Recognizing Colic in the Child

Morinaga Platinum ♦ 1 June 2017

Recognizing Colic in the Child

Newborns have their own way of drawing the attention of their parents or other individuals by crying when they require something. However, often these cries lead to confusion in the parents as they are usually continuous and hysterical, despite the efforts to calm them such as by carrying or nursing them.

If the child continues to cry and parents do not identify a cause, there is a high likelihood that they are experiencing colic. Till date, the causes and mechanisms to relieve colic is not known for sure.

What is a colic?

Infantile colic occurs in approximately 20% of babies, without any particular issue. The child may cry without any consol ability. These cries can proceed for several minutes or even several hours. Both the upper and lower limbs of the child are lifted up to the stomach with clenched fists and a red face. This may not only cause stress for the child but also for the parents.

Generally, colic occurs from the first few weeks following birth up to the age of 3 to 4 months. The cries usually continue for approximately three hours without stopping, which occurs for at least three days a week and proceeds continuously for at least three weeks in a row.

Parents may suspect that their child is experiencing colic if they have a tendency to clench their fists, pull their knees to the stomach, have tight abdominal muscles, and arch their back while crying. They also appear to always want a feed.

There is also a possibility that the child often appears hungry because they are in their growth spurt (period of rapid growth), where they require more food than usual. However, it is also possible that they want to suck to relieve their stress.

The definitive cause of colic is still unknown at present. However, there are some theories surrounding the cause of colic such as the immature digestive system of the child, the nervous system that is still developing, or the child is too tired or has received too much stimulation.

It is also suspected that colic may occur due to the food consumed by lactating mothers. According to observations, the child has a tendency to experience colic when mothers consume milk and its derivative products, spicy food, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, garlic, caffeine, and alcohol.

Due to its uncertain cause, the management method for colic is also variable. Generally, parents can attempt things that may supposedly console the child, such as massaging them gently or carrying them.  

If the colic is suspected to occur due to the food consumed by the mother, try to avoid that food substance for a week. If the colic disappears, there is a possibility for the food to be the cause. In that case, the mother should avoid that food for at least three months, until the symptoms of colic no longer occur.

In children that, for one reason or another, receive formula milk, try to change their milk to a different brand. If the symptoms resolve, there is a possibility for the formula milk to be the cause.

Other than that, it is important to always burp the child after every feed. This is done to reduce the air pressure following ingestion of gases during the feeding process.

Experts argue that although the symptoms that occur appear severe, colic is actually not harmful ofr the child. Nevertheless, if parents observe a suspicious symptom, they should immediately consult a doctor.

In addition to the aforementioned strategies, the most important for parents is to avoid feeling stressed when experiencing such situations.