The following information is kindly provided by MAM Baby
This month we want to talk about the dreaded subject of infant colics. These usually begin soon after babies are born and they will normally grow out of them around the age of 3 – 4 months.
In this article we try to shed some light on this topic and answer some of your questions.
So-called “infantile colic” (also known as “three months colic”) is a common and very stressful problem for parents of young babies with up to 80% of them reporting that their children suffer from this at least temporarily. Typically, parents take their baby to their paediatrician since they think the baby is in pain because of the continued crying, fussing and tucking of legs. By this time, parents have usually tried all kinds of things to calm the baby (i.e. carrying around, patting, breastfeeding or a bottle of fennel tea) and sometimes even going for a ride in the car. They often say that “every day is like this” to their doctor and their desperation is usually quite noticeable.
So, what are the signs of colic in a baby?
Most often the crying begins suddenly and for no clear reason. Colic crying is intense and often high pitched. The face may flush, and the child is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to comfort. Posture changes like curled up legs, clenched fists and tensed abdominal muscles are common during colic episodes.
What is the clinical definition of “colicky baby”?
Wessel et.al. published a definition in Pediatrics back in 1954 that is valid to this day. It differentiates between “Wessel Colic” and “non Wessel Colic”. By this definition, Wessel Colic is determined when a baby cries and fusses at least three hours, three days a week. Less frequent events are referred to as non Wessel Colic.
What are the causes of infantile colic?
To date, the actual cause of infantile colic is still unknown. For some time it was not clear whether it was an anatomical or functional problem. Many publications consider infantile colic primarily as a “behaviour problem” and partly as a passing phase of early childhood development, with the mother – child interaction often being a factor. Other publications see a “food problem” as the primary cause. This hypothesis is supported through the observation that infantile colic is twice as common among babies that are not breastfed as compared to those that are. Some of these works also provide a possible “allergic origin” (i.e. through bovine immunoglobulin) for discussion. Finally, many reports interpret infantile colic as an “air or gas problem” since a distended abdomen is often observed.
What are the treatment options available?
There are many “home remedies” available including cherry pit sacks, abdominal massage, warm baths, ointments and homeopathics and Simethicone (Antiflat, Lefaxin, Sab Simplex) are also frequently used by parents. Whilst there is nothing to contradict the proper use of these types of therapy, their effectiveness is very limited. Lately, probiotics have also been said to help but information supporting this is incomplete.
Is there a difference in the incidence of colic between breast-fed and bottle-fed babies?
There are several smaller studies and a large scale study from 2003 that show colic is less frequent in babies that are breastfed compared to bottle-fed babies. This could have something to do with drinking from the breast being different than drinking from a bottle. Drinking from the breast consists of sucking and “stripping” the milk through the action of the baby’s tongue while drinking from a conventional bottle is primarily a sucking process.
Which role does the bottle play with regard to colic?
In a 2011 study by Austrian paediatricians indicated that swallowing air and the type of bottle used actually do have an impact on the frequency of colic. In “traditional” baby bottles negative pressure builds up while drinking which must be equalized by allowing more air into the bottle every few seconds. Some newer bottles provide more frequent equalization by letting in air through a vented base. This means air is entering the bottle from the other end and does not pass through the milk, which reduces foaming and babies can drink more quietly and relaxed.
The good news for parents is that the majority of colicky babies improve by the age of 3 to 4 months.
If you have any unanswered questions then please consult your paediatrician.