Expert Advice: Colic

If your newborn is squalling inconsolably, then it’s most probably the dreaded colic.

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There’s a certain mystery surrounding colic, even though the condition has been around for as long as we, our parents and grandparents can remember.

You bring a snuggly bundle home from the hospital and everything seems to be going well. A few weeks in, bub starts fussing and crying incessantly. You notice that it usually happens around the same time every day, often in the evenings.

You try everything – music, extra milk feeds, cuddles, long walks... Nothing seems to calm your cutie down. You and the hubs are at a lost at what to do and find yourselves rushing into an emergency room at your nearest hospital carrying a wailing baby.

The doctor does a routine check and diagnoses your little one with colic and says it’s normal. But you’ve never heard of that term before and those cries don’t sound very normal to you, do they?

Welcome to the world of colic. Almost every infant goes through it at some point in the early months. However, it causes a lot of emotional, mental and physical distress on the parents.

Dr Mary Varughese who works at the Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at National University Hospital explains more on this condition and dispenses treatment options.
 

What is colic?

Dr Varughese: Colic refers to periods of uncontrollable crying and fussing without any identifiable need, in an otherwise healthy infant. The cause of colic is unknown but is hypothesised to be multifactorial with cow’s milk allergy, parental anxiety and baby’s temperament among some of the suggested causes. Colic resolves in a predictable time course with no long-term adverse effects.

Is colic normal?

Dr Varughese: Up to 20 per cent of healthy babies experience colic in early infancy. It typically begins at about 2 weeks of age, peaks at 6 weeks and often resolves by 4 months of age.

How do I know if my baby has colic?

Dr Varughese: A colicky infant has bouts of intense crying and screaming, usually in the evenings, that can last up to several hours. These attacks may be accompanied by clenched fists, an arched back and legs that are pulled up to the abdomen. You may find it extremely difficult to soothe your baby during these bouts, even by feeding.

Read on for remedies to soothe colic…



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How is colic diagnosed?

Dr Varughese: With the typical history of colic occurring in an otherwise healthy infant, a doctor would do a thorough physical examination to determine if there might be any other reason for baby’s crying and abdominal pain, such as milk allergies, injuries or gut obstruction. Unless another more worrying cause is suspected, no laboratory tests or scans are required to diagnose colic.

What are the available treatments/remedies?

So far, there has been no proven treatment for colic. Medications such as colic drops may be helpful in decreasing air swallowed during bouts of crying.

Mothers who are breastfeeding should continue to do so. Eliminating milk products, eggs, wheat and nuts in your diet may help to relieve symptoms of colic in some babies.

Hypoallergenic milk formulas may also be used in infants with suspected cow’s milk intolerance. Otherwise, most infants can remain on their original formula.

Parents can comfort their baby using various methods that try to simulate the previous foetal environment. Here are some ideas:

• Tight swaddling, rhythmic rocking and jiggling for as long as necessary.

• Offering a pacifier.

• Playing soothing music or “hushing” loudly.

• Taking baby on a car or stroller ride.

• Applying gentle pressure on baby’s tummy with a warm pad.

GET TO KNOW OUR EXPERT…

Dr Mary Varughese is an associate consultant at the Division of General Ambulatory Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at National University Hospital.

Photos: iStock

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