Some babies go through a period of having unexplained and regular crying each day. The term used to describe the regular bouts of excessive crying in an otherwise healthy baby is colic. A baby with colic will cry mostly in the afternoons and evenings for more than three hours a day for more than three days a week, for at least three weeks. Usually cuddling or trying to soothe the baby does not work.
Colic affects around one in three babies and usually happens between the ages of two weeks and 16 weeks. Colic tends to appear in the first two to four weeks of life and peaks at around six to eight weeks of age. Usually the baby seems quite happy until the late afternoon or early evening. Symptoms include frowning, reddening of the face, loud and long piercing screams, crying lasting for three hours or longer, unable to comfort the baby, the baby’s abdomen making a rumbling sound, and the baby passing wind or faeces when the crying ceases.
The exact cause of colic is unknown. It’s thought to be related to the immaturity of the baby’s digestive system or trapped wind leading to discomfort and pain. Babies may overreact to the unfamiliar sensations of gas or fullness and may interpret these feelings as painful and alarming. Other factors that have been suggested include smoking during pregnancy or smoking around the baby. Certain foods in the mother’s diet may cause symptoms of food allergy or intolerance in her breastfed baby. Foods such as cabbage and cauliflower can cause an attack of colic in the breastfed infant.
In most cases the condition will resolve without treatment by the time the baby is three or four months old. There is no treatment to cure colic, but there are ways to relieve the condition. Over the counter medications such as gripe water (Hartley’s Natural Gripe Water) may help to ease gas and digestion. Other formulations to help ease the baby’s abdominal discomfort include Brauer Baby Colic Relief. If the mother is breastfeeding she should try to note whether particular foods seem to aggravate colic. Bottle-fed babies may respond better to different brands such as lactose-free milk. A gentle massage on the baby’s stomach or back may help. A baby may also be calmed by sucking on a dummy (Cherub Baby Digital Dummy).