How Do I Know If My Baby Has Colic?

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What is Colic?

Are you concerned that your baby’s fussiness is colic? Has a well-intentioned friend or relative labeled your baby as “colicky”?

All babies fuss and cry. They use cries and fussing to communicate their needs.

Before you label your baby as having colic, it’s important to understand what colic is. 

If your baby has already been diagnosed with colic, then you may be able to find ways to soothe your baby by incorporating a few of the ideas in this post. 

what is colic? 

Colic is a general term used to describe a baby that has daily prolonged periods of fussiness or crying but is otherwise healthy. 

Some babies with colic may experience excessive gas. This is not colic but is typically caused by swallowing air while crying. The gas pains may cause the baby to be even fussier or cry more. 

what causes colic in babies?

There is not a definite answer to what causes colic. However, there are a few different beliefs of things that may cause a baby to have colic. 

An Immature Digestive System

Young babies have immature digestive systems that can cause discomfort. Some babies may experience muscle spasms. While other babies may have pain while digesting. 

Some experts believe that dairy in a breastfeeding mother’s diet or in store-bought formula may cause colic in some babies. This is due to the infant’s immature digestive system. 

Hormones

It is believed that hormones could be the cause of stomach discomfort, and colic, in some babies. 

Sensitivity

There is a possibility that the symptoms of colic appear in babies that are sensitive to the lights and sounds of extrauterine life. They may be having a difficult time adjusting, which leads to prolonged periods of fussiness. 

colic in baby

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how do I know if my baby has colic?

If you think your baby may have colic, you will want to bring it up at their check-up with their healthcare provider. If you want to know more of what to expect, and what questions you can ask, at your child’s check-up then read this post.

There is no way to test for colic. Instead, pediatric healthcare providers follow the rule of three’s when diagnosing colic. The rule of three’s relates to the baby’s age, time spent crying, and frequency of fussing or crying. 

Your baby’s doctor will often ask you questions and examine your baby before making a diagnosis of colic. 

Babies with colic are generally healthy overall; however, they experience prolonged periods of fussiness. These periods of fussiness typically last for three hours, occur at least three times a week, and have been having these episodes for at least three weeks. These episodes typically do not begin until your baby is about three weeks old. 

symptoms of colic in babies?

Babies that have colic will cry or be extremely fussy, despite being healthy, and otherwise cared for. Meaning they have been fed and they are in a clean dry diaper. 

The crying is not soothed by typical measures, like rocking, and usually occurs around the same time each day.  

Symptoms that may be observed in a baby with colic include:

Crying for no apparent reason. They are fed and do not need a diaper change. 

The cries are usually more intense or louder than their typical cry. 

Are not soothed easily. May require you to walk around the home, or to go outside and walk, continuously to be soothed a little. 

Usually, cry in the evening, or at least at the same time each day. 

Cry for at least three hours a day; at least three days a week.

when does colic start? 

Colic typically begins when a baby is approximately 3 weeks old. 

It may begin as early as two weeks of age or as late as 5 weeks of age. 

How long does colic last? 

Most babies outgrow colic by 3 months of age. 

Colic episodes typically last for 3 hours a day and occur at least three times a week for at least three weeks.

how to calm a baby with colic

There is no definite treatment to cure a colic baby. Instead, you will have to experiment and find what will soothe your baby. 

In addition to some of the below tips, one of the tips that may be the most difficult, but important, is to remain calm. 

If you find that you are feeling overwhelmed and cannot remain very calm while trying to calm your baby, that is okay. You will want to ask another caregiver to hold the baby while you step away and take a short break to calm yourself. If there is not another caregiver available, you can place your baby in a safe place while you walk away for a couple of minutes to calm yourself down. 

how to soothe a colic baby

The below ways to calm your baby will work best if you are calm, as your baby can feel your emotions and sense that you are calm. Which will help them to feel safe, and calm. 

Some of the ways you may be able to soothe your colic baby include:

Checking to be sure your baby is not hungry.

Keeping your baby in a clean dry diaper.

If you use a bottle during feeding, you may want to try other bottles that are created specifically to reduce the incidence of colic. These bottles have been around for years and are loved by many parents.

Consider evaluating the mother’s diet, if she is breastfeeding, to look for a correlation between foods she eats and episodes of crying. 

Side Note: If you are breastfeeding (or planning to) then you will want to take this course! It’s the BEST online breastfeeding course available. If you’ll be pumping, she also has a “back to work pumping” class and a class just for those that are planning to exclusively pump! You can’t go wrong with any of these classes!

If the baby is using formula, you may want to look into changing the formula. 

Burp your baby frequently during feedings. 

Provide a bath during the hours that your baby typically experiences prolonged episodes of crying. 

Take a walk outside with baby, during episodes of crying. 

Use a properly fitted baby carrier to hold the baby in a close upright position, during crying episodes. This is an excellent carrier that holds the baby in a proper position and is easy for the caregiver to use.

Hold baby close and take calm, slow, deep breaths when they are fussy.

Gently bounce on a large exercise ball, while holding your baby, to calm them. 

Try placing your baby in an infant swing or vibrating chair, as the motion may soothe them. 

Hold your baby with their head on the palm of your hand, their stomach along your forearm, and their legs dangling down near your elbow. 

Practice infant massage, this oil, is wonderful.

Do baby yoga with your baby. 

Hold your baby with their feet to your stomach, their legs bent, and their head in the palms of your hands. 

Play music for your baby. 

Lie your baby on their back, hold their feet, and gently move their legs in a slow pedaling motion, as though they are riding a bicycle. 

Make a shushing noise to comfort your baby. 

If you have an automobile, place them securely in the car seat and go for a nice drive. You can also open the windows slightly to create white noise. 

When to Call Your Baby’s Doctor

You should call your baby’s doctor if you are feeling concerned, at all. Other times that you may want to call your baby’s doctor include, but are not limited to:

If your baby is not gaining weight or if they are losing weight. 

Your baby is crying uncontrollably and cannot be soothed at all, even if only for a minute or two. 

If it appears that your baby is having any trouble breathing.

Your baby is not eating normally.

If your baby has a fever. This post is really helpful if you want to learn more about fevers, including what temperature is safe and remedies to help your child’s fever.

If your baby is having diarrhea or is vomiting. 

Colic in Babies

Colic is the term used to describe a baby that experiences prolonged episodes of fussiness for at least three hours a day, at least three times a week. 

Parenting a baby with colic can be very difficult. However, there are quite a few things you can try to do to help calm your baby during episodes of crying. 

It may also be helpful to remind yourself, as the caregiver, that the majority of babies outgrow colic by three months of age. 

If your baby has colic, I would love to hear what you have tried to help soothe them. 

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

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