What is Colic

What is Colic

Colic is an attack of inconsolable crying as a result of abdominal pain in babies. The word colic means spasm, or painful tightening of muscle. Although the babies cry incessantly due to the colicky pains, colic is not a life threatening or serious situation. Colic is extremely common in the first few months of the life of the babies. It is estimated to affect at least 20% of babies during early infancy. By the time the babies are 4 to 5 months old the symptoms of colic are eased.

The digestive system of the babies is still in the developing stage in the first few months of life. As a result there is formation of wind in the abdomen which the babies are not able to pass out on their own. This results in abdominal pain and the babies cry. The baby may arch backwards and either draw the knees up or stretch the legs out stiffly.

Colic is usually relieved by holding the baby in the upright position and gently patting her back. The parents may also try to soothe the distressed baby by walking her up ad down or by gently rocking her. Some experts believe that gripe water can relieve the colicky symptoms in babies but there is no scientific evidence for it.

Babies cry for a number of reasons

Babies cry for a variety of reasons and sometimes babies will cry for no reason at all. Babies usually cry when they are hungry, when they are colicky, because of a dirty nappy when they are sleepy and tired and sometimes only to gain attention. When babies cry it is important to look for signs that will suggest the reason she is crying. You can check the nappy and change it if it is soiled. If the baby is tired and sleepy then she will start rubbing her eyes or picking her nose. If the baby is hungry she may start sucking her thumb. If even after feeding her and changing her nappy and making sure she is comfortable she still starts crying then it means her crying is related to colic.

Monitor the weight gain and growth of the baby

For parents, seeing a baby cry inconsolably can be stressful and extremely distressing. They may feel that they are either doing things wrongly or letting their child down. They may even lose confidence in their parenting abilities. It is important to remember that, if it is colic, it is a common phase which will eventually go away and has nothing to do with bad parenting. Colic is relatively short-lived – in a matter of weeks or months one of the first major challenges of parenthood will be over. Even though the babies cry due to colicky pains it is does not affect their growth and they usually thrive well. If they are not gaining weight properly and not feeding well then the crying is not related to colic and the parents should consult their health professional. In such cases the colic may be related to other problems such as lactose intolerance and gastro oesophageal reflux.

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Top image – By Beth (https://www.flickr.com/photos/laundry/4949030346/) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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