What is Colic?

Mothers seem to be eternally talking about baby’s wind, or colic. I used to live on a farm, and they were always talking about horses having colic. The terms fascinate me!

Colic is common in infants, and simply means the presence of tummy pains, so naturally baby cries. It’s most common with the first baby, causing much maternal concern. Usually it starts in the first couple of weeks after coming home from hospital, and frequently persists for three to four months.

Colic Causes

Usually the pain is due to air swallowed during feeds. The baby sucks madly on mum’s breast, swallowing lots of air besides milk. If bottle-fed, the same thing happens, especially if the holes in the teat are too small and baby keeps sucking air. Or if they are too large and too many in number, heaps of air bubbles are swallowed simultaneously in an effort to cope with the oversupply.

Hungry babies will often suck their fingers when no bottle is forthcoming. This gets more air into their stomachs. All of which upsets mum to no end. So to minimize baby’s distress, she invariably increases the feeds, causing the stomach to become over distended, with greater reason than ever for the child to cry. Doctors have found that the tense, overactive baby is more prone to colic, especially when family emotions run away with the situation. The infant senses it all and reacts accordingly!

Sometimes there is a genuine allergy, such as intolerance of cow’s milk, a not uncommon cause.

Colic Treatment

There are plenty of simple measures mother can try. Getting rid of the air or “wind” from baby’s stomach is the first measure. Gentle back rubbing with the infant over your shoulder is a tried and proven method. The air bubbles rise to the highest point, and with a resounding burp this will be quickly eliminated. It may take several burps before the trapped air has all been released.

Gently rubbing the tummy may facilitate the movement of air bubbles through the bowel to the other end. Air is never absorbed by the bloodstream; it must escape at one end or the other, and the sooner the better. A warm water-bottle may help (take care not to burn baby though). Gently rocking baby in the arms can also help. Incidentally, this is an excellent way in which to soothe any baby’s emotional state. Sometimes a suppository in the back passage will help if there is constipation as well.

If simple measures fail, the answer is yes. It may be necessary to have baby’s formula altered; an increase in the food intake to avoid hunger; alter the ingredients; check for food allergies; check mother’s nipples if baby is breastfed; discuss the emotional factors with the parent; prescribe medication. Usually a happy outcome occurs, and before long, baby’s wind and colic problem is a hazy incident of the past, best left there for good!