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Updated: August 17, 2013 18:39 IST

Dry those tears

Dr. Vivek Sharma
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There is no firm evidence that the cause is intestinal, but this is often suspected.
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There is no firm evidence that the cause is intestinal, but this is often suspected.

Tips to deal with a colicky baby.

Excessive crying in infants is distressing for all concerned. It occurs in 10-15 per cent of infants, usually between the ages of three weeks and three months.

Colic is a common cause during the first few months. Paroxysmal, crying or screaming accompanied by drawing up of the knees takes place several times a day, particularly in the evening. There is no firm evidence that the cause is intestinal, but this is often suspected.

Persistent crying signals distress and should stimulate efforts for an explanation. Hunger, swallowed air, milk intolerance or an acute illness must be excluded.

The typical pattern is that of a usually calm and placid infant, who suddenly screams, draws knees up to abdomen and passes gas or faeces. An episode can last from 10 minutes to hrs. Occasionally lactose intolerance or gastro-oesophageal reflux may be responsible.

The condition is essentially benign, although it may precipitate non-accidental injuries in infants already at risk.

Babies with colic are fine between bouts of colic. They feed well, grow well, and do not show any other signs of illness.

What to do:

Parents should remember that they had not done anything to cause the colic. Also it usually goes away by 3-4 months of age, often much sooner.

Holding the baby close to the body and using soothing words are helpful.

Drugs (sedatives and antispasmodics) are ineffective and better avoided given the hazards of overdosing and toxicity.

Underfeeding and overfeeding should be discontinued. Alter feeding and burping technique if the infant is swallowing air.

Sometimes an automobile ride, if possible, works wonders. Devices that can be attached to the crib or bed and gently vibrate it help in some cases.

Colic happens more frequently when the mother has postnatal depression or feels very down after the baby was born. If this is the case, see the doctor.

Try to avoid several people fussing all at once, as this may cause anxiety. Leave one person to cope with the baby at a time. Take it in turns if you have help.

Parents also need reassurance that allowing the infant to cry is all right if all soothing techniques have failed.

Remember a baby with colic will have spells when it is perfectly fine. There are certain other conditions sometimes mistaken for colic.

If you are unsure about the cause of a distressed or crying baby, then see a doctor.

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