No one knows what causes colic. Doctors say it is like a tummy ache: your babies cry and you are unable to comfort them. It comes in waves and some babies seem to be affected more than others. It can often be in the afternoon and evening when they are at their worst.
Often the way in which a doctor might diagnose colic is to follow the ‘rules of 3’ by asking the question - ‘Is your baby crying...’:
- at least three hours at a stretch and
- at least three days a week and
- for at least three weeks in a row
Other signs that it might be colic can be, your baby:
- is hard to soothe or settle
- he/she clenches his/her fists
- goes red in the face with the crying
- brings their knees up to their tummy
If this isn't the case it might be something else that is causing the pain and you should ask your doctor to explore this more with you.
Colic doesn’t cause any actual harm and it does get better, usually by the time the babies are twelve weeks old or thereabouts. But it’s very hard to deal with – even more so as there is no magic cure.
To help relieve the symptoms of colic consider how your babies feed. When giving them a feed make sure that:
- they take regular breaks
- they are winded throughout
- Keep baby in a more upright position when feeding to help to stop them swallowing air
- at the end of a feed they are kept upright for 10-15 minutes
Other things that may help relieve baby’s symptoms:
- giving your baby a warm bath
- look to make changes to your diet if you are breastfeeding as some foods can cause greater wind and tummy pains for your baby
- baby massage
- playing music, white noise or similar to help distract baby
With colic, the main thing is to take care of yourself so you can cope. Try to think of ways you can manage the times when the crying is at its worst - colic often gets worse in the late afternoon and walking with and cuddling colicky babies may help. If you can, arrange to have someone drop in so you can draw on their practical and moral support.
If it all gets too much, place your babies safely in their cots or a safe place and step into another room for five minutes. Take some deep breaths and calm yourself.