The colic that affects babies is a condition where there appears
to be an episode of abdominal pain, occurring more often in the
evening between 5pm and 10pm. During the day the baby is usually
not in pain, feeds well, sleeps well and is otherwise a fit, healthy
baby. During the attack the baby appears to be in intense pain,
crying or screaming as he draws his legs up to his tummy. His face
is often red and he is obviously very upset!
pain can last 2 or 3 hours and then wears off. The condition is
harmless as it clears up by the time the baby is four months old,
but it is very disturbing for the parents during that period of
is common in babies up to the age of 3 - 4 months, it is often referred
to as 'three-month colic'. It is not a condition of older children.
is more common in bottle fed babies.
is more common in babies who are given cow's milk.
is more common in babies who are given solids very early.
is more common in the babies of smoking mothers.
Despite colic being a common condition affecting so many young babies,
we still do not know the real cause of this complaint. It is thought
to be a spasm of the baby's intestines, maybe due to an irregularity
in the intestines which have not yet learned how to function correctly.
During the baby's development in the womb, there was no feeding
through the mouth and there was, therefore, no great activity in
the baby's bowels or intestines.
the birth the baby starts taking in nourishing feeds every few hours,
and it is thought that along with the feed, the baby swallows substantial
amounts of air into the stomach and intestines. The bowel tries
to cope with this new experience as best it can but does not 'get
its act together' and is not able to coordinate correctly its complex
actions of gently moving on the contents of the intestines in a
smooth and regular fashion. So air and gas get trapped in parts
of the bowel and the intestines contract down in a haphazard and
often painful manner in an attempt to move the contents on in the
best way possible. As the intestines mature and learn to act smoothly
(and painlessly) through their daily contact with air and food,
so the condition gradually settles.
Can you prevent colic?
your baby is breast or bottle fed, always stop halfway through
a feed and 'burp' him by sitting him up and patting gently on
his back, or rubbing his back as you sit him upright with him
facing over your shoulder. A hungry baby will greedily feed on
breast or bottle and often swallow a lot of air along with the
milk. That swallowed air may cause him some colicky discomfort
later. If your baby does not bring up any wind within a couple
of minutes put him back to feed, otherwise he may start crying,
get upset and swallow air, thus producing more colic!
to breast feed for at least the first three months if you can.
you are bottle feeding, make sure the hole in the teat is the
right size. Hold the bottle upside down and if the milk drops
at a slow steady rate from the teat - that's about right! If not,
the hole is too small and if the milk pours out the hole is too
large. Always ensure you are holding the bottle at the correct
angle, i.e. so that the teat is always full of milk and the baby
is not sucking air.
not offer your baby any solid food until he is 3 months old. The
baby's immature intestines may find it difficult to cope with
the new proteins and substances presented by some solid or semi-solid
foodstuffs until he is older than 3 months.
NOT give your baby ordinary cow's milk until he is 12 months old.
you are weaning him you may find that certain baby foods disagree
with him and may cause colic. In that situation avoid the offending
foods - there are plenty more to choose from.
should you treat colic?
or burp him to see if that will help.
to soothe your baby by:
to and fro, whilst cuddling
him in the pram o Singing
him for a drive
water sometimes helps, but to be honest, there is no scientific
evidence that this has any effect upon infant colic.
your doctor has made sure that nothing more serious is happening
there is little he can do from the medical point of view. The only
preparation that I know of that is officially indicated for use
in the treatment of infant colic in babies under 6 months is a liquid
called Infacol. Give between 0.5ml to 1 ml just before each feed.
This can be bought over the counter and is also available on prescription.
It can safely be used in babies under 6 months.
baby older than 6 months that is having bouts of colic may be helped
with a preparation called Merbentyl syrup, which is given 15 minutes
before feeds. This is available only on prescription and your own
GP will advise on its suitability for your baby. It must not be
given to babies under 6 months.
you are exhausted by your baby's screaming fits, DO contact your
doctor, and explain that you are at the end of your tether. You
must explain how totally drained you have become, for you may need
further help or support to get you through this difficult time.