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Colicky pain in infants is still far from being understood and explained. Some experts claim it occurs because of their immature digestive system, and others suggest it will go away as soon as the baby adapts to the world outside the womb.

Many parents have faced inconsolable crying and unpleasant colicky pain in their infants. With their first child, colicky screams may get so scary that parents often bring their otherwise healthy baby to a pediatrician. In fact, crying is the number one reason for all pediatrician visits within the first three months of a child's life, and colicky pain leads 17 percent (one in six families) to consult a doctor. [1, 2]

The word colic is derived from the Greek word „kolikos“, meaning colon or intestine. It’s a benign process in which the otherwise healthy infant has outbursts of inconsolable crying for more than three hours per day, more than three days per week, all lasting longer than three weeks — diagnostic criteria known as the “rule of three”. [3]

Colicky pain is a natural process that occurs in up to 25 percent of all babies. Experts say that symptoms typically go away between the fourth and sixth month of life. [4]

Is Colic A Byproduct Of Exterogestation?

It was nice and comforting inside the womb, and suddenly — a baby loses this familiarity and coziness. From the dark, warm, and shock-absorbent sanctuary that was the mother's belly, they arrive at a completely new and scary place. According to Dr. Ashley Montagu, birth just means the bridge between the womb and the world, and gestation is continued out of the womb until the baby is ready to crawl, which also takes about nine months — a concept known as exterogestation. [5, 6, 7]

While there’s nothing you can do to make colicky pain disappear and it will go away on its own eventually, certain things can be done to ease the cramping and calm your baby. Just remember that no baby is the same and no method works for all of them, but these several techniques are proven to help if your baby has colic.

Carrying Is Caring

Carrying means less crying, according to researchers! A study has shown that carried babies cry 43 percent less when compared to others. This makes sense because when being held, they’re close to another body, and this brings peace, especially if the one who carries the baby is their mother. This way they can feel her warmth and hear her heartbeats, just like in the womb. The scientists concluded that a lack of carrying in society in general may predispose to colic and crying in otherwise healthy infants [8]. Skin to skin contact may help if your baby has colic, as it promotes bonding and helps the baby to adapt better to life outside of the womb.

Burp And Hold The Baby In The Upright Position

To relieve colicky pain in infants, try burping your baby every time after they’ve eaten — even when they seem sleepy and you hate picking them up. Lying down after they’ve eaten may cause the baby to be nervous and cranky, and make symptoms worse in infants who suffer from colic.

Provide Tummy Time

Lay the baby on their tummy, or even better — lay them across your stomach. The warmth of your body and the sound of your breathing can do wonders when it comes to calming your child [9]. Rubbing the baby’s back while on their tummy is soothing and may help them pass gas. Besides helping with colicky pain and screaming, tummy time also strengthens your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles, thus preparing the baby for sitting independently one day. Just make sure that tummy time is conducted under supervision because putting an infant to sleep on their stomach greatly increases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) [10]. 

Massage The Baby

Give your little one a rub a couple of times per day. I’m not talking about learning to be a masseuse here. Just be gentle and responsive to your infant’s pleasure or discomfort. You don’t have any idea how to massage a baby? No problem. Place the baby on their tummy. Stroke their shoulders, arms, back, and legs for about a minute each, and do it as gently as possible. This improves their muscle tone and helps to calm them.

Play Some White Noise

Inside of the womb is quite noisy, even noisier than a vacuum cleaner. People make a mistake when trying to shush everyone and everything around their infant — the world of quietness is unfamiliar to newborns.

The way a white noise machine works is that it creates a masking effect which blocks out all those background noises and sudden changes that may distract a newborn who is trying to fall asleep. It’s best to use them in the day when there’s more noise that can wake the baby up, and use them wisely so the infant won’t get used to them. You don’t have to buy a white noise machine — a washing machine, hairdryer, or fan can also work great, and there are tons of mobile apps available.

Provide And Seek Support

Even though this item is not directly related to relieving colicky pain, it’s important because infant screams and agony tear many parents apart. Instead of supporting each other, parents often start fighting due to tiredness and frustration. Don’t allow this to happen — your child needs a loving and happy family. There’s evidence that children can easily pick up their parents’ anxiety because they look to their parents for guidance, even in infancy. [11]

Colicky pain hurts the parents too. It’s normal that you feel sad and frustrated your baby has to get through that awful tummy cramping, but remember it doesn't mean that your child is unwell and it is not your fault. Your baby is not rejecting you; they do not hate your guts as it may sometimes seem. Ask your close ones for help — I’m sure that grandparents or a close friend would be happy to assist and spend some time with your baby so you and your spouse can recharge occasionally. Remember that this doesn't mean you’re betraying your child! Venting will make you a better parent when you get back.

Note: You should never shake a baby, no matter how hard they’re crying and how frustrated or tired you are. Studies have shown that the number one trigger for shaken baby syndrome (SBS) — a form of serious brain injury due to shaking a baby — is frustration with persistent crying, which means that colicky infants are at higher risk. [12]

Show your little one a lot of love and remember that colicky pain and screaming will pass relatively quickly. Make sure to listen closely to your child’s needs. Follow their signs; they themselves will show you what they like and what soothes them most.

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