When baby cries, it is as if Supermom has been called into action. She swiftly sets about trying to make baby happy and comfortable to stop the tearful episode. But if the crying spell stretches out to three hours or more, a panic switch is automatically activated, and frustrated Supermom freezes.
There’s no need to panic, experts say. A lot of other mothers are going through the same thing in different time zones. Kidshealth.com estimates that 25 percent of infants have colic between the 3rd and 6th week after birth. The good news is that it all ends when baby is about 3 to 4 months old. Studies have shown that babies who had colic grow up into kids who are no different in terms of personality, mental health, and intelligence from children who never had colic.
Signs of Colic
Ma. Monina Deveyra, M.D., a pediatric resident at Medical City in Pasig, agrees that having a colicky baby—one who cries continuously for three to four hours, about three nights a week—can frazzle moms’ nerves. “You can tell that it is colic if the crying spells have a pattern,” she explains.
Aside from the crying, babies may lift their head, draw their legs up to their tummy, become red in the face, and pass wind. Some babies even refuse to eat. Difficulty falling and staying asleep is also common. An online article about colic on Bupa.org.uk says that colic is not a serious condition, and that research shows babies with colic continue to eat and gain weight normally despite the prolonged crying.
According to Dr. Deveyra, colicky babies may also have cold hands and feet, “Kaya sinasabing nalalamigan sila. In the Philippines, colic is translated as kabag, even though there is no actual data if air in the abdomen is the cause [of discomfort].” As such, colic in babies is treated as gas pains with a sundry of home remedies that are intended to help baby pass gas.
Long, Loud Nights
It would come as a surprise that parents will go to any length to stop the crying. Maria Reina Santos, architect and mom to 8-month-old Karol Chelsea, experiences the frustration first-hand. “I tried a lot of things to soothe her, until I found that wrapping her in a blanket and tying it particularly snugly around her tummy seems to work.
“One memorable time was when we went up to Baguio. Siguro nalamigan siya doon, and she had another colic attack.” It came to a point that Santos had to plan her schedule in such a way that she was always present during parts of the day that her daughter would likely have another episode. She reasons, “I wanted to be the one to be there to comfort her.”
Click here to read more about old-school remedies to treat colic.
Read on about old-school remedies to treat colic.
Lola Coring Alcid, a retired administrative staff officer, recounts how elders in her hometown of Rosario, La Union, would reach for bottles of Acete de Alcamporado and Acete de Manzanilla when their babies would get fussy. “They’d massage these oils on babies’ tummies to stop their stomachaches. My aunt even used langis ng niyog mixed with petroleum jelly on my cousins, and I’ve heard of others who mixed coconut oil with gin. These treatments were intended to warm up the abdominal area para lumabas ’yung hangin at lamig.”
Ginah Ramos, M.D., a pediatrician at Medical Plaza in Makati, says that the use of Acete de Manzanilla, which is still available even in neighborhood sari-sari stores, may be rooted in the idea of infant massage and touch therapy. “It may soothe the colicky baby, hence helping him stop his crying. But since colic is an organ disorder, using these oils does not really cure it.” Caution should also be used with heat therapy because some treatments may burn or be harmful to baby’s skin.
Bigkis (Cloth Binder)
Alcid also recalls babies’ need for a bigkis, a small piece of cloth wrapped around the tummy “para hindi ito pasukan ng hangin at malamigan.” When there is a colic attack, the bigkis may also be wrapped around a small helping of warm rice before it is placed around the baby’s tummy.
Other non-medical remedies that have been tried in more recent years include the use of “white noise”: the sound of a vacuum cleaner or washing machine, holding baby while seated on a vibra chair or leaning against a vibrating pillow, or taking baby out on long car rides.
Click here to read about what the doctor says when it comes to treating colic, its causes and red flags to watch out for.
Read on about what the doctor says when it comes to treating colic, its causes and red flags to watch out for.
What The Doctor Says
According to Dr. Ramos, what doctors usually prescribe for colicky babies are Dicycloverine HCL infant drops (Relestal), which help relieve symptoms by acting as a muscle relaxant.
Burping is also very important, says Dr. Ramos, because it relieves any trapped air that can make baby uncomfortable. Waiting for baby to burp is what Citibank training manager Christine Esguerra credits her 3-month-old baby Trey’s sunny disposition to. “I make sure to burp him after every feeding, even if it takes 15 minutes for him to let out the air,” she shares. “Sometimes, I even stop feeding him midway to burp him. I also invested in anti-colic feeding bottles.”
What Causes Colic?
There is no known cause for colic, although it is attributed to indigestion and either overfeeding or hunger. “So, it can be either walang laman ’yung tiyan nung baby, or sobra naman siyang busog. With any of these, even baby’s bowel movement is affected,” explains Dr. Ramos. “Since a baby’s gastrointestinal tract is not yet mature, we have to be careful with our baby’s feeding habits,” she cautions. “The theory is that colic usually happens at nighttime because during the morning, wala pa masyadong bulk ’yung tiyan ni baby,” she adds. So remember to feed baby in the right position, at the right time, and with the right amount of milk.
Other colic culprits, according to a web article on drpaul.com, include a possible allergy to cow’s milk, though breastfed babies are not necessarily exempt from colic. Thelaboroflove.com article “Colic in the Breastfed Baby” by Dr. Jack Newman says that colic may also be caused by a particular food taken by the nursing mom and the length of time that the baby actually breastfeeds. The drpaul.com article also cites two other factors: a baby’s immature nervous system, which leaves him feeling wound up and stressed out at the end of a long day; and a baby’s ability to sense parental anxiety. The article advises keeping baby’s stress levels to a minimum especially during feeding.
Even if colic has no permanent harmful effects, it can really yank on a mother’s chain. “The important thing to remember for moms of colicky babies is that they should not panic. They shouldn’t blame themselves for their baby’s crying. If they are well-informed about what is happening to their baby, they will feel better. It is also good to talk their frustrations over with their baby’s pediatrician,” says Deveyra.
If your baby is on his 2nd or 3rd crying jag for the week, and if you feel that you have reached your point of maximum tolerance, experts say that it is okay to pass your baby on to Daddy or to someone else while you take a breather. You can always go back to being Supermom after you’ve regrouped.
Cause For Worry
Even though colic has no known complications and doesn’t usually warrant a trip to the doctor’s clinic, pediatrician Ginah Ramos, M.D., says there are some red flags that parents have to watch out for, as these may signal an infection in the gastrointestinal tract or an obstruction in the intestines:
- Fever - Vomiting - Weight loss - Diarrhea or presence of blood in the stool - Paleness of skin
- Persistent colic with enlargement of the stomach