All babies cry. In fact, crying is the only way a newborn can communicate so it can seem like it’s all they ever do. But, as crying is a baby’s only way of reaching out to you, not all crying means the same thing! Whilst some babies cry more than others, there are a few who cry so much that there’s a special term for the phenomenon. Yes, you guessed it, it’s called ‘Colic’.
Colic is a very misunderstood term. (We all know a baby who cries a lot and has been labelled as ‘colicky’ by parents and other family members.) In reality Colic is more than that, Colic is excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy and well fed. Whilst Colic doesn’t tend to last too long, it can feel like an eternity when you're faced with your baby drawing their legs up, red faced and seemingly in pain, especially as there is apparently very little you can do to help them.
You’re not alone!
In fact, Colic is fairly common, affecting approximately 1 in 5 babies. So why is it still so poorly understood?
It’s more than likely down to the way we casually use the term ‘Colic’ to describe any baby that simply cries a lot. This leads people to think that it is a single medical condition but that’s just not the case.
In this blog post, we clarify exactly what Colic is and discuss why it occurs. We’re also going to provide a summary of research into treatments for Colic so, if you know someone whose baby may be showing signs, please feel free to share this post with them.
Please note that the information included in this blog post is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as medical advice.
So, what is Colic exactly?
Colic is basically an umbrella term that describes a baby that cries a lot, and we mean a lot! The actual medical definition of colic is:
The occurrence of bouts of crying in an otherwise healthy baby that:
- Occurs in the first 3 months of life;
- Lasts more than 3 hours a day;
- Happens more than 3 days per week; and
- Occurs each week for at least 3 weeks.
Now, a lot of the time, it turns out that these babies are simply suffering from wind pain and not Colic at all. Only babies that meet the above criteria are medically classed as ‘having Colic’, and you may be surprised to see that the definition excludes babies that have a defined illness or medical condition. Simply put, if a cause for the crying can be identified, then the baby is no longer classed as having Colic.
What does Colic look like?
- Long periods of crying, especially through the night
- Flushed cheeks
- Disrupted feeding
- Baby passing wind
- Irregular sleeping interrupted with bouts of crying
- Your baby pulling their legs up to their stomach
- Clenched fists
- Wrinkled forehead
What causes Colic?
Whilst it’s true that researchers don’t have a definitive answer to this question, they do have some guesses as to possible causes:
- a food intolerance or allergy - potentially to cow’s milk or soy protein
- an immature digestive system
- an underdeveloped central nervous system
- ‘difficult infant temperament’
- a baby’s inability to clearly communicate its needs
- transference of a caregiver’s anxiety to the baby
As medical professionals have known about Colic for an incredibly long time (the ancient Greeks wrote about it) but still haven’t discovered what causes it, it’s likely that there are a variety of factors that together cause excessive crying.
What should you do if you suspect your baby has colic?
The first step in coming to a diagnosis of Colic is to rule out what is not Colic. So, if your baby cries a lot it may be a good idea to work through this checklist:
If all of the above can be ruled out and your baby still cries enough to meet the criteria for Colic, then it’s time to move to the next step. Keep a symptom diary for baby and food diaries for Mom (if the baby is breastfed) and baby (if the baby is formula fed). It would also be good to keep track of parental mental health to see if any bouts of anxiety or depression coincide with increased crying in a baby.
Once you’ve gathered all your information, speak with your doctor who will be able to assist with possible treatments. You might also take the time to discuss possible naturopathic treatments, especially if you haven’t been able to identify any patterns.
So now I know my baby has Colic, what can I do to help?
In the year 2000 a pair of researchers conducted A Systematic Review of Treatments for Infant Colic looking specifically at the treatment options. The following was highlighted which you may find helpful:
- Pharmaceutical —there are pharmaceutical remedies that some parents use. However, they don't state that they are a definitive cure and the disadvantages of these outweigh the benefits making them inappropriate for the treatment of colic.
- Dietary modification —babies developing digestive systems can be susceptible to what their mothers eat and also the formula they consume. A low allergen diet may help to reduce the symptoms. Different field studies have been done on what a mother consumes like egg, wheat, nuts and milk as opposed to babies fed with milk-based formula. The results from these studies were mixed. It was found that some babies had shorter colic spells when fed soy-based formula.
A recommended course of action for a breastfeeding mother is to pay close attention to the colic episodes of her baby and also what her dietary intake was. Keeping a record of this will help both the mother and doctor with determining the treatment course to take. The same principle applies to formula fed babies; a pattern of symptoms can be traced to what the baby consumes.
- Behavioural treatment —the only behavioural treatment for colic that is supported by science is decreased stimulation. The evidence is severely limited but if you have a colicky baby, it may be worth a shot.
- Naturopathic treatment —while herbal tea and sugar seem to offer some relief to babies with colic, there are health concerns associated with both treatments. If you are interested in trialing such a treatment, it would be best to consult your doctor before doing so. Treatments with probiotics or fennel appear to be effective, but again you should consult your doctor before attempting to treat your child with either remedy.
How can Minbie help my baby?
The Minbie is a total rethink of the baby bottle nipple. The complexity of newborn feeding demands a bottle nipple that perfectly matches the way newborns want and need to feed on the breast. Our unique nipple design is the only one that achieves this.
By introducing the 3-way anti-colic Minbie nipples to your breastfeeding routine, you will see numerous benefits including:
✔ Your baby will use instinct to latch to the Minbie nipple correctly, so they aren't likely to ingest air through the sides of their mouth, therefore avoiding one potential cause of colic.
✔ The Minbie nipple encourages your baby to work for their feed with their natural instinctive breastfeeding technique, so they are drawing more saliva enzymes into their stomach for their digestive system.
✔ The Minbie bottle-system is properly vented, so air is floated away from the milk.
✔ ✔ In addition, with Minbie nipples babies practice their breastfeeding muscle-memory, so when they go back to the breast they are supporting your breastfeeding journey and breastmilk is better for their digestive system.
Choose to protect your baby and your breastfeeding bond by investing in the Minbie anti-colic nipple. Buy today and see the difference!
Have your say
Have you found a treatment that worked for your baby with Colic? Share it in the comments and you might just help another family in a similar situation.