How to Help Your “Colicky Baby”

My story

After numerous trips to numerous doctors to try to determine the reason/s for my baby’s incessant, day after day, week after week crying, a doctor informed me he may just have a “colicky temperament”. Don’t worry, the doctor assured me, this will likely pass by the time he is three months of age, and definitely by 6 months.

When you are living day in and day out with an impossible to soothe, bundle of loud, raw emotions, this seems longer than eternity. And I wasn’t buying it. Sure, babies fuss and cry some of the time. This is how they express their discomfort, their needs, and their wants. But there is a difference between “fussy-baby-crying” and “crying-every-waking-moment-in-a-high-pitch-rib-sucking-wail-crying”.

My mama intuition was blaring almost as loudly as my little guy’s verbal expressions: he is crying for a reason!!!

Turns out, that thing called intuition was RIGHT!! He had an undiagnosed tongue tie, which was affecting his ability to breastfeed efficiently, he had reflux, constipation, he had a fractured clavicle (from birth), and he had a very sensitive temperament. No wonder he was crying! There are many adults who would whine more than he did if they were experiencing similar issues.

After reuniting with sleep months after this initial difficult phase had passed, my mental capacity increased sharply allowing me to learn more about the “colicky baby”.

What is “Colic”?

Colic is a term applied to healthy babies who cry for more than 3 hours per day, more than 3 days per week, and for more than 3 weeks.  And sadly, it is also a term many doctors use to describe babies for whom they have no answers. Doctors have used the word colic as a diagnosis in the past. Colic is a description, NOT a diagnosis. There is likely a reason for your baby’s cries. He needs help!

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is often discovered to be the culprit causing the colicky baby to cry. Every baby has reflux, but some babies have it worse than others. If you have a “happy spitter”, reflux may cause you no more problems than extra laundry. For other babies, GERD can cause a painful, raw oesophagus, irritated further by every feeding.  Ouch!! Even if your baby isn’t a spitter, don’t rule out reflux as the cause of your baby’s difficult temperament, reflux can be silent too.

What do I do if I suspect my baby has GERD?  Treatment of GERD means a trip to your doctor to discuss an antacid or a proton pump inhibitor given to your baby in liquid form through a syringe. You should see improvements within a couple weeks if GERD is an irritant for your baby.

Milk Protein Allergy

Milk protein allergy is the other main colic culprit. In a nutshell, when babies with this sensitivity ingest a dairy product, an irritation or inflammation occurs in their intestinal tract. When the protein in the milk hits the sensitive baby’s gut, the baby’s immune system perceives this protein as a problem and begins sending white blood cells to the lining of the intestinal tract. Chemicals are released from the white blood cells causing red, swollen, and sometimes ulcerated sections of the GI tract.  Triple ouch!

What can I do to help my baby if I suspect a milk protein allergy?

Luckily this one is an easy fix. Eliminate dairy completely from your diet for 2 weeks and watch for a difference in your baby. It can take a week or so for the GI tract to heal, but you should start noticing improvements within the first two weeks if this is the true cause of discomfort for your colicky baby.

If you would like more detailed information about the colic phenomenon, I highly recommend “Colic Solved” by Dr.Bryan Vartabedian, a paediatric gastroenterologist, and “colic expert”.

Other causes:

  • Pain from a birth injury/other injury
  • Tongue or lip tie
  • Poor latch with breastfeeding
  • Gas
  • Overstimulation
  • Overtired
  • Infection

Living with a colicky baby can be stressful, exhausting, frustrating, and heart-wrenching. Although difficult, taking care of yourself can give you what you need to get through the next day and the next and the next. By taking care of yourself and by trusting your intuition, you can help your baby through this difficult stage.

It’s incredible how much easier life seems when our littles are happy.

Can a gentle sleep coach help my colicky baby to sleep?  The answer there is a resounding YES!

How can I help my baby sleep?

Andrea Galambos
Blissful Nights
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach