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What is colic?

Many babies experience a fussy period (oftentimes referred to as colic) in the evening and is usually diagnosed by the “rule of 3’s”: your baby cries for more than three hours, three days a week, starts around three weeks of age and is usually gone after three months of age.

What causes colic?

No one really knows for sure what causes colic. Current research points to a number of possible reasons:

  • An immature nervous system, which inhibits your baby’s ability to calm himself.
  • Your baby’s temperament may cause him/her to be highly sensitive to the environment. Loud noises, sudden movements, light, or too much physical stimulation can trigger a crying spell.
  • Reflux-food backing up in to the esophagus, which is the passage connecting your baby’s mouth and stomach.
  • An immature digestive system causing stomach cramps and gas.
  • An intolerance for the protein in cow’s milk, which is the base for most formulas.

It is usually a process of elimination that will help you find the answer for your infant. First and foremost, make sure there is no medical reason for your baby’s crying. Once your pediatrician has assured you that your baby is otherwise healthy, he may suggest that you try the following:

What can I do to help my baby? 

  • Feed your baby. Sometimes nursing mothers may experience a slight drop in their milk supply by late evening. Therefore, your baby may need to feed more often.
  • Wrap your baby snugly in a blanket- oftentimes referred to as swaddling. This may make your infant feel more secure and less prone to startling.
  • Provide skin to skin contact or a warm bath.
  • Do repeated movements such as rocking, swinging or pushing in a stroller.
  • Offer a pacifier or their thumb. Some babies need to suck more than others as a way to self-soothe.
  • Use gentle touch. Softly massaging your baby, especially around the tummy, may provide relief and help your baby pass a stool or gas.
  • Hold your baby in a more upright position during and after a feeding.
  • If your pediatrician advises, you might experiment with different formulas to see if your baby has a higher tolerance for a different brand or type. (Remember, do this only after consulting with your baby’s doctor!)
  • If your pediatrician feels the cause is reflux, he may prescribe medications especially for this condition.

Know that: Your baby is not crying just to make you miserable. You are not a bad parent!! Most infants move past colic by 3-4 months of age.

Colic can be very frustrating. No parent wants to see their infant in such distress and the continuous crying can be nerve-shattering. If you find yourself at the end of your rope, wrap your baby up snugly and place him in his crib where he is safe until you can calm down. NEVER shake your baby!! This can cause brain damage and even death. It’s ok to ask for help. Find someone you trust to give you a break. Take a walk, bath, or call the PAL line to speak with a Parent Resource Specialist (1-866-962-3030).

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