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What is colic?

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The signs, symptoms and cause of discomfort.

Mention the word colic to a roomful of parents and the calamitous look on their faces will give you an idea of just how sanity sapping the condition can be. Why? A colicky baby may cry inconsolably non-stop for more than three hours a day, which is both heart wrenching and nerve shredding at the same time. 

Colic causes

Despite extensive investigation, researchers are still unsure what causes colic. Some believe its symptoms occur as a result of digestive system immaturity – a developing gut might battle with indigestion and wind, for example. Others advocate that a daily dose of sensory stimulation – noise, colour, light and smell – on an underdeveloped nervous system can overwhelm a sensitive baby causing her to breakdown, normally at the end of the day.

Signs and symptoms

A baby that is healthy, thriving and perfectly happy between bouts of crying spells may have colic if: 

  • He cries for extended periods for no apparent reason and the usual methods of comforting him don’t work 
  • He cries mainly in the late afternoon or evening
  • He doesn’t want to feed, pulls his knees up to his tummy and arches his back

Still unsure? Take your baby for a check-up, if your doctor rules out any medical cause for his persistent crying – reflux oesophagitis, an ear infection, lactose intolerance or severe nappy rash, for example – it’s likely the poor little mite has colic. 

Is it harmful?

Truth be told, colic is more painful for us than it is for our tiny tots because parents have to endure relentless crying, usually at the end of the day when we’re feeling depleted and exasperation stakes are high. Don’t be hard on yourself, the fact that your wee one has colic is not dangerous to her health and the symptoms are not your fault. Instead, take comfort in the knowledge that her colicky cries will be a thing of the past in a few short months and happiness will reign supreme – aah! 

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