Colic has been defined as a long period of vigorous crying that persists despite all efforts at consolation. The term itself comes from the Greek word for the large intestine, reflecting the belief that the source of the discomfort is a digestive problem.
Most babies go through periods when they seem to be abnormally fussy or to cry for no apparent reason. Colic is most common during the first three to four months of an infant's life. It can begin within the first three weeks after birth, and usually stops around the age of three months. It is rarely experienced by a baby older than six months.
During the first six months of life, infants grow at an amazing rate. In that time, a newborn doubles his birth weight. Because of the amount of food they must take in to support this growth spurt, babies often suffer from indigestion and gas. Also, a baby may swallow air either when feeding or during a prolonged crying spell. Swallowing air increases gas pain. When an infant experiences a gas pain, it may be the worst pain his small body has ever felt.
The thing that differentiates colic from other problems is that no matter what you do, the crying doesn't stop. Certain body postures that occur with a gas attack may also occur with colic. For example, your baby may have a tense, distended tummy, with knees pulled up to the chest, clenched fists, and flailing arms and legs, or an arched back.
Suspect true colic if your baby has sudden, severe bouts of loud crying that last for several hours at a time; if the crying occurs at the same time each day, often in the evening or at night; if crying episodes happen over and over, beginning suddenly and ending abruptly; if your baby seems inconsolable and nothing you do brings comfort; if your infant seems angry and struggles when held; and if there doesn't seem to be any explanation for these outbreaks of crying.
If your baby has colic, the months of crying and seemingly unrelenting distress your child is experiencing can leave you feeling frustrated, anxious, confused, exhausted, guilty, and inadequate. One of the key concerns in dealing with a colicky baby, in addition to finding ways to comfort your child, is being confident of your ability to maintain and build a loving relationship with your newborn.
What Causes Colic?
Although it has long been as sumed that colic is a sign of gas pain, it has never actually been proved that al, or even most, colicky babies do indeed have abdominal gas. Certainty as to the cause of the problem continues to elude medical science. In addition to the possibility of gas pain, there are a number of other hypotheses as to what causes colic, including:
An allergy to milk protein or formula.
Faulty feeding techniques.
Spasms of the colon.
An immature, hyperactive gastrointestinal tract.
An immature, highly sensitive nervous system.
Tension in the home.
Parental misinterpretation of crying.
It is likely that a combination of some of these factors is indeed involved in most cases of infant colic.
Simethicone (available in Mylicon) is a compound that acts on the surface of gas bubbles to break them up, thus relieving gas pain and pressure. If large gas bubbles are the primary problem, this can be an effective treatment. Simethicone is available over the counter in a liquid form, but it should be given only if recommended by your physician.