Are you wondering what colic is? Maybe it was brought up in a parenting class, or you read about it in a baby book. The condition comes up often in discussions with new parents, so we spoke with Alyson Boone, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner with Banner Children's, to clear up some of the uncertainty surrounding colic.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the term infantile colic describes “excessive crying of unknown cause in otherwise healthy infants.” The NIH defines the condition as crying or fussing more than three hours a day for more than three days of the week, but researchers have yet to determine what causes colic to occur.
“Colic tends to start between 4-6 weeks,” said Alyson,” and it occurs most often in the evenings for a few hours each night. While the initial cause of colic is not well-defined, crying in general can result in increased gassiness and discomfort which can work to prolong the cycle of discomfort.”
What Can I Do to Make My Baby Comfortable?
Even though we might not understand the root cause of colic, there are several things you can try that might make your baby a little more comfortable. Alyson typically recommends parents use the five “S” to soothe a colicky baby:
- Swaddle baby with a blanket
- Hold baby and sway back and forth
- Shush or use other white noise
- Give baby something to suck on, like a pacifier
- Lay baby on his side
Some parents find daily use of over-the-counter gas drops to be helpful. If your pediatrician determines they might be useful for your situation, be sure to find drops without sodium benzoate or benzoic acid, as these can be harmful to babies in large quantities.
“Beyond colic, other possible causes of fussiness include formula intolerance, reflux, over/underfeeding and inadequate burping/gassiness,” Alyson explained. If you notice increased fussiness, spitting up, decreased/hard stools or diarrhea, or if you baby is gaining too much (or not enough) weight, Alyson recommended reaching out to your pediatrician’s office to ensure there isn’t something else causing the increased discomfort.
A number of research studies, like this one from the NIH, have begun to link infant health concerns like colic with postpartum depression in parents. If you need assistance managing the symptoms of postpartum depression visit a health care provider to find the support you need.