Colic is the bane of many new parents' existence. Rather than a medical syndrome, illness, or digestion malfunction, colic actually describes a condition where a baby cries for more than three hours at a time for at least four days a week, but often every day. This reaction seems to occur in babies around 2-3 months old and usually subsides by age 6 months. It is commonly idiopathic, which means occurrences have no known cause and no sure treatment.
Babies with colic scream, cry, and sob for hours at a time for no conceivable reason. They aren't too hot, too cold, suffering from a wet diaper, hungry, or sleepy. However, they are probably, to some degree, overstimulated, anxious, lonely, or confused. The dramatic change between living inside the womb and getting thrust into the noisy, strange, unpredictable world can be jarring to babies. Many react with colic.
The easiest kind of colic to diagnose and treat is the rare situation where an infant has a bothersome reaction to her food. Both formula and breast milk can cause mild food allergies, gas, or intestinal cramps. A pediatrician can recommend an experimental shift to a different brand of formula. If breast-feeding, your system passes on whatever is in your diet. It's a good idea to eliminate chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, nuts, and strong spices like garlic, chili, onions, and curry.
Colic soon involves a child in a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. If he is gassy, he cries, thus swallowing air and blowing up his stomach even more. If he isn't gassy, he soon will be after hours of continuous sobbing. This can be an incredibly tense, exhausting, and scary experience for new parents who worry that they are making some kind of mistake. Rest assured that you probably haven't done anything to cause colic, and you can probably do little to assuage it, other than wait until your baby grows out of it.
Most suggested courses of action aren't really cures but just new ways of carrying, rocking, or holding your baby. For example, to eliminate or reduce gas, always burp right after feeding. Do not overfeed when your baby seems to want more milk. She's seeking the comfort of suckling, and can be eased by sucking on your pinky finger or a pacifier. Sit baby up to ease digestion and allow breathing without swallowing air. Experiment and see what works.
Colicky children will usually calm with repetitive motions and sounds. Take baby on a drive in the car, use an automatic rocking bassinet or chair, or tie a sling around your stomach or back so baby can walk around with you all day. Keep him or her in an environment with little outside stimulation, like bright lights or loud noises, yet generous parental attention, like holding, cuddling, and singing. Finally, your increased anxiety, while understandable, can antagonize an already tense child. Take time out to relax and rejuvenate yourself while you endure this common rite of passage.