Coping with Colic
Intermountain Healthcare pediatrician gives suggestions to help parents of babies with colic
Murray, UT (PRUnderground) November 25th, 2022
All babies cry, but if a young baby cries a lot, it can be very distressing and tiring for parents who may wonder why their baby is crying, even if a baby has just been fed and has a clean diaper. If only babies could talk!
Could there be a medical problem needing attention or could it be colic? What is colic? Colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in an otherwise healthy baby.
“Colic is sometimes defined as when a baby under three months of age cries more than three hours per day, three days per week. Colic is a catch-all term used when there’s not a specific medical reason for a baby’s inconsolable crying. All babies cry more in the first three months of life, and crying often peaks at six weeks of age,” said Dr. Peter Lindgren, a pediatrician at Intermountain Memorial Clinic.
“While we don’t know what causes colic, there are some proposed reasons for why it occurs in young babies, tends to cluster at night, and eventually resolves. Gastrointestinal immaturity, excessive intestinal motility, an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive tract, food intolerances, or even an early form of migraine may come into play,” he added.
Signs of infant colic
- Inconsolable, prolonged crying
- Facial discoloring, such as skin flushing or blushing
- Body tension, such as stiff or pulled up legs, stiff arms, clenched fists, arched back, or tense abdomen
“Humans are wired to hear and respond to babies crying and want to soothe them. Crying is a normal process, it’s not harmful for babies to cry. There’s hope in knowing a baby’s system will eventually mature and they’ll outgrow colic. 60 percent of babies will stop having colic symptoms at three months. And 90 percent will stop at four months,” said Dr. Lindgren.
Dr. Lindgren says studies show colic occurs equally in boy and girl babies, breast-fed or bottle-fed babies, and is not affected by prematurity or birth order. He acknowledges the newborn period can be a tough time for parents because they are often overwhelmed and sleep-deprived because they are up at night feeding their baby – and their sense of humor may be in short supply.
Ways to soothe a baby
“Colic can’t always be solved, but there are some things parents can do to help soothe their baby, such as swaddling their baby, or holding their baby in a “colic-hold” position or holding their baby with a swaying motion. Babies like to be held – it makes them feel safe and secure. You can’t spoil a baby under four months. Take a walk outdoors. Take your baby for a ride in the car. Every baby is different, learn what works for your baby,” said Dr. Lindgren.
Swaddling is when you wrap a baby snugly in a small, lightweight blanket, kind of like a burrito with an opening at the top for baby’s head and shoulders.
A colic hold is done by holding the baby so their tummy can rest on your lap or on one of your arms. Gentle rocking or swaying your baby while holding them this way may also help.
Dr. Lindgren suggests parents talk to their pediatrician about any issues with prolonged crying at the baby’s early well check visits which should occur at two days after birth, then at two weeks, two months and four months of age, so that any medical reasons for crying can be ruled out. Parents can also call their pediatrician’s office about concerns with inconsolable crying.
Later check-ups to check baby’s growth and development and provide needed immunizations, should occur at 6, 9, 12, 15, 18 and 24 months.
Never shake a baby
“It’s important to never, never shake a baby, even if you’re frustrated or don’t know what to do. Ask for help from trusted family members, friends or neighbors to take a turn holding your baby,” said Dr. Lindgren.
If parents need immediate emotional support, they can talk to a professional counselor 24 hours a day at 1-800-4-A CHILD (1-800-442-4453).
Tips that may help manage colic
- Feed baby in a more upright position
- When baby is fussy, lay them on their tummy on your lap or an outstretched arm
- Swaddle baby so they feel secure
- For breastfeeding moms, try a hypoallergenic diet
- If using formula, change to a hypoallergenic formula
Some studies on babies with colic have shown some promise for probiotics helping to decrease duration of crying. Herbal remedies such as gripe water are reasonable to try, but have limited data to suggest effectiveness.
Some remedies for colic may not make a difference, but won’t harm a baby. Be aware that expensive remedies are not any more likely to help.
- Chamomile tea – cool and administer a few drops by mouth in a dropper.
- Gripe Water – an over-the-counter herbal remedy given in a bottle. Ingredients vary. Check the label to make sure it’s safe for infants.
Dr. Peter Lindgren is a member of Intermountain Medical Group and associate medical director for well newborn operations at Intermountain Healthcare.
For more information or to find a pediatrician, visit intermountainhealthcare.org or Intermountain Parents.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Headquartered in Utah with locations in eight states and additional operations across the western U.S., Intermountain Healthcare is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information and updates, click here