This week I saw a precious 1-month-old baby whose mom brought him in because he won’t stop crying. She was on the third formula and had tried EVERYTHING!
I’ve been taking care of newborn babies for 15 years and there are very few things more difficult for new parents than colic in infants. Colic is benign, meaning in the vast majority of cases (at least 95%) no specific medical cause is found, and goes away on its own in time. There are a lot of theories about what causes colic but no one knows for sure.
Colic is defined as a small baby (starting about 2 weeks of age) that cries for at least 3 hours per day, at least 3 days a week, for 3 weeks. It lasts until the baby is 3-4 months old and then subsides. Gender, breast-vs-bottle feeding, birth order, and parenting style make NO difference to whether a baby has colic, and older children who had colic as babies are no different than children who didn’t have colic.
Talk to your baby’s doctor about her symptoms. The doctor will check your baby to make sure there are no signs of infection or other serious medical cause and that the baby is growing and developing as she should.
So if you have a fussy, colicky baby what can you do?! First of all, rally the troops. Caring for a colicky baby is absolutely exhausting. Make sure you have plenty of help.
Here are 3 strategies that may soothe your baby’s fussiness.
1. Probiotics. There is evidence that Lactobacillus reuteri, a specific strain of probiotic bacteria, reduces crying in colicky infants. Unfortunately on checking consumerlab.com (my third-party supplement testing company) there are no reviewed children’s products that contain L. reuteri which passed quality testing. There are a number of products on the market but I’m not able to recommend a specific one.
2. Ditch the dairy. In some cases, sensitivity to cow’s milk protein may play a role in colic. Changing cow’s milk formula to a soy-based one may help. Breastfeeding moms may want to try avoiding dairy for a week or so to see if that makes a difference in their baby’s symptoms.
3. Try some home strategies. It’s been a while since my kids were newborns so I looked up some current recommendations. I mentioned to my tiny patient’s mom the ideas of babywearing (using a sling or baby carrier to hold the baby), swaddling and using a swing. Here are some other ideas from WebMD.
Even though it feels like colic will never end, it eventually does resolve on its own. In the meantime, make sure to be kind to yourself and take time to rest, let friends and family help you out, and enjoy every sweet little smile. In a few weeks your baby’s smiles will start to outnumber the fussy times.
QUESTION: Did you have a colicky baby? What worked for you?