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Colic

By Erica Martin, M.D.

Baby crying

​Crying and being fussy are normal baby behaviors that indicate hunger or a dirty diaper, but sometimes a baby shows signs of excessive crying for no apparent reason. This is called Colic – unexplained crying in young babies without reason not due to pain or hunger. Crying and fussing can last three hours or more a day and can occur often at least three days a week.

Colic is common in babies and while the exact cause is unknown, it is not a result of bad parenting. Signs can start as early as two weeks after birth and typically improves around three to four months of age. A new baby can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced parents. Boys Town Pediatrics explains the signs of colic and offers tips on how to help soothe your baby.

Signs of colic

Crying can abruptly start without notice and usually fades around three or four months of age. Parents may notice:

  • Pained facial expressions (belly hurts)
  • Flushed face (looks angry)
  • Curled up legs and flexed arms
  • Possible bowel movements after a Colic episode
  • Distressed or high-pitched crying sounds

How to help

A soothing, gentle activity is the best approach to helping a baby relax, settle down and go to sleep.

  • Babies like movement. Place your baby in a bouncy seat or swinging seat that vibrates or has other movement functions, stroller rides, car rides or rocking in a rocking chair.
  • White noises. Try noises with flowing rhythms such as classic music, lullabies, a dishwasher or a washing machine.
  • Every baby is different. Try a warm bath, massage or pacifier.
  • Swaddle your baby in a blanket.Swaddling which mimics the coziness of the womb can keep your baby warm and can help reduce awakenings caused by startle reflex and increase longer periods of sleep for your little one. It is important to remember if swaddling is not done properly, it can also pose possible risks for your baby.
  • Let your baby sleep. Your baby may be trying to sleep especially after eating. Swaddle your baby snugly and place him or her on their back in the crib. Turn on white noise and let your baby fall asleep.
  • Promote a regular sleep schedule. Try to have your baby sleep at night rather than during the day. Try playing with your baby during the day. This will help build a regular sleep cycle.
  • Feeding
    • Do not feed your baby every time he cries.
    • If you are breast-feeding avoid eating excessive amounts of chocolate or drinking coffee, tea, and soda.
    • Avoid stimulants like caffeine or those found in some decongestion medicines.
    • Be sure to check with your pediatrician to see if your baby might be suffering from a cow's milk allergy or acid reflux.

Concerns

Parents will most likely be exhausted and finding aid with friends and family can be beneficial to get necessary rest. Hiring a babysitter could give parents more free time to nap or get out of the house if necessary. Record your baby's crying, sleeping and feeding patterns can help your healthcare provider understand how to help your baby's individual's needs. If you are having trouble calming your baby's crying, your baby is still crying continuously after four months of age or you have any other concerns, contact your pediatrician. If you notice a blueish-cast to your baby's lips or skin during crying, seek emergency attention immediately.