The medical definition of Colic (also known as infant colic, three-month colic, infantile colic and colic) is an infant crying intensely more than three days a week, for more than three hours, for more than three weeks in a month.
However many babies exhibit symptoms of colic which may not fit this description. It occurs in both breast and bottle fed babies. The crying frequently occurs during a specific period of the day, often in the early evening, but can vary from day to day. The baby tends to pull its legs up to its stomach while crying inconsolably.
Your GP or paediatrician should exclude other causes for crying before the diagnosis of colic is made.
The causes of colic are not fully understood but it is probably related to the baby's immature gut. In order for the gut to digest milk it must have the right enzymes in the right amounts and also have coordinated movement of the food through the gut. The baby's gut may take a while to develop the ability to do this effectively. Because of this wind can be trapped in the gut and the distention caused by this creates pain.
In some babies colic is caused by lactose intolerance due to the lack of lactase - an enzyme to digest lactose -so that the baby is unable to adequately digest breast milk or formula. This can result in gas being produced in the gut. Avoiding dairy products in the mother’s diet if breast feeding may help or using a low lactose formula if bottle fed. There is some evidence to support the administration of probiotics to improve the babies gut flora and thus aid digestion.
A Caesarean-section baby can also be distressed due to the sudden delivery of the baby without the slow moulding process through the birth canal which the baby’s body is designed to cope with. This may make the baby less tolerant to discomfort in the gut and thus more unsettled.
Osteopathic treatment may help to remove the stresses and tension in the baby’s body which may be sensitizing the baby’s nervous system and gut and also making it difficult for the baby to relax enough to pass wind which is causing the gut distension and pain.
We can also give advice on breast feeding issues that can be related to colic - in particular fast milk flow and how to manage this.