Colic, the mysterious condition that baffles pediatricians and frustrates parents, starts during the first few weeks of life and eventually subsides within a month or two. General irritability is the most common symptom. As you get to know your baby, though, you'll be able to distinguish between colic from a serious illness. Crankiness, crying and gas are normal symptoms of colic. High-pitched screaming that goes on for hours needs further investigation.
The most obvious symptom of colic is extreme fussiness. Your baby may cry inconsolably for an hour or longer, typically in the late afternoon or evening. She may draw up her arms and legs, flail or clench her fists, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Your baby may make sucking sounds or appear to be looking for food.
An Upset Stomach
A baby with colic will probably have signs of stomach upset, such as belching, gas or a distended tummy. Colic may be caused by an immature digestive tract, allergies or improper feeding technique. If you're breastfeeding, avoid milk products, caffeine, onions, cabbage and other foods that seem to bother your baby, suggests the AAP. Overfeeding can make colic worse, and you should wait at least two hours between feedings. Simethicone drops or an ounce of chamomile tea combined with a bit of brown sugar can ease colic symptoms, suggests Dr. Dyan Hes, a New York City-based pediatrician.
An immature sensory system may be another cause of colic, suggests the AAP. Babies can easily become overloaded by the noises, sounds and sights in their environment. Colic typically begins around 2 weeks of age and begins to subside by 6 weeks of age, says Hes. It is often worse at night — especially after an overwhelmingly busy day. Try to reduce sensory stimulation by keeping the house quiet and keeping the lights low. Swaddle your baby in a light blanket, or snuggle her in a baby carrier. Run a fan or place her where she can hear the dryer. The "white" noise may comfort her, suggests the AAP. Baby massage hasn't been proven to reduce colic, says the AAP, but it doesn't hurt and it may make you both feel better.
Dealing with a colicky baby can frustrate even the most patient parent. Ask for help and take a break. Check with your doctor if the fussiness continues or is accompanied by fever, excessive spitting up or other unusual symptoms, which may indicate illness, suggests the AAP.