Colic is diagnosed when an infant is healthy and well fed yet cries in excess of three hours a day for more than three days a week. It is a harmless condition but is obviously very upsetting for parents and carers. It affects around 20% of babies and usually appears around 2 -4 weeks of age and can last for three months. There is much speculation around the causes, although experts agree there is not one universal cause that affects all babies. (BUPA health information sheet 2003). However, one recent study found that many colicky babies had inflamed intestines, caused by food allergies. When the problem food was eliminated from the diet, the baby recovered almost immediately. For breastfeeding mums, this means also cutting the problem foods from her diet. The usual culprits are proteins from cow’s milk, soya or other troublesome foods. Mums can alter their diet and reintroduce foods one at a time to see if the problem food can be found. If you bottle-feed you may want to try a new formula (Lavin, Glaser, 2007).
If you suspect your baby may have a food allergy, you can work with your paediatrician to find the foods causing the reaction and eliminate them (Lavin, Glaser, 2007). If your baby seems to have a lot of wind, make sure she is burped frequently. Babies who bottle feed may swallow air from the bottle. This can be reduced by feeding the baby in a different position or by trying a bottle that has been specially designed to reduce the amount of air swallowed.
To soothe babies with colic, the following techniques may be helpful:
• Carry the baby in a front sling or back pack
• Wrap baby snugly in a blanket (this is called swaddling)
• Keep the baby moving in a baby swing
• Place her near continuous noise or vibrations from household appliances like the
dishwasher, vacuum cleaner or washer-dryer
• Take her for a car ride or a walk outside
• Give her a dummy to suck on
• Give her tummy or back rubs
• Take a shower together – the warm water may be comforting
(Lavin, Glaser, 2007).
Medicines are not used to treat colic. However, medicines may help to relieve abdominal symptoms. It may be worth trying “colic drops” or “gripe water”, which are available without a prescription. A medicine called dimeticone (eg Infacol) is available to relieve trapped wind. Consult your doctor or the pharmacist first (BUPA’s Health Information
BUPA’s Health Information Team. “Colic.” Available from: http://hcd2.bupa.co.uk/fact_sheets/html/sids.html (09/10/07)
A. Lavin, S Glasser (2007). “Baby & Toddler Sleep Solutions.” Wiley Publishing, Inc.