Colic – Every New Parent’s Fear
The dreaded “C” word that all new parents fear they might hear. Colic. For parents of a new baby, hearing that their little one may be struggling through colic can put even seasoned parents on edge. You walk into the pediatrician’s office, worrying for the worst and are instantly relieved when the Doctor tells you that your baby is perfectly fine – except one little thing. Colic. Your mind races and you have the “Google” search bar up before you even leave the office and are desperately trying to research what you can do. You are already exhausted and just want to cry because sleep seems to be nowhere in sight for you anytime soon. Take a breath and let’s go over what colic is and what to do.
What is colic?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, colic is defined as “inconsolable crying in an infant that lasts many hours a day, starting in the second week of life and lasting until about 3 months of age.” That’s a pretty loose definition because it’s not exactly a scientific one and doesn’t really help you understand what is happening – however this the term that most pediatricians go by. They also look out for colic with the “rules of 3”: a baby who cries more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week and for over 3 weeks.
There has been continuous study on colic and understanding what might be going on with babies during the period of time that they are diagnosed with it. The term “colic” can lead many parents to believe that their baby has an illness, when in fact – the crying is part of a healthy development. Purple Crying is a term coined by Dr. Ronald G. Barr, a developmental pediatrician and world expert on infant crying. Read more here about his important research. Dr. Barr stresses the fact that crying, especially during the “colic” period of time – is a part of their development and there is nothing to fear by it.
Is it always colic?
No – and that is said lightly because it very well could be, yet with a baby – crying is the only way they know how to express themselves! There are so many reasons why a baby may be crying. Let’s quickly bullet some of those reasons:
- Hunger is usually the first go-to a parent will think of when their baby cries. Things to consider: your supply and demand with breastfeeding (consult a lactation consultant if needed) or if formula fed – does the baby need an increase in ounces? Growth spurts.
- Tired – particularly over-tired. A baby can cry for hours when they have not had enough sleep and have a hard time relaxing and calming down when a “second wind” hits. This can become a repeated cycle for weeks and months – confusing many parents into thinking their baby must be sick or something else is terribly wrong. Here are some basic facts and tips on newborn sleep cycles.
- Needs a diaper change – enough said here!
- Gas – perhaps the baby has some moving gas pains or an extra burp coming up.
- Too hot/cold – a baby has a harder time regulating their body temperature and being too hot or cold can lead to a fussy baby. Also keep in mind that a baby, especially a newborn can be particularly alarmed when cool air hits their skin – remember they are nice and warm in the womb for nine months! Rule to go by when it is cold outside: usually one more layer than you to keep warm is enough.
- Over-stimulation – this is a big one! Babies can easily become way too stimulated – even newborns. Newborns do sleep a lot, however even the simple act of passing them around among family and friends can tire them out, even when they appear to be sleeping! Some babies are more sensitive than others when transitioning into the world from the cozy womb. Like being over-tired, being over-stimulated can cause excessive crying as they try to calm down. Learning a baby’s sleep cycle also helps with over-stimulation, as it can give you a gauge on when to remove the baby from everyone and into a quiet room to rest.
- Just wants some love and to be close to you! Yes – sometimes it’s as simple as that. Babies are all different in terms of their personality – but all babies love to be cuddled. This is especially true in the late afternoons, when babies tend to cluster feed the most. Refer above again to “Purple Crying”.
- Reflux – make sure to rule this one out! Reflux doesn’t always present itself with excessive or projectile spitting up. Read about “silent reflux“. Reflux symptoms for a baby can mimic colic because they will usually cry to hours on end with reflux as well. We always encourage parents to do their own research on reflux, as well as talk with the pediatrician about ways to treat it. There are also natural solutions that you can try to ease your baby’s reflux symptoms.
What can Parents do to get through this challenging time?
While crying to a baby is normal in their daily life – for us, it’s a whole different experience! In other words, it is not easy. It’s even harder if a mother is suffering with some postpartum depression and/or anxiety. Listening to her baby cry, particularly if her baby is excessively crying – can really trigger a struggling mom. Her own anxiety and stress hormones are already high and if her baby is crying to no avail, then the mother can have a hard time staying calm – thus enhancing her PPD. If you are struggling with postpartum depression/anxiety, make sure to seek help from either your doctor or other professionals.
Additional Support for the Postpartum Period:
Postpartum International – has local chapters and you are able to call them to chat with postpartum experts on their team.
If you are in Connecticut – Life After Birth is a wonderful group to check out.
Better Postpartum (an online educational series to help you transition into Motherhood). Colleen Myatt, Founder of Beautiful Births & Beyond and myself, along with a panel of other amazing birth and postpartum professionals share their expertise on how to have a better postpartum!
Ways to help soothe your baby:
- Wear your baby – A LOT!
- Add some noise – yes, noise. The mother’s womb is not quiet as her heartbeat, digestion and mom’s voice are loud noises that the baby is used to. Don’t be afraid to make a little noise, especially noises that mimic what it sounds like while in the womb such as a sound machine: Marpac Dohm-DS All-Natural Sound Machine, White
- Diet adjustments such as eliminating the big offenders, such as dairy and gluten from your breastfeeding diet.
- Fresh air. If the weather is not too cold, bundle up and go for a walk. Fresh air can be magical and can really shift moods for both mom and baby.
- Baby massage – see here for more information.
We know the newborn period is a very hard time for all parents, but remember one thing: it is temporary. I know that is easier said than done, but sometimes starting your day with motivational terms and affirmations will keep your mindset focused and calm. Before you know it, your little one will be smiling, cooing, crawling and on the move! The colic stage will quickly become a thing of the past and new challenges will arise – but such is parenthood!
If you are struggling or have any questions – don’t ever hesitate to reach out to us here at Beautiful Births & Beyond.
Lindsay Gibson, Editor