Routine Care | Cry | Colic?
| Different Meanings
| Help Reduce
Crying Baby... Is It Colic?
It is inevitable, babies will cry, that is their only way to communicate. This article discuses some of the information I’ve read about crying and also about the unfortunate title of the colicky baby.
I put this article in the medical section as well as routine care as I think there are a lot of possible medical reasons as to why the baby is crying especially if the baby receives the "colicky" title.
“Your baby wails and pulls his legs to his chest. Is he constipated? Does he have gas? Sometimes he seems to be in so much pain, you think your heart is going to break” (Hogg 263). My son definitely had these symptoms. Although, I would not refer to my son as a colicky baby, he did have his moments where he was upset and you could tell he was in pain. I like the term used by Sears, the “hurting” baby as a description for a baby that cries all the time because I believe there is a reason behind the crying. The baby may be tired, hungry, need her diaper changed, be overwhelmed, be in pain, or simple need some more comfort.
What Is Colic?
Remember that all babies cry. “The average 6-week-old fusses or cries more than an hour a day. A full 25% cry more than two hours" (CDHNF). So how do you know if your baby is crying the normal amount of time or if your baby is "colicky" or a "hurting baby?" In general:
- " 20 percent of babies suffer from some form of colic"
- Of the 20%, "10 percent are considered severe cases” (Hogg 263).
One way to decide if your baby is a true "colic" or "hurting baby" is to follow the "rule of three"
- last at least three hours a day, occur three days per week, and continue for at least three weeks
- begin within the first three weeks of life
- seldom last longer than three months
- occur in an otherwise healthy, thriving baby (Sears 384)
As described by Sears, some babies may be colicky only in the evening and unfortunately others may be colicky all day. For the evening-only colicky babies, they are usually very happy during the day and people would never know that they are considered colicky at night and these babies tend to sleep well at night. The good news with the evening only colicky babies, generally, “there is rarely an underlying medical cause...” (Sears 384). Based on my mommy instinct, I would think for some of these babies they are simply over exhausted from the day and are having trouble settling down for the night. My son was not colicky but he definitely would have more "fussy" periods at night when he was tired.
On the other hand, the all-day colic baby “is rarely happy” and "[h]e spends most of the day fussing, squirming, or screaming.” In addition, these all day colic babies are usually restless sleepers. This is where the Sears state this baby deserves the "hurting baby" title (Sears 384). My heart goes out to both the babies and the caregivers for these babies.
What Causes Colic or Crying?
Many people think the baby's gas may cause colic. "However, X-ray studies cast doubt on gas as the culprit ....[A]lthough gas may be conducive to discomfort" (Sears 385). I definitely felt my son was crying at times because he had gas, although he also suffered from constipation. My son would show some of the signs of gas such as pulling his legs up to his chest and when we did techniques to help him with the gas such as pat his bottom, he seemed to feel better.
In addition, if your baby is crying a lot then it will be inevitable that she will swallow air which then unfortunately makes the crying episode worse.
According to Sears, “the two most common hidden medical causes of colic are:
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- food or formula sensitivities" (386)
Unfortunately, since the baby can't tell you what is wrong you are going to have to rely on your mommy intuition along with discussing symptoms to your baby's medical care provider. My baby was not colicky but I knew my baby was in pain and he would sometimes scream out in the middle of the night. My son did not cry a lot but around 4 months when he no longer wanted to drink his bottle he would have painful outbursts after just drinking a little of his bottle. My mommy instinct definitely told my my baby was "hurting." Later at six months my son was officially diagnosed with reflux.
In order to help your baby's medical provider properly diagnose your baby, make sure you document, document, document. I've listed a few of the things to make sure you document according to Sears:
- What do you think caused your baby to cry?
- What type of cry is your baby using? (Refer to the "Different Meanings" article.)
- Does your baby appear to be in pain?
- Look at your baby's face, abdomen, and extremities?
- When does the crying usually start?
- How long does the crying last?
- Does it appear to be related to feeding?
- Have you changed anything recently?
- How is it in reference to your baby's bowel movements?
- Does your baby spit up?
- Does your baby have diaper rash that doesn't seem to go away?
Please refer to the "Document Daily Schedule" for more information on why it is important to keep track of your baby's schedule.
Crying Is Not Your Fault
The most important thing to remember is that the baby's crying is not your fault. Crying is a baby’s way of communicating but it doesn’t mean you are doing a bad job. It is simply the only way the baby can try to tell you something. I really like the following quote from Sears “…it is not your fault that your baby cries, nor is it your job to keep baby from crying. The best you can do is not to let baby cry alone, and create a secure environment that lessens baby’s need to cry” (304).
You should start to be able to interrupt your baby’s cries, please refer to the "Different Meanings" article for more information on the different types of baby's cries. If you feel you are having trouble interpreting your baby's cries you could also try to use the E.A.S.Y schedule as discussed in the "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" article to help you determine what your baby needs. To eat? To sleep? In the end you will never be able to completely stop your baby from crying. In addition, if you do have a baby that is colicky, there may only be so much you can do to help the baby to relieve the crying.
Please remember if you need to take a moment and gain your composure, it is better to lay your baby down in a safe place, such as the crib, and if the baby cries, she cries. You can go back and help her once you have settled yourself down.
How to Cope
The Children’s Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation (“CDHNF”), has the following pdf document: "Coping When Your Baby Has Reflux or GERD". I think a lot of the items mentioned in the document pertain to all babies crying, not just babies with GERD (reflux). The "Help Reduce" crying article is coming soon.
Children's Digestive Health and Nutrition Foundation (CDHNF), et al. "Coping When Your Baby Has
Reflux or GERD: You Are Not Alone." CDHNF. 23 March 2010
Hogg, Tracy and Melinda Blau. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and
Communicate with Your Baby. New York: Ballantine, 2001.
Sears, William M.D., Martha Sears, R.N., Robert Sears, M.D. and James Sears, M.D. The Baby Book:
Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby - From Birth to Age Two. New York: Little, 2003.