Nothing rivals the excitement of being around your newborn, especially if it’s your first child. The little bundle of joy that does no more than cry a little, eat, pee and sleep often marvels most parents. However, things can fast turn around and one day an infant can flare up into inconsolable crying, with fist clenched and legs flailing in desperation. Despite your efforts to console the infant, the episode goes on for quite some time, and surprisingly repeats every other day for a number of weeks. Most parents will often panic and immediately think there is something wrong with their baby.
Research shows that up to 25% of newborns tend to cry excessively for no clear reason, as they are otherwise healthy and well kept. This baffling behavior often comes as a result of a condition called colic. Scientific findings are yet to explain its exact roots, but a child is considered to be colicky if they tend to cry more than 3 hours a day for more than 3 consecutive days in a week. Colic usually begins at the age of 2 weeks or later and will go away at 3 to 4 months.
Since colic is not a disease, it tends to be subjective and there is no standard way of measuring or identifying it. A recent study showed that not every child experiences colic and that there is no particular underlying cause. Some doctors regard it as part of the developmental process that newborns have to undergo as they adjust to life outside the womb. Other theories hold it that colic occurs because of imbalances in the brain chemical serotonin. This is to mean that colicky babies usually have high levels of serotonin that cause intestinal muscles to contract. According to the theory, the imbalance will correct when the baby starts to make melatonin, which relaxes the intestinal muscles. Other supposed causes of colic include immature digestive system, food allergies and infant acid reflux.
The mysterious nature of colic can make it a frustrating and even exhausting experience for parents. Some parents develop a sense of guilt and inadequacy as their child seems to be in anguish and nothing they do brings relief. However, the advice given by pediatricians is that you remain calm and patient as you try out different soothing strategies, until the colic eventually passes. And you don’t have to be a hero and handle it all alone, involve your family members or close friends and take turns in soothing the baby while observing which techniques work and which don't.