Everything You Need To Know About Newborn Colic

Little Peter was a gorgeous baby with lots of dark hair, bright blue eyes and chubby cheeks.

He had been the perfect baby for the first few weeks of his life and Peter’s Mum was absolutely besotted. It was hard to believe it was possible to love something so much!

However, when Peter turned three weeks old, something happened.

He started screaming inconsolably in the afternoons for hours on end. There was nothing Peter’s Mum could do to make him feel better; whether she was feeding him, holding him or rocking him, it made no difference. Peter just kept screaming.

“Poor baby,” you are thinking, “he must be suffering with colic.”

We all recognise the signs, but what exactly is colic?

Newborn colic is a pattern of behaviour rather than a diagnosis

Colic is not a diagnosis, as such, but a description of behaviour often seen in newborns involving unexplained crying.

It usually starts at two to four weeks of age in an otherwise healthy, thriving baby, with the baby crying a lot, maybe pulling the knees into the chest or extending the legs and spine. The baby may also have a flushed face and clench his fists. It looks like the baby is suffering from tummy pains, but we don’t actually know.

Sometimes, passing wind or a bowel movement will temporarily alleviate the symptoms.

Colic is a term used to describe a baby that cries inconsolably for at least three hours per day, at least three days per week for at least three weeks, usually starting in the afternoons and crying into the evenings and nights, although it can happen at any time.

Twenty to thirty per cent of babies suffer from colic, with most cases resolving by themselves by four to six months of age.

Colic symptoms can be identified using the PURPLE acronym

Ronald Barr, an American paediatrician, has come up with an acronym to describe what parents are experiencing. He calls it the PURPLE period:

Peak of crying – your baby is crying more and more each day, hitting a peak in the second month, and then tapering off in months three to five.

Unexpected – the crying will come and go without you knowing why.

Resists soothing – nothing seems to help calm down your baby down.

Pain-like face – your baby might look like he/she is in pain, but we don’t actually know if she is.

Long lasting – your baby might cry for five hours or more every day.

Evening – your baby may cry more towards the end of the day.

The cause of colic is still unknown

The cause of colic is unknown, although there are lots of theories.

The immaturity of the baby’s gut is one such theory: a newborn has very few bacteria and bacteria types in their gut. The gut bacteria help to break down food substances, protects the lining of the gut, helps determine what enters the bloodstream and is also involved in the immune response.

It takes many months to develop a healthy gut flora and in the meantime, the baby may be sensitive to certain things.

With breastfeeding, some babies may react to what their mother eats, such as dairy (milk, cheese, yoghurt, butter, chocolate) and gluten (wheat, oats, barley, rye) or certain vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, onions, garlic and chilli. Babies may also react to chocolate, caffeine and nicotine.

Bottle fed babies may similarly react to the lactose or casein in their formula.

Wind is another theory. Sometimes the baby may struggle to form a perfect seal on the nipple or teat and as a result may swallow air while feeding. This can happen if the baby has a small mouth or tongue tie, but also if the milk flow is very fast or the feeding position isn’t ideal.

Not being able to bring the wind up after a feed will create similar issues.

Another theory involves over-stimulation of the baby’s nervous system. The baby is exposed to a tremendous amount of new sensory input that he has to compute: sounds, sights, smells and movements that he has never experienced before. Some babies have lower thresholds for what they can handle than others and they only have one way to communicate with us that they have had too much!

Mum’s mood can carry through to the baby

A baby is very tuned in to what is happening to Mum. If Mum is feeling anxious about her new role as a mother (or mother of 2, 3 or 4) the baby may be picking up on this both through stress hormones in the breast milk and the state of Mum herself, then expressing the stress and worry experienced by them both.

Have a read of our colic relief blog to learn what you can do to help your baby if he or she is experiencing colic type symptoms.

And remember we are always here to help.

Need more information about newborn colic? Contact the team from Family Chiropractic Charlestown in Newcastle now.

Image: Pixabay