Colic in infants is one of the most upsetting features of early infant life. Affecting from a third to a fifth of all babies, it is characterized by the occurrence of frequent and unexplained episodes of excessive crying, which start around the same time on almost every day, and last for three hours or more. It may last from weeks to months, but usually subsides without specific treatment. Colic is found to occur equally in bottle-fed and breast-fed infants.
The most common age for colic in babies is between 2 and 16 weeks. Almost invariably it is a thing of the past by the time the infant turns six months. Most frequently it occurs in the mornings or evenings, and seems to be associated with abdominal pain. The frustrating part of colic is that the baby is not comforted or soothed by cuddling or distraction. Colic can cause a lot of stress to build up in the caregivers, and this may in turn lead to it becoming harder to deal with the crying baby.
Colic starts between the ages of 2 and 4 weeks and its peak incidence has been found to occur between 6 and 8 weeks.
The baby usually starts to cry each day in the evening or late afternoon. Until this time, the baby may sleep or play quite normally without any signs of discomfort or stress. Crying may be accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
Grimaces or angry frowns
Flushing of the face
Clenching the fists
Arching the back, or pulling up the legs, which leads people to suppose that it is due to a bellyache
Prolonged loud uncontrolled crying lasting for at least 3 hours
Audible rumblings of the intestines
Failure of all efforts to console the infant
Sometimes, the baby may pass abdominal gas or feces
The baby recovers spontaneously and usually goes to sleep or nurses peacefully
It is important to note that despite the regular crying outbursts that occur, the infant appears calm and well at other times, feeds properly and gains weight regularly in an age-appropriate manner. Moreover, the infant gets over the colic spontaneously, which has been attributed to neurodevelopmental maturation.
What causes Colic?
The actual reason for the crying in colicky babies is as yet unknown, despite much research. The following theories have been offered to explain it:
Abdominal distension by gas and consequent pain
Being constantly overfed may lead to feelings of uncomfortable fullness
Intolerance of certain proteins in milk or formula leading to bowel irritability or indigestion
Hyper-sensitive faculties which pick up signals alarming to the child
Over-excitement, fear or frustration
Substances in the mother’s diet which are not tolerated by the baby, such as cabbage or broccoli, onions, chocolate, or even cow’s milk
Maternal ingestion of nicotine (such as by smoking) or caffeine which stimulate the infant too much
Immaturity of the infant’s emotional and mental processing of the unfamiliar environment outside the womb, which leads to hyper-reaction to normal stimuli