What could cause a perfectly healthy baby to have seemingly violent crying spells? If your baby frequently goes through a fussy period where she screams and cries -- and there's nothing you can do to comfort her -- she may be suffering from colic. Other signs that differentiate colic from ordinary crying include the baby's stomach being enlarged, or the baby passing more gas than usual or extending or pulling up his legs.
If your baby is showing signs of colic, you're not alone. About one in five babies between 2 weeks and 3 months old go through these crying spurts. Colic is not a physical disorder or disease; it simply refers to 3 or more hours a day of continued crying without a visible explanation (such as hunger or a wet diaper).
A baby with colic will often go through his crying spells between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. Of course, that's just when you as a parent are also feeling worn out. While the incessant screaming might make you want to pull your hair out, just remember that this phase won't last forever. Colic usually peaks around 6 weeks and then slowly dissipates -- disappearing by about 3 months of age.
No one knows for sure exactly what causes colic. In fact, the definition of colic says that there are no visible signs of why the baby is crying. But there are several common theories about what may cause these crying spells:
If you suspect that gas might be causing your baby's colic, there are also some ways to ease the gas buildup in her little tummy. If you're bottlefeeding, try giving your baby soy milk or burping her more often during feedings. If you're breastfeeding, take a look at some of the foods you're eating that could lead to your baby having gas. Common foods that cause gas include cabbage, coffee, onions, chocolate, nuts, and dairy products. It may help to keep a diary of what you eat so that you can make a connection between your diet and when your baby's colic seems to act up.
Colic can be just as difficult for the parents as it is for the babies, so it's important that you take care of yourself too during this trying time.
A parent can be left feeling frustrated and hopeless when she can't seem to soothe her own child. But don't blame yourself or your baby for the constant crying -- it's nobody's fault. Instead, if you find yourself getting stressed out, see if your partner, a neighbor, or a friend could watch the baby for a while. If there's no one nearby who can relieve you, consider hiring a sitter to take over on occasion. Make sure to pamper yourself during this new free time you have. Try taking a peaceful walk or getting in a hot bath. You'll find that you can handle your baby's colic better if you're not exhausted.
As difficult as it may be, try to stay relaxed during your baby's crying jags. And don't forget that she will eventually outgrow this phase. Pretty soon, your baby will be happy and smiling again; and you'll be more at ease than you can imagine!
Sources: Caring for Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Bantam); The Nemours Foundation; Catherine Dundon, MD
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.