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Infant colic

What is it?

Colic is a problem when infants cry for a long time for no known reason. Your infant's crying may be a fussy cry or a screaming cry. Colic may begin in infants about 2 to 4 weeks old and can last 5 months. It is more common in boys and first-born children.

Causes:

Caregivers do not know for sure what causes colic. Some causes may be tiredness, food allergy, or milk that is too warm. Stress in the home, being lonely, or pain may cause your infant to cry. Your colicky infant may want to be held or to go to sleep. Feeding your infant too much may make colic worse.

Signs and Symptoms:

Your infant may cry 1 to 2 times a day or more. The crying may last 1 to 2 hours. He may seem fine between these crying spells. Crying often starts in late afternoon or early evening. The crying does not harm your baby. Crying often stops when you hold him.

Wellness Recommendations:

Do not smoke. Infants of nursing mothers who smoke may be more likely to have colic.

Medical Care:

It is hard to treat colic since it is not known what causes it. The best treatment is to hold, cuddle, and rock your infant. This will make him feel safe and secure. Your baby's caregiver may give you medicine to give to the baby. This medicine may calm down the baby's bowel.

Following are some soothing gentle motions to help comfort a crying baby:

  • Rock in a rocking chair or cradle.
  • Put the baby in a wind-up swing.
  • Carry the baby in a front-pack.

Listening to your infant cry can cause stress. Try to be patient and stay calm. Sometimes, taking a break can be helpful. Make sure you take time for yourself. Ask someone to care for your infant so you can leave the home, even if it is only for an hour or two. Ask your spouse, a friend, or a relative for help with childcare and household chores . NEVER SHAKE YOUR BABY. Remember that you did NOT cause your infant's colic so do not blame yourself.

Burp your baby after each ounce of formula. If you are breastfeeding, burp your baby every 5 minutes. Always hold your baby while feeding and allow at least 20 minutes for feeding.

Do not feed your baby every time he cries. Wait at least 2 hours between feedings. Check to see if the baby was in a cramped position, is too hot or cold, has a soiled diaper or an open diaper pin, or needs to be cuddled.

There is usually a lot of rumbling in the stomach and belching. When your baby is having an attack of gas, hold him securely and gently massage the lower part of the abdomen (belly). Try not to let your baby sleep more than 3 hours at a time during the day. You may also swaddle your baby in a small sheet or blanket to help him feel more secure.

Dietary Measures:

  • Talk to your caregiver about your baby's crying and fussiness. It is possible that your baby may have a milk or food allergy.

Herbs and Supplements:

Before giving any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should give. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not give more medicine or give it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat the condition.

Herbs:

Please check with your caregiver before giving any herbs to your child.

  • Tea containing chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) , vervain ( Verbena officinalis ), licorice ( Glyhrizza glabra ), fennel ( Foeniculum vulgare ), and lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis ) may be helpful and has been studied in children with colic.
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita) has been used for many years, but has not been studied in children with colic.

Complementary Therapies:

  • Infant colic may be helped with chiropractic manipulation.

Other ways of treating your baby's symptoms : Other ways to treat your baby's symptoms are available to you.

Talk to your caregiver if:

  • You would like medicine to treat your child's colic.
  • Your child's symptoms have not gone away or improved by these self-help measures.
  • Your baby seems to be in pain or acts sick.
  • Your baby has been crying constantly for more than three hours.
  • Your baby develops a temperature over 100 degrees F (37 degrees C) if he/she is less than 3 months of age.
  • You have questions about what you have read in this document.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • You are afraid that you are going to hurt your baby.

Care Agreement:

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat your child. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

References:

1. Hill DJ, Hudson IL, Sheffield LJ et al. A low allergen diet is a significant intervention in infantile colic: Results of a community-based study. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1995; 96:886-892.

2. Lothe L & Lindberg T: Cow's milk whey protein elicits symptoms of infantile colic in colicky formula-fed infants: A double-blind crossover study. Pediatr 1989; 83(2):262-266.

3. Lucassen PL, Assendelft WJ, Gubbels JW et al: Effectiveness of treatments for infantile colic: systematic review BMJ 1998; 316(7144):1563-1569.

4. Weizman Z, Alkrinawi S, Goldfarb D et al: Efficacy of herbal tea preparation in infantile colic. J Pediatr 1993; 122(4):650-652.


Last Updated: 11/4/2014

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