Colic is a condition that affects babies when they cry inconsolably for hours on end. The cause of colic isn’t known, but it can be very distressing to parents and caregivers.
While there are no proven cures for colic, some research suggests that probiotics may help with the symptoms of colic in some cases.
Our team reviewed dozens of studies on probiotics and found one specific strain called Lactobacillus reuteri which has been shown to reduce crying time by 50% in infants with colic.
Colic is a condition that affects up to 10% of babies and can be very stressful for parents. There are many treatments available but none seem to work for everyone.
In this article, we will answer all of these questions about your baby and colic. We’ll explain how babies get colic, why it happens, and what you can do about it.
We’ll also tell you everything you need to know about probiotic supplements including which ones work best for your child’s age group.
What is colic?
The first thing that’s important to know about colic – which you may have heard of before – is that it does not mean the baby has stomach problems or other health issues.
Colicky babies are more likely than others to spit up or pass gas, but they don’t necessarily have any medical problems related to their digestive system.
Colic is a term that describes a set of symptoms most often seen in infants, who cry for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week.
It usually starts when babies are 5-6 weeks old and ends by three months old. It’s important to understand that, though crying is the major symptom of colic, it is not the only one.
Colicky babies usually have difficulty calming themselves and then settling back to sleep. They are irritable, tense, red-faced, and may stiffen their body while crying.
Their cry is often described as “wrenching,” or high pitched.
When does colic start?
Symptoms of colicky crying typically begin when the baby is three weeks old, but this can happen earlier in preterm babies. Sometimes there is a family history of colic, which would suggest that the baby’s crying could have something to do with the environment in the womb.
In this case, symptoms may start before 5-6 weeks old.
What causes Colic?
No one knows exactly what causes colicky babies to cry so much and for such long periods of time, but there are many theories.
Some think the baby is uncomfortable, either because his stomach hurts or because something bothers him when he eats.
This could be caused by food sensitivities or lactose intolerance, gas in the intestines, a slight intolerance to formula, or even problems with the nipple on a bottle.
Many parents have also noticed that colicky babies gain more weight than other infants, which can cause discomfort.
Some researchers think colic is related to the baby’s temperament or personality. They believe that some babies are just born with temperaments that make them more prone to crying than others.
It may be true that certain babies are slightly irritable at birth, and this irritability may become more obvious when they begin eating.
Overstimulation of the baby’s nervous system is another theory. The problem might not be with the baby’s digestive tract, but with his brain and how it processes information from his five senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing).
Researchers think the baby’s digestive process may be affected by how sensitive he is to the stimulation of his five senses.
Some physicians believe colic is caused by a baby’s immature nervous system.
The digestive system in an infant may not have matured enough for him to regulate or control it so that when it becomes overstimulated, he cries in pain.
This theory could help explain why some babies cry more when they are hungry or after a feeding.
It could also explain why air, such as from gas in the intestines, makes them even more uncomfortable.
Another theory is that colic may be caused by an immature part of the baby’s brain that helps him handle stress and feel pain.
This area is called the “limbic system” and is responsible for letting an infant know when something causes him pain or discomfort.
What you can do about it?
There is currently no evidence that there is a link between breastfeeding and colic. However, breastfed babies with colic often have more frequent bowel movements than those fed formula milk.
If this applies to your baby, you can try expressing some milk onto your skin and let your baby suck the milk off, which might help. It is important that babies are fed.
Therefore, if your baby has colic you should continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding as usual, but try the following:
Your baby may pass wind after a feed. This can happen when they have an immature digestive system and gas builds up in their tummy.
Try burping your baby more often after feeds and try massaging their tummy in a clockwise direction (from the baby’s head down towards the belly button).
If your baby does not pass wind after a feed, you can try gently winding them by holding them upright over your shoulder with their head lower than their bottom.
Patting or rubbing their back does not usually help.
If the wind does not relieve the colic, try using gripe water or infant massage (using olive oil) to soothe your baby’s tummy pain. Gripe water is available over-the-counter from pharmacies and other retail outlets.
It can be given in small quantities just before feeding to aid burping and help your baby pass wind.
You can give infant paracetamol to reduce your baby’s pain if gripe water or infant massage does not help, but check with your pharmacist for the correct dosage before giving any medication to babies.
Your pharmacist might also be able to recommend other medications that can help treat colic in babies.
If you are breastfeeding, you should continue to do so. Paracetamol may be present in very small quantities in breast milk but it is unlikely to cause any harm.
What if my baby doesn’t have colic?
If your baby does not have colic you can carry on with business as usual.
You might want to think about other things that could be upsetting your baby and make him or her cry, such as hunger, tiredness, or a need to be cuddled. If this is the case, you should try the following:
- If your baby cries when they are being fed, try burping them more often during feeds and altering their position during feeding. It is also important that their tummy is full before they go to sleep. You should try keeping them awake for longer after feeds and waking them up more often during the night to ensure that their tummy does not get too full.
- If your baby cries when you put him or her down, it could be because they are not comfortable or sleepy enough to settle. You should keep them awake for longer after a feed and try playing with them more. If they are still unsettled, you might want to think about swaddling or using a sleepsuit as they may not feel as restricted as they would in a blanket.
- If your baby needs stimulation before bedtime, it might be because he or she is over-stimulated earlier in the day. You should keep them awake for longer after a feed and try to reduce stimulation during the day, or if possible give your baby some time on their own before bedtime.
Your baby and colic
Parents who are dealing with colic in their babies may want to give probiotics a try. The jury is still out on whether or not they work for everyone, but it’s worth giving them a shot when other medicines haven’t helped your baby soothe and sleep better.
For more information about how probiotic supplements can help you get some relief from your baby’s crying jags, contact us today.
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