5 theories about colic and colicky babies

Baby crying with colic

Colic is the term that’s used to describe regular bouts of unexplained crying in infants who are otherwise healthy. It’s common, affecting one in five infants, but dealing with this kind of excessive crying can be very distressing for parents.

Experts are still unsure of the exact causes of colic, and plenty of theories abound. Below, we de-mystify some of the ideas surrounding colic, and look at some practical ways you can deal with the condition.

Theory 1: They’re in pain

As if it weren’t distressing enough dealing with a screaming baby, the thought that they might be in pain only makes tired parents feel worse. There is limited research to support this theory that colicky babies are in pain. In fact, when diagnosing colic, doctors will systematically rule out health conditions that may be causing real pain or distress. 

Theory 2: They’ve got gas

This is a common one, and again, there is no direct proof linking gas to colic. That said, in recent years there has been a lot of interest in ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, and whether probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri may help boost good bacteria in the digestive system and help ease colic in infants.

It’s certainly worth a try, and something like BioGaia Probiotic Drops* are a suitable and simple option for babies. These drops contain the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, which helps improve the balance of good bacteria in your baby’s digestive system. They also happen to be the only colic product on the market that contains this strain of probiotic. Research shows that probiotics like Lactobacillus reuteri can help ease colic in babies.

Theory 3: They’re over-stimulated

This theory revolves around the idea that a colicky baby’s immature nervous system can’t handle the stimuli of everyday life. Hence, crying is their version of ‘life overload.’

Again, this one’s not proven. In fact, there also exists an opposite theory that colicky babies are actually under-stimulated. Sigh. What is more commonly said, is that wrapping or swaddling your baby tightly can be calming and may help relieve colic symptoms, perhaps because it mimics the way infants are held in the womb.

Theory 4: It’s new-parent anxiety – not colic!

Babies don’t cry excessively just because you’re feeling anxious about being a new parent. Yes, they can pick up on your body language and temperature, and can sense how relaxed you are. But colic is not the result of your parenting style. We suggest simply focusing on soothing rituals such as baths, calm music, and keeping baby close in a sling or carrier. Anything that calms both you and baby is worth trying. 

Theory 5: Colic is a sign that something’s ‘wrong’

Crying in infants is universal and healthy. It peaks at around six to eight weeks, then gradually eases as the child grows. Crying is hardwired behaviour, and there is nothing abnormal about it. Colic is just the high end spectrum of normal, natural crying behaviour. So if you’re feeling concerned that it is abnormal, yet your doctor has diagnosed it as colic, rest assured, you’re doing nothing wrong – the very fact that one in five babies have colic means that a handful of other mums at the park are in the very same boat as you.

Other ways to help your baby

While those early days with a colicky baby can be deeply stressful for parents, there are a few other things you can try at home to ease your baby’s discomfort: 

Comfort: Try responding quickly to your baby’s cries and make sure they’re as comfortable as possible.

Soothe: Many babies like to soothe themselves with sucking, so a dummy may help.

Bath: A warm bath and a gentle massage can help calm babies down and assist with settling.

Motion: Rocking, patting, or simply taking your baby for a walk in the pram can distract babies and often the motion rocks them off to sleep.

Cuddle: Holding baby close with a sling or a carrier can give them the reassurance they need at this early age. 

Noise: Many mothers find a gentle background noise like soft music, or white noise, works wonders.

Support: Caring for a colicky baby is exhausting. Get as much support as you can, and be sure to talk to your GP or baby nurse for ongoing health advice. 

*BioGaia Probiotic Drops contain active ingredient Lactobacillus reuteri. Always read the label. Use only as directed. If colic symptoms persist, please see your healthcare professional.

(This is a sponsored post for BioGaia Probiotic Drops)

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