing your baby's position from lying down to sitting up or from rear-facing to forward-facing can help reduce colic symptoms.
Limit Stimulation: Limit the amount of stimulation your baby is being exposed to.
Take a Ride: Going for a long drive can help calm your baby down.
Swaddling: Since colicky babies have trouble sleeping, swaddling them can be a great method of helping them calm down. As your baby continues to age, you can work on transitioning from a swaddle by switching to a Magic Sleepsuit to get the same sound sleep benefits of a swaddle.
Hugging and Cuddling: There is no way to spoil a baby with too much love and attention. Hugging and cuddling with your baby is a great way to bond and provide comfort.
If your baby has colic, talk to your pediatrician about your concerns. They can make specific recommendations and monitor your baby’s condition. Make sure to get support for yourself as well—colic can cause lost sleep for parents and babies, and it is hard to function well and be your best self without sleep. Take turns with a partner, friend, or family member to watch your baby while you get rest.