Mary had gone through a successful delivery and enjoyed all the attention she received after the arrival of her bundle of joy. The nurses were always at hand to help with the baby as she entertained her visitors who streamed in to congratulate her. They would take the baby to the nursery when she cried and only brought her back when she was calm, changed and well fed. When she went home it was all bliss until one night 2 weeks down the line when they were all startled by the baby’s sharp crying. She had been fine the whole day and had been put to bed as usual. Mary panicked and called her neighbour. They tried to soothe the baby but nothing worked. After about 30 minutes of non-stop crying, Mary and her husband drove to the hospital. All the while the baby was crying. When they got there, two hours later, the baby just passed a bowel motion then went quiet and slept.
The baby was examined at the hospital and was found to be fine. This was a big relief for Mary and her husband. The doctor reassured them and discharged them home indicating that the baby might have colic. For the few weeks that followed, Mary had to deal with this situation until her baby was 4 months old.
What is colic?
Colic is a term that describes a situation where a baby cries inconsolably for a particular duration of time, usually around three hours. The baby would normally cry around the same time every day and for more than 3 days in a week. In addition to this, colic is associated with the following situations:
- The baby is otherwise healthy, well fed and adding weight appropriately.
- The crying is usually sudden with no obvious association.
- The baby usually cries louder than they normally would and all strategies to sooth and calm the baby down, don’t usually succeed.
- The infant may actually sound like they are in pain and remain irritable and fussy.
- The baby with colic commonly calms down after passing a bowel movement or gas and goes back to sleep peacefully leaving an exhausted mother.
What causes colic?
There are several myths that try to explain the causes of colic, treatment and management. In most Kenyan communities children are named after their grandparents or other deceased relatives and it was commonly believed that if the ancestors were not happy with the name a baby was given the baby would cry inconsolably until the name was changed.
It is also commonly believed that babies cry to manipulate their parents. Some babies are believed to be spoiled and want to be carried all the time hence the crying. It is also commonly believed that baby boys cannot get satisfied on breast milk alone hence require substitution very early.
It is not clear what the exact cause of colic is however it is believed that colic is associated with the inability of the baby to expel the air trapped in their gut during feeding. It is also believed that the premature guts get irritated by certain components in mother’s milk and elimination of the same may improve things for the colicky baby.
Management of colic.
It is recommended that different strategies be used in combination to manage colic with the main aim being reducing the infants crying and helping the family to cope during this period. Here are some of the things you can do to help manage colic:
- Burp the baby immediately after feeding. If the baby is bottle fed and drinks a lot of milk you could burp him half way through the feed.
- Alter your diet to minimize foods associated with excessive gas production, these include cabbage, beans, broccoli or peas.
- Cut on dairy products, nuts and eggs. These foods are associated with allergy and some babies with colic appear to improve when they are eliminated from the diet.
- Some studies suggest that formula-fed babies with colic improve when their formula is changed to a hypoallergenic formula or soy-based formula. The results of these studies are inconclusive and you need to consult your healthcare provider before changing.
- Parents often get distressed when their babies get colic and therefore need support. Parents should get help with the baby during this time to minimize the fatigue and anxiety experienced when the baby is crying.
It is advisable that parents visit a hospital to have all other possible causes of excessive crying ruled out.
Medication like simethicone and herbal remedies like chamomile and fenugreek are sometimes recommended but there isn’t adequate scientific evidence to prove that they work.
During the crying episode
- Be calm and patient, this will help in coping with the situation.
- Make sure that the baby is dry, try to breastfeed in case the baby is hungry, keep the baby warm and put them in a comfortable position. These are common causes of baby’s crying just for the sake of it.
- Other strategies that appear to soothe babies include walking around the house, gently rocking the baby, playing some music or changing the environment. Different children respond differently to all this so a mother should find what works best for their child.
What to avoid
- Do not give your baby any medicine to make them sleep as it may be harmful.
- During the crying episode do not violently shake the child as this may injure the child.
Be sure to seek immediate medical help if:
- You suspect that the crying could be a result of injury.
- The baby appears lethargic, has reduced consciousness and/or becomes very irritable.
- The child refuses to feed for hours and there is reduction in the amount of urine they pass.
- The baby has a fever of above 38.0 degrees.
Outcome of colicky babies
- Colic spontaneously resolves when the baby is around 4 months of age and the child does not suffer any deficits associated with the condition later in life.See http://iafya.org/mumchild_content/child/newborn_problems/ for more information of newborn related problems.Attribution: Avallain Ltd