Colic is prolonged periods of fussy crying in an otherwise healthy and well-fed baby. About one baby in ten will have colic. It usually begins in the first few weeks of life and disappears after the third month. Having a colicky baby can be very trying. No one knows for certain the exact cause of colic. It may be related to an immature, dysfunctional parasympathetic nervous system. This system controls many of the functions of the gastrointestinal tract.
The following guidelines will help alleviate your child's colic. In many babies, the colic will be completely resolved. In other babies, the colic will be improved, making your child easier to live with until your baby outgrows colic. We recommend getting a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. ISBN 0-553-80255-0-2002 Bantam Books.
1. These things may decrease the crying.
- Snuggling, swaddling and cuddling (a "snuggle" carrier may work)
- Wind-up swing (also a great invention to occupy babies during dinner hour)
- Stroller or car rides
- Take a warm bath with your baby
- Soothing music
2. Breastfeeding moms should try restricting spicy foods, onions, chocolate, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts from their diets. If this fails to decrease colic within 48 hours, you may wish to eliminate milk products from your diet. If you eliminate milk products, you will need at least 1500 mg of a calcium supplement plus two servings of protein-rich foods each day.
3. Mylicon drops: This medication helps eliminate gas. Three drops can be given with or after breast or bottle feedings. You may put the drops directly into the bottle if you wish. Mylicon may be purchased without a prescription at your local pharmacy. It is not an antacid but can usually be found near antacids in your pharmacy.
4. If none of the above have worked and you are bottle feeding your baby, do the following.
a. Discontinue milk-based formula and substitute a soy protein formula (e.g., Prosobee or Isomil). Continue using the Mylicon drops. If the colic was a result of cow's milk protein intolerance it should resolve and your baby should remain on the soy formula until three months of age. At three months of age, a trial of milk-based formula should be given. If the colic does not recur, the baby should resume a milk-based formula.
b. If there has been no improvement after a week of soy formula, discontinue soy and begin your baby on Nutramigen or Alimentum. You will find this formula in pharmacies and many large grocery stores. Nutramigen or Alimentum contains no whole protein to irritate the GI tract. Instead, they contain amino acids, the building blocks of protein molecules. Normally our GI tract must break proteins down to amino acids before they can be absorbed from the gut. With Nutramigen or Alimentum, this has already been done, decreasing the work and making it impossible for whole protein intolerance to cause colic.
Nutramigen or Alimentum is more expensive than milk-based or soy formula. Again, if your child's colic was improved with Nutramigen or Alimentum, it is reasonable to try discontinuing it at three months of age. You may continue using the Mylicon drops with either of these formulas if the Mylicon seems beneficial.
- Colicky babies will grow into much easier to live with infants by about the third month.
- Over-the-counter medications for stomach cramps and discomfort are not recommended.
- There are times when nothing will comfort an irritable baby. If you have fed your baby within the past two hours, you will not harm your baby by letting him or her cry until sleepy. There are times when this is the only answer. Swaddle your baby with arms close to the body, lay the baby on its back in the crib and close the door. Leave the room, turn up the television or stereo, and do something you want to do. In addition, try to take a daytime nap in case the night does not go well.
- Read The Happiest Baby on the Block if things are not going well.
6. Call the office if
- There is a fever over 101° rectally and your child is under 2 months of age
- There is a fever over 104° and your child is under 6 months of age
- Colic is not subsided by age 4 months
- You are exhausted
- You feel you might lose control with your baby