No matter how new or expecting parents load up on baby books, pediatric journals, and advice (solicited or not!) from friends and family, the real learning begins when baby finally makes it home.
That is when a parent is truly tested and prepared to face the ultimate fear: not being able to tell what is ailing your crying little one.
This is one of the oldest questions in human history: why is my baby crying!? When you have exhausted all other options, like an accidental injury, trapped gas, tummy problems, or disease (with a proper diagnosis from a doctor), you may find yourself at the end of your rope.
But there may be one other mysterious reason—colic, specifically baby or “infantile” colic.
While baby colic is not completely understood, if you are a frazzled, hollow-eyed parent turning to online help for your inconsolable child, we are here to help with causes, symptoms, and best colic remedies for infants. Who knows—you may even be able to sleep after this!
What is Baby/Infantile Colic?
Infantile or “baby colic” refers to the extended, inconsolable crying of an infant that is not caused by any apparent physical or psychological reason.
Colic is recognized when infants cry for at least three hours a day, more than three times a week, and usually for three weeks to a month. This “rule of three” is used because colic is more of an observation than a real diagnosis, according to pediatricians.
While baby colic may afflict up to 15-25% of babies, keep in mind that doctors only come to this conclusion when absolutely every other possible cause is eliminated, and usually when this behavior continues beyond the three-month mark.
This is because possible causes of this behavior are not fully understood, and diagnosing risks like fever and other illnesses should be your highest priority.
Signs Your Baby is “Colicky”
You have tried everything, but your baby’s crying is never-ending. Babies crying incessantly is common, but beyond the three-month mark, the strain on the parents may create an unhealthy cycle that could become more problematic than the actual crying itself.
While baby colic is rarely a sign your child is unhealthy, according to a clinical trial investigating baby colic, mothers who reported excessive crying to have a higher chance of experiencing post-natal depression or succumbing to infant abuse.
Plus the strain of a baby who will not sleep through the night and cry for hours on end can drive parents to their breaking points. This puts the whole family at risk of beginning a nasty cycle of neglect, desperation, and even abuse in the most extreme cases.
So if your child:
- Does not stop crying after being distracted by something else (i.e. they are feeling pain)
- Cries despite being healthy and unharmed
- Cries forcefully and for no apparent reason at around the same time every day (especially the evening)
- Seems tensed up all of a sudden (clenched fists, arched back, tight muscles)
- Cries after feeding (and other digestive issues have been ruled out)
They may be experiencing baby colic, and it is advisable to take the proper steps to take care of your baby and yourself.
Speculating the Cause of Baby Colic
The jury is still out on what causes baby colic. In fact, some pediatricians theorize that this crying is just part of the natural adjustment process for a baby as they experience new sensations and information.
This isn’t enough for parents worried about babies crying well past the three-month mark. Some doctors suggest newborns don’t produce enough melatonin to properly sleep through the night, which explains why so many babies start crying in the evening or in the middle of the night.
The most popular theory is that colic is caused by gastrointestinal problems, excessive gas, or abdominal pain, but this is not necessarily always the cause for fussy babies.
Some doctors look to the psychological, suggesting parents that are prone to “perinatal anxiety and depression” may inadvertently be causing behavioral problems, and should seek their own treatment.
However, if you’re a parent struggling to soothe your child, do not blame yourself first. It cannot be emphasized enough that these theories are just that—theories. As long as you are seeking the proper treatment and the advice of your pediatrician, you are already on the right path.
The Best Colic Remedies for Infants
After making sure there is no other serious cause of intense crying, try these common remedies.
- Avoid cow protein, both in the baby’s diet and the mother’s diet (if breastfeeding.) Doctors recommend a week-long “trial” of sorts to see if your child is reacting badly to milk. This doesn’t mean your baby is lactose intolerant, but it may be causing a flare up because your baby isn’t done producing all the necessary chemicals to digest certain things. You may also (with the guidance of a doctor) introduce lactase drops to your child in case of breast milk or formula milk is the cause of all the fussing.
- Consider probiotics. While not all doctors agree on whether or not invisible digestive problems cause baby colic, probiotics might help settle your baby’s crying. Again, this is all to be done with the guidance and advice of a doctor.
- Help your baby pass gas. Gently take lay the baby on his or her back, raise the legs slowly, and see if they pass any wind. All the crying may trap a lot of air in their systems with no way out.
- Investigate possible psychosocial issues. If your new baby has strained you beyond your limits, you are not alone. Talk to your doctor about post-partum depression and other possible psychological factors.
Remember: do not give your baby any medication, hormone, or other unverified treatment without first consulting your doctor.
Sometimes, when it is late at night and your baby has not stopped crying for hours, you may feel utterly alone. You are not! Almost all parents go through confusion and feelings of helplessness at one point or another.
With the proper research, guidance, and perseverance, you and your baby will make it through the rougher parts of new parenthood just fine.