My three-week-old daughter cries a lot at night. What makes her cry?
I think your baby has colic. It is also called infantile colic. This crying in a baby often lasts for longer than three hours a day. It occurs in almost all babies to varying degrees. Infantile colic typically begins at about 2 to 3 weeks of age, and reaches its peak at 2 months, begins to subside by 3 months, and is gone by 3 ½ to 4 months. It is generally believed that if one or both parents were colicky, their baby is more at risk.
The crying often begins suddenly, after feeding, in the late afternoon or early evening, just when parents are most exhausted. The baby’s hands may be folded, the legs may curl up, and the belly may seem swollen. It often winds down when the baby is exhausted, or when gas or stool is passed.
Causes of colic include stomach/intestinal gas, the overwhelmed and over-stimulated baby that becomes exhausted and experiences gut muscle spasms. Eighty five to 90 per cent of colicky babies have no evidence of serious intestinal abnormality. Some babies cry from hunger, others from over-feeding while some cannot tolerate certain foods or proteins in breast milk or formula. Some babies may be sensitive to proteins in milk formula. Switching formulas may be important for some babies.
If you are breast-feeding, avoid stimulants such as caffeine and chocolate. Try to avoid dairy products and nuts for a few weeks, as these may be causing allergic reactions in the baby. There is no evidence that when a breastfeeding mom avoids broccoli, cabbage, beans, and other gas-producing foods the possibility of colic in a baby is reduced.
When a mom is worried, anxious or depressed, babies may cry more. Though symptoms begin to improve at 6 weeks, colic eventually goes away at 3 to 4 months. There are no complications of colic. Infants with colic eat well and gain weight normally. Comforting your baby helps to relieve colic.
Some babies like to be wrapped tight in a blanket (swaddled), while others prefer to be free. Gently rocking the baby is very calming and can help the baby pass gas. Singing lullabies to your baby can be soothing.
Holding your child in an upright position helps move gas out of the body. A warm towel or warm water bottle on the baby’s stomach may be soothing. If you breast-feed, you might reduce colic by allowing the baby to finish suckling the first breast before offering the second. Your doctor may prescribe Simethicone, Infacol or Bonnisan drops to relieve colic.
— Dr Ombeva Malande is a paediatrics and child health expert