It's hard to tell who gets more disstressed -- you, the parents or your baby -- when infants cry excessively for at least more than two hours or more for no apparent reason. The cause of this unsettling behaviour is often attributed to infantile colic, described as an attack of crying and is thought to be associated with abdominal pain. In the local context, 'wind' is sometimes used interchangeably with colic.
It is common for colic to appear a few weeks after birth and then 'disappear' three or four months later. Although the repeated episodes of constant crying can be upsetting, experts do not believe colic to be harmful. Colic is also not a disease.
SYMPTOMS OF COLIC
All babies cry, especially when they are hungry, hot, cold, tired, bored or uncomfortable in a wet or soiled diaper. Sudden crying can also be a result of an unexpected stimulation like a loud noise or flashing light.
However, if your baby is suffering from colic, he will usually display the following symptoms:
-- Inconsolable, intense crying for several hours at a stretch.
-- The crying usually occurs in the late afternoons and evenings.
-- Some infants may clench their fists and draw up their knees against their stomach, as if in pain or discomfort.
-- During these crying bouts, wind is sometimes expelled.
-- In general, if a baby cries more than three hours a day, three days (or more) a week for more than three weeks, but is otherwise healthy, feeds well and grows normally, he is considered to have colic.
COPING WITH COLIC
Once your doctor has ruled out any medical cause for your baby's persistent crying, it will be helpful to learn some strategies to soothe your infant. The following pointers may be useful.
-- Offer the pacifier to your baby if it helps to soothe him.
-- Try burping your baby after a feed: hold him upright on your lap or against your shoulder (supporting head and neck), and gently rub his back until air is expelled.
-- Put baby in a stroller and go for a walk. Or else take him for a car ride. Some parents have found these methods helpful in calming a colicky baby.
-- Cuddle your baby!
-- Try a warm bath or gently massage his tummy with clockwise movements.
-- Sit baby slightly upright when breast or bottle-feeding to avoid him swallowing excess amounts of air -- which could lead to gassiness.
-- Reduce the level of noise, light and activity around baby. Passing him from one person to another may further increase his distress or discomfort.
-- Use infant colic drops to ease his tummy. Always check with your doctor first about usage.
-- Step away and seek help from your spouse or another family member if you find yourself getting increasingly agitated by baby's cries.
WHAT CAUSES COLIC?
The cause of colic is still not known, but it affects both baby boys and girls, breastfed and formula-fed babies. Although not backed by convincing evidence, it has been suggested that colic could be due to these reasons:
-- An immature baby gut, leading to indigestion, wind or sensitivities towards substances in breast or formula milk.
-- An allergy or intolerance towards milk or lactose.
-- The baby swallowing large amounts of air when feeding or crying. The air gets trapped in the digestive system, causing abdominal discomfort.
-- Temperament of the baby.
It is important for parents to bear in mind that colic is a common phase many babies go through. It does not mean you are a bad mum or dad just because you can't seem to soothe your infant's frantic and incessant cries.
Parents-to-be should read up about colic. Should you then encounter colic after baby is born, you won't feel so stressed out and anxious. Most of the time, evening colic resolves itself by the time baby is three to four months old. So hand in there and work with your spouse to overcome this challenge!