Colic: Tips for calming a screaming baby

Have an infant who won't stop screaming? This could be your answer! Criteria for what determines if your baby has colic is listed, and suggestions for what to do and when you need to call the doctor.

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  • Have you survived living with a child with colic? Bravo! It is one of the most challenging feats of strength imaginable. Actually, “Calming a Colicky Child” should be a new Olympic sport as far as I’m concerned!

  • What is it?

  • Colic has an easy formula; unfortunately it doesn't have a clear-cut solution. Here it is:

  • [Colic = 3³]

  • Say, what?! According to Nemours Foundation, a children’s health organization, if your baby is healthy and “cries for more than three hours per day, more than three days per week, for at least three weeks,” she or he probably has colic.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines colic as:

    • Excessive crying once or twice per day

    • Usually consolable when held and comforted

    • Acts normal (happy, contented) between bouts of crying

    • The baby is getting enough to eat and is not hungry

    • The baby is not sick

    • Onset usually before 2 weeks of age

    • Resolves by 3-4 months of age

  • The experts almost agree on what colic is, but they definitely don’t help with giving any answers on how to treat it – not for lack of research and trying though!

  • What is the culprit?

  • The facts are there is no medical reason for colic. Some doctors believe that cow’s milk proteins in formula fed infants are responsible for crying and discomfort. However, breastfed babies also get colic. Even with the mother reducing all milk proteins in her diet, the colic still can remain. Removing all dairy products, caffeine, soy, wheat and egg have also been recommended, but no research shows these are responsible.

  • Gas has been linked to colic, but then doctors aren’t sure if the gas causes the colic or if all the crying is responsible for gulping too much air causing excess gas. A case of: which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Lastly, GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease) is occasionally blamed with these babies, but once again…no proof.

  • Treatment

  • So if you don’t know what causes something, how does one treat it? Exactly—that's why dealing with colic is so difficult! The good news is colic isn’t a permanent condition! It will resolve without medical treatment eventually; the challenge is with keeping the rest of the family (and neighbors) from going nutty or calling child services on you. Until then, there are several methods to make life easier for you and your darling, yet very loud infant.

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    • Some pediatricians have referred to this time in the infant’s life as the “fourth trimester.” It is when the baby is accustomed to being in utero, and is struggling with environmental senses out in the real world. Trying to mimic the uterine environment for the infant such as swaddling tightly, swaying, white noise, and no light, can help some babies.

    • Baby swings or vibrating infant chairs can soothe various babies.

    • Car rides are great colic fixes for a number of babies, aiding them to fall asleep.

    • Some infants do well with music tapes or other forms of noise. (I know of a family whose daughter would only stop crying when the mother turned on her hairdryer — white noise. Her husband ended up recording the sound and dubbed it over and over on one long track so they wouldn’t wear out the hairdryer or cause a fire. In my house, we just kept the vacuum cleaner in the baby’s room. Whenever, the nighttime howling started, we would flip on the switch and wait until the moment passed or she fell asleep. Actually, this worked for both our children.)

  • Nemour Foundation also suggests, “Walk with your baby or sit in a rocking chair, trying various positions. Try burping your baby more often during feedings.” And they suggest “placing your baby across your lap on his or her belly and rub your baby's back.”

  • If you have tried all of these techniques, make sure that your temperament is calm and get a friend or your spouse to alternate spending time with the crying baby, if your nerves are getting fried. Sometimes a fresh outlook from someone else can help ease the child back into a calm state.

  • Make sure “if the baby has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or more, is crying for more than two hours at a time, is inconsolable, isn't feeding well, has diarrhea or persistent vomiting, or is less awake or alert than usual, call your doctor right away,” Nemours reports.

  • Even though colic isn't uncommon, it's stressful! Hopefully these tips have given you the knowledge you need to help your baby if you think he or she may have colic.

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Stacey Hatton is a pediatric RN and freelance writer who resides in the mecca of comedy central...Kansas.

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