Uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby could be due to colic. Colic is often defined as crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks in an otherwise well-fed, healthy baby. What is most important for the diagnosis is sustained crying in an otherwise healthy baby for a regular period of the day lasting for several weeks.
Colic is not a long term problem and does not harm the baby. But it can be very distressing for the parents and the baby.
- Crying episodes – usually in late afternoon and evening. These episodes start suddenly in a health, well fed baby.
- Uncontrollable crying – which is intense and high pitched.
- Extension and flexion of legs and tense abdominal muscles occur during episodes of colic.
Duration of colic
- Colic usually starts at 3-4 weeks of life.
- It peaks at 6 weeks of age.
- Colic usually subsides by the time the baby is 5 months old
Colic in breast fed babies vs. formula fed babies
- Breast fed babies have less complaints of colic as compared to formula fed and bottle fed babies.
- If your baby seems to have severe and more frequent colic on a particular brand of formula, it is best to change to a different formula.
Preventing and managing episodes of colic
- Bottle feeding – prevent gulping of air by using bottles with an angle or vented bottles. Always keep nipple filled with milk. If the nipple is half filled with milk the baby will swallow air also along with milk. The nipple size should be appropriate for your baby’s age.
- Try to hold baby more upright during feedings.
- Frequent burping – you can even burp your baby between feeds and definitely after feeding.
- Gently rub your baby’s tummy. This can help in expelling of trapped gas.
- Under your supervision allow the baby to be on his/her tummy for sometime every day.
- Try soothing your baby by singing a lullaby or rocking. Taking your baby for a walk outdoors can also help.
- You can try a warm bath.
- Consult a paediatrician if colic is associated with a shrill, high pitched cry different from the usual cry of your baby. Symptoms of colic are associated with diarrhea, vomiting, blood in stools or obvious abdominal distension.