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Understanding Colic in Newborns: How Long it Lasts and Treatment Options

Newborn baby crying as father changes their diaper

Crying is pretty much the one thing newborns are known for; it’s the only form of communication they know how to use from the moment they’re born, and they make sure to use it. Of course, there’s crying, and then there’s crying! In addition to conventional tears, about 25% of all babies experience a period of intense crying with no apparent cause, commonly called colic.

When does colic start in infants and how long does it last?

The precise cause or causes of colic are unknown, but doctors and researchers have found some patterns in the way it presents. The identifying symptom of colic is intense crying or fussiness lasting for several hours, often interrupted, and for no apparent reason. Parents often report that “crying” and “fussiness” aren’t quite the right words, describing crying that is louder, higher pitched, and more intense than normal.

Individual instances of colic can happen at any time, but they’re more common in the evenings. This can lead to the secondary problem of your little one not getting enough sleep, not to mention the sleep parents lose tending to a fussy baby.

Colic is most common in the first 6 weeks of life, and it usually subsides by 3 to 4 months of age. However, it’s not unusual for it to stick around a few months longer. There’s no need to panic if your baby’s still dealing with colic at 5 or 6 months old. You’ll probably be able to identify colic by the crying alone, but here are some other symptoms to look out for.

  • Tight belly/abdomen
  • Legs curling toward the belly while crying
  • Clenching fists while crying
  • Red, flushed face
  • Burping and passing gas (possibly related to the cause of colic or the result of swallowing air while crying)

What is the best colic relief for infants?

There’s nothing worse than your baby crying out to you and not knowing what to do. Unfortunately, colic remains something of a mystery. It might just be that some newborns have a tougher time adjusting to the world around them. The world can be overwhelming, it’s enough to make anyone want to cry. It might be an unidentified digestive issue common in little ones, some glitch of an undeveloped digestive system, or an imbalance in the gut bacteria. They get a rumbly tummy, it hurts, and they don’t know why, and they cry. Allergies and food sensitivities have also been suggested as possible culprits.

Because there’s not a single root cause, that can make treating colic challenging. Fortunately, colic almost always goes away on its own after a couple of months without medical intervention. In this case,

the best medicine for colic in infants is patience. With that being said, there are a few colic home remedies for newborns you can try to make the journey a little smoother.

  • Change positions when feeding. Put your baby in an upright position to reduce the amount of air swallowed. Some parents also recommend using curved bottles for the same reason.
  • Burp often. Burping your baby both during and after feeding can help alleviate tummy bubbles.
  • Feed when hungry. Make sure your baby’s fed, but don’t overfeed. If your baby is too full, it can be uncomfortable.
  • Hold your baby. Walk, talk, and sing with them.
  • Do something together. Go for a ride in the car, use a baby swing, or give them a warm bath.
  • Turn down the noise. Dim the lights and remove things around them that might be overstimulating for them.
  • Dietary change. If an allergy or intolerance is suspected, a healthcare provider may recommend a temporary change from breast milk to formula or from one formula to another.

Being a new mom comes with its challenges, especially when your baby’s colicky and there aren’t quick fixes or easy answers. However, it’s crucial to remember that colic isn’t a cause for concern, nor is it a reflection of your parenting abilities or your baby’s happiness. It’s simply a phase that many babies go through and will pass with time.

As a new mom, it’s also so important for you to recognize if you’re overwhelmed or frustrated and ask for help if you need it. Ask someone to watch your baby and take a much-needed break for your own mental health. As hard as colic is, remember that things will get easier with time.

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