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When Your Baby is a Cry Baby

By: Lourdes Nena A. Cabison-Carlos, MDWhen Your Baby is a Cry Baby

What is colic?

Colic is medically defined as a complex episode(s) of abdominal pain (usually assumed to be intestinal origin) associated with severe crying. The oldies sometimes loosely refer to this as “kabag”, though “kabag” or gassiness does not translate to colic. The episodes, or attacks if you will, are usually seen in young, well-fed, healthy and appropriately-cared-for  infants less than 3 months of age, cries for >3hours/day, for >3 days a week, for >3 weeks (“rule of threes”).  It usually lasts until the infant is completely exhausted and nothing seems to bring the baby relief during this loud and frustrating episode.

What causes colic?

This is where science, once more, fails us. There is often no apparent cause although some infants seem to be particularly susceptible to colic. Possible but unproven causes include swallowed air, improper feeding techniques, excessive intestinal fermentation, overfeeding, lactose intolerance, immature digestive system and anxious parents (whose anxiety is aggravated in turn by colic). Also, there is no proof yet to the belief that gender, birth order, cold air or usog play a role in a colic episode.

What are the symptoms?

The cute, sleeping infants you can see in pictures represent the glorious minutes of silence captured forever in paper. In real life, remember that infants do cry and are fussy at times. But a colicky infant is a different story all together. As mentioned, to diagnose colic, the premise must first be that the baby is otherwise healthy and well-fed. This means that you’ve tried everything your pedia advised you to do, read everything in the internet and gave in to “pamahiins” but baby is still:

Crying at almost the same time of the day.  If your baby cries almost every morning, consider yourself lucky still. Most colic episodes occur in the late afternoon or evening when you’re about to rest.

Crying for no obvious reason.  This means ruling out the obvious: dirty nappies, hunger, sleepiness, fever or other causes of discomfort.

Crying lasts for a few minutes to three hours. Really, and people wonder why moms with babies go losyang.

Crying is intense. You don’t know “intense” until you’ve experienced “colic intense”. A colicky baby cries loudly, high-pitched and seems to be in extreme discomfort.

During colic episodes, baby’s face is usually flushed. Baby’s tummy might also be tense and distended. The legs are drawn up to the abdomen and maybe extended for short periods. Hands are usually clenched and the feet are cold.

Baby is almost impossible to console once he/ she starts crying. Most mothers, however, report that passing gas or poop seems to relieve baby and thus end the crying episode.                

For mothers who endured pregnancy and labor, colic simply drains all your energy. But there’s light at the end of the tunnel and by age 4-5months, colicky babies will have improved greatly.

What you can do

There are plenty of things that we can try to help our little one during a colic episode but none are proven to be 100% effective. You can try them out but each baby is unique and what works for one may not work for the other.

Keep in mind that “this, too, shall pass”. Seriously, consider this as my most important advice.

Change baby’s position and try to look for his/her position of comfort. Some babies like to be held upright, some like to be prone across mommy’s lap.

Burp baby at intervals during feeding. Some babies become overwhelmed with milk, so it may be helpful to give small, frequent feedings instead.

For breastfeeding moms, try changing your diet. If you have a strong family history of allergies, avoid food triggers. Some would advise against food that can make you” gassy” (broccoli, for instance) but again, this is not proven yet.

For formula-fed babies, talk to your doctor about changing to lactose-free or hypoallergenic formulas. You can also look into changing your bottles.

Warm baby’s tummy. You have to be careful with this. I generally advise parents to just rub their hands together and gently touch baby’s stomach to pass the heat. Manzanillas, calming oils and heating pads are not recommended in young children.

Provide an emotionally stable environment. Try not to panic during crying episodes and use a calm soothing voice. Babies usually “absorb” your emotions, so keep cool.  Babies love to be babied so keep them close to your body and cuddle that little one. Since babies are most familiar with mommy’s voice from their time inside the womb, gently singing to baby can be calming for both of you.

Gently rock, dance or sway your baby in your arms. Some parents report that driving around in the car with baby can actually calm them down. NEVER shake the baby, no matter how frustrated you become.


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