Colic is the term that is used to describe continued unsettled behaviour and fussiness in a young baby. It’s probably one of the most frustrating and upsetting problems of infancy – for parents and baby alike - and is equally common in breastfed and bottle-fed babies.
While much has been written about colic, research now suggests that colic doesn’t actually exist – instead the unsettled behaviour is part of your baby’s normal development and only time will help resolve it.
Some of the medical reasons for colic include:
- allergy (resulting from mother’s diet, or a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance)
- gastrointestinal (reflux, excess wind)
- nerves (irritable nervous system, neurological immaturity)
- infections (ear or urinary tract)
- hernias (inguinal, umbilical)
- nappy rash
While there are some babies who do display colicky symptoms because of true medical problems, for the greater percentage of babies, the source of their unhappiness and discomfort is mysterious – there just aren’t enough babies with lactose intolerance to explain away the number of babies who suffer from colic.
Maternal anxiety can’t cause colic. It doesn’t matter how confident you are as a parent – colicky babies can happen to the most calm and laidback of parents. Try not to take the crying personally and remember that your baby will (eventually) stop – it’s just a phase he’s going through.
The symptoms of colic:
- Crying and fussing that can’t be settled.
- Restlessness, irritability and grizzling.
- You can’t get your baby into a feeding and sleeping routine.
- Your baby is always hungry and wants to be constantly fed.
- Your baby often resists the breast or bottle and doesn’t feed well.
- During crying periods, he may scream loudly as though in pain and draw his legs up. This period may go on for hours and tends to be worse at the end of the day.
Studies show that it is common for a normal baby to be unsettled for approximately three hours a day (and some can be a lot more than this!) The unsettled behaviour generally peaks at about 6 weeks and then gradually lessens in the weeks to come.
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