What is Colic and How Can You Relieve Your Baby's Colic Symptoms?

Colic is a condition where babies suffer from bouts of prolonged, excessive crying, typically crying for more than three hours a day, for at least three days a week, for a minimum period of three weeks. Colic is the most common reason why infants are taken to the doctor in the first year of life.

Colic can be distressing for parents who are trying to cope with their infant's cries and relentless hours of rocking, walking, or bouncing the baby in an attempt to soothe them. But what causes colic and what can be done to help relieve babies suffering from colic?

What Causes Colic?

The cause of colic is not known. However, it is thought to be related to an upset digestive system, with some babies being especially sensitive to certain foods in the mother's diet. Breastfed babies are sometimes sensitive to the food in the mother's diet, while formula-fed babies are sometimes sensitive to the ingredients in the formula.

What Are The Symptoms Of Colic?

The main symptom of colic is inconsolably crying for long periods of time. Additionally, babies with colic may display signs such as:

  • Appearing in pain
  • Being difficult to console and uncomfortable
  • Drawing their legs up to their stomach
  • Having a bloated stomach
  • Passing a lot of gas
  • Having a change in bowel movements

How Does Colic Affect Babies and Parents?

In addition to the distress it causes parents, colic can have an impact on the baby’s development. Crying for prolonged periods can be tiresome for the baby and the stress created could lead to less energy and appetite. This could then lead to not developing and growing as they should.

Also, long periods of crying can be hard on the parent’s mental health. Suddenly becoming a parent has already been a stressful experience, and colic just adds to that stress. Increases in anxiety and depression are common among parents of babies with colic.

What Can Parents Do To Relieve Their Baby's Colic Symptoms?

Although there is no one cure for colic, there are several things that parents can do to help reduce their baby’s discomfort and find a measure of relief. Here are some tips for understanding and helping your baby with colic:

  • Keep your baby upright for at least 30 minutes after a feeding.
  • Try swaddling your baby to provide some security and calmness.
  • Take your baby for a walk in a pram or car ride. The motion can soothe them.
  • Provide a calming environment by turning down the noise and the lights.
  • Burp your baby regularly after feedings.
  • Try incorporating some tummy massage or baby yoga postures to ease abdominal cramps.

When Should Parents Seek Medical Advice for Colic?

If your baby’s crying is becoming increasingly difficult to soothe, you should seek medical advice. Also, if your baby is experiencing other symptoms such as fever, diarrhoea, projectile vomiting, or a lack of appetite, you should make an appointment with your GP or healthcare provider.