Having a new baby can be a very challenging time.
Having a colicky baby can be even more challenging!
Many new parents have questions and concerns about their baby's behaviour.
Is he or she behaving ‘normally?', or could there be a medical issue that needs addressing?
One issue that some new parents worry about when their baby is having long crying spells is whether their baby has colic.
If so, what might that mean? And how can parents help their baby to be healthy and happy?
Here are 5 answers to common questions about colic, starting with the question on many new parents lips – does my baby have colic?
#1: Does My Baby Have Colic?
Do you have a baby who is under the age of about 3 months and has episodes where he:
- Cries a lot, sometimes inconsolably
- Doesn’t settle easily to sleep (if at all)
- Cluster feeds (i.e. has many feeds close together – such as 3 or 4 within a couple of hour)
- Appears very ‘windy’ or ‘gassy’
- Goes red in the face
- Makes facial grimaces
- Brings his knees up to his chest
- Arches his back
If so, it's likely your baby has colic. Colic tends to begin around the late afternoon/early evening and can last for a few hours or more. Amongst parents with young babies, this time of the day is often referred to as the ‘arsenic’ or ‘witching’ hours.
However, please don’t worry! Your baby is likely perfectly healthy. Read on to find out more.
#2: Is Colic Normal?
To a degree, colic is normal, as well as transient (as in, it comes as goes). Colic tends to appear in many otherwise normal, healthy, young babies. Colic is often the ‘diagnosis’ for a baby who is otherwise growing and developing normally but has periods where he is unsettled (colic episodes) and shows the signs listed above.
#3: How Long Does Colic Last?
Colic tends to start at around 3 weeks, just as babies are becoming more wakeful and active. It's common for up to one or two colic episodes to occur every 24 hours in a young baby.
Colic tends to peak around 6 weeks, before starting to reduce from around 2 months. For most babies, colic ceases around 3 months.
#4: What Is Colic and What Causes It?
No one knows exactly why many young babies have colic, but there are a few theories:
1. An Immature Digestive System
During colic episodes, many parents indicate that their baby seems very ‘gassy’ or ‘windy’ and seems to have ‘tummy pain’. This would lend to the presumption that perhaps a young baby’s immature digestive system may be implicated.
2. Brain Overstimulation
Since colic episodes tend to start late in the day, another theory is that they may have to do with a baby’s brain being overstimulated, after having taken in a lot of stimuli during the day.
3. Tanking Up
Since a baby tends to cluster feed during colic episodes, it may be that he is tanking up on higher fat/calorie rich milk in preparation for a longer stretch of sleep that often follows colic episodes.
#5: How Can I Help My Baby During Colic Episodes?
During a colic episode, a baby seeks comfort to help regulate himself. So when your baby wants to cluster feed during this time, it's not just about the actual feeding, it’s also about the close contact between you and him.
To help settle your baby during a colic episode, you may find it helpful to:
- Carry him around in a sling or baby carrier
- Stay close (e.g. skin-to-skin) to him
- Take him for a walk in the pram
There are other reasons why your baby might be unsettled. If you are concerned about your baby for any reason, see your doctor.