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Understanding Colic In Babies

Posted Nov 01 2008 8:47pm

Most babies suffer some form of colic during their first six months. Often it can go unnoticed and not cause to much stress. At other times, it can lead to a baby that screams for hours on end leaving the parent tired, frustrated and even a little (or a lot) grumpy.

What Is Colic In Babies?

Colic should not be confused with gastric reflux which is another problem altogether. Colic is a pain in the lower abdomen that has always been associated with gas. Modern medicine still has mixed opinions on this. The general consensus today is that colic is most likely caused by spasms in the intestines themselves rather that any of the contents.

What is still unclear is whether or not the contents of stomach, such as gas, trigger these spasms.

How Do I Know If My Baby Has Colic?

One of the first signs that your baby may have colic is when they draw their knees up under their body, clench their fists and cry in a distressed manner. This is a clear indication that something is wrong. The drawn up knees point to a stomach problem. This could be a stomach cramp, wind, or colic - often it is a combination.

Colic also appears to be cyclical occurring at roughly the same time each day. you may find a small variation, for example, it may work on an 11 or 13 hour cycle, however as a parent you will soon recognize a pattern.

What Foods Cause Colic In Babies?

There is not a lot difference between bottle fed babies and breast fed. However, it has been shown that mother's diet can affect colic in breast fed babies with different foods having varying affects.

Orange juice, onions and cabbage, apples and plums, spicy foods, and products containing caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee and tea have all been associated with colic. If you eliminate these products, wait two days and then introduce them one at time, with a two day wait between each new addition, you may be able to identify which products are causing problems.

How Can I Ease The Pain Of Colic In A Baby?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer as different techniques work for different babies. Warm baths help along with gentle massage of the lower abdomen. This also helps to relax baby. Hop in the bath with baby if necessary, it will help to relax you as well.

Walking with baby whilst rocking can help or holding baby so they hang across your forearm - forearm under their stomach, can also help. Baby slings can work wonders, they tend to wrap baby around whilst keeping them close.

There is one proviso to these methods - you must be relaxed as well. If you are uptight and tense then baby will pick up on this and become uptight and tense as well. The best thing you can do to help is to take a huge deep breath and relax. Whilst your calm and relaxed (which can be quite difficult with a screaming baby) the baby will start to calm too. Talk to them with soothing words.

One other technique that can work well is to lay baby down and exercise the legs in a bike riding manner drawing the knees right up to the tummy in an alternate motion.

How Do I Cope When Baby Has Colic?

This is the key. How you cope, as I have already mentioned, will go a long way to helping the situation. The first thing to remember is that your baby is in real pain. Getting cross or frustrated will not take away their pain so focus those feelings on empathy with the child.

For first time parents it can be a nightmare. Time out is important - if baby has been crying in your arms for more than hour, pass the baby to your partner and take time out. Have a shower/bath, a drink (non alcoholic of course) and/or go for a short walk. Keep telling yourself the poor little thing is in pain and needs you to be calm and loving.

What If It's Not Colic?

If you are not able to soothe baby at all, or you have any concerns then have baby checked out by a health professional. There are serious problems other than colic that could be causing pain. These problems include twists, tears or blockages in the digestive system and, for boys, a twisted testicle.

When in doubt - always see a health professional. Do NOT offer any medications with out first seeing a health professional. Your cure could be worse than the problem.

Down The Track?

Babies that suffer from colic suffer no long term damage. It has been observed that these babies are often more stimulated and take more notice of the world at any earlier age.

Colic is often over by the age of four months and should certainly not extend past six months. If it does - see your health professional. By six months - baby has other things to worry about like teeth - but that is another story for another time.

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