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Colic Remedies

Colic is prolonged crying in an infant, without an apparent cause. By definition the cause is unknown, but often, gastrointestinal discomfort is suspected.

It is important to put crying in perspective. Infants cry. That is part of what they do, and the amount of crying correlates poorly with parental ability. The amount of time spent crying by an infant increases daily up to about six weeks of age; from there, it slowly decreases as other verbalization replaces the crying. Your own infant’s cry is the worst sound in the world (outside of the first moments after birth when it is the most wonderful!). If infants cried soft musical sounds they would be ignored. It is precisely for that reason that infants have long, loud, grating cries. It effectively gains your attention and causes you to assess the infant’s needs on a regular basis.

The approach to the crying baby.

When an infant cries incessantly, the first step is to rule out the obvious:

  • Try feeding the infant even if you don’t think that he or she is hungry-you may need to calm the infant down first if the infant is too frantic to feel the nipple in his/her mouth or to take the breast.
  • Try burping the infant, as a large gas bubble may be to blame.
  • Check the diaper.
  • Check for clothes that are too tight or for threads or hairs that may have wrapped around a finger, hand, foot, or toe.
  • Check the infant’s temperature. If under three months, this should be a rectal temperature. It is the most accurate method of checking for fever in newborns and young infants.

If you have found no obvious cause to the crying and if the infant has no fever, no blood in the stool, no vomiting, and is vigorous, then you may try the following approaches for colic:

  • Try various positions, often bouncing lightly on your lap, rocking side to side on a shoulder and patting the bottom, or the “flying position” will relieve the crying.
  • Try laying the infant down in the crib or bassinet and leave the room for fifteen minutes. This gives you a break and gives an overtired infant the chance to fall asleep without being stimulated. A pacifier may be helpful.
  • Try a fifteen minute car ride around the neighborhood.
  • Recheck the diaper and the temperature, and retry feeding. Often by this time, the infant may have become hungry, or may be crying for another reason.

If an hour has passed and the infant is still crying, call your child’s doctor: rarely there can be a serious cause for the crying including twisting of the bowels, testicles or ovaries, or hidden infection. Some causes, like corneal abrasion caused by the infant scratching accidentally at the eyes, or ear infection, may not be especially serious but still require a doctor to diagnose the problem.

For those who regularly suffer through bouts of colic…Keep only one adult with the child, the others should go take a break in a distant room. Shifts should be taken if necessary, so that one adult does not constantly have to stay with the infant.Take solace knowing that colic usually starts to fade out around 3 to 4 months.Try to keep calm. It is a frustrating situation. If you find that you are getting angry with your infant, it is time to get help, which may include increased grandparental or family assistance and counseling.

Simethicone (Phazyme, Mylicon, others) is a nonabsorbed substance that breaks down foam in the bowels by separating the gas from the liquid, potentially allowing for easier dissipation of the collected gas. Controlled studies have not found simethicone to be helpful with colic. However, it is possible that select infants who have gassy abdominal pain might benefit from its use.

Swings, vibrating chairs, and similar devices seem to help calm some babies, and should be considered. Remember that infants should never be left unattended in any of these devices.

Prescription antispasmodic medications (Bentyl and others), opiates (Paregoric and others), or sedatives (Donnatol and others) should not be used.