How do I know if my Baby has Colic?
Colic is a term used to describe extreme crying and fussiness in babies normally associated with digestive pain. Colic baby symptoms often include:
- Excessive crying or “colic crying” for no apparent reason. Often crying episodes will be around the same time of day which is common but not always in the evenings
- Body tension such as being very stiff, pulling legs up, arching back and a tense or distended abdomen
- Facial discolouration such as reddening of the face, pale or blue skin around the mouth
What are the Main Causes of Colic in Newborns and Babies?
Multiple factors can contribute to causes of colic in babies. As mentioned above the main things to consider are the baby’s gut microbiome health, potential intolerances or allergies to something in their milk or tension in their body causing them pain and putting undue stress on the digestive system.
One example of how tension in the body may contribute to colic is that any strain around the sacrum or lower back may potentially affect the position of the bowel, therefore making it more difficult for gas and stools to pass through the bowel. Tension in the lower back and sacrum can also affect some of the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nerves for digestion.
Another important area to consider when looking at causes of colic in babies is the rib cage and diaphragm, if there is tension here it can cause more pressure on the stomach or the sphincter between the stomach and esophagus contributing to reflux.
One of the most important nerves for the parasympathetic supply to a lot of the organs including the stomach and a large portion of the bowel is the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve passes through a small hole in the base of the skull/top of the neck, therefore tension in the neck may also contribute to colic.
We can also look at how well a baby is feeding as if their latch on either the breast or bottle is not efficient it may mean they are taking in more air while feeding and therefore giving them more gas and colic pain. Any tension around the mouth or neck could contribute to poor feeding in babies, which can therefore also contribute to causing colic.
How do we treat Colic in Babies?
When treating colic in babies it needs to be addressed by looking at different factors such as the health of the baby’s gut microbiome, potential intolerances to something in their milk and tension in their body causing pain and/or more difficulty to digest effectively. Your Paediatric Osteopath will be able to advise you on all of these potential contributing factors or point you in the direction of the best person to help.
As osteopaths we treat colic by looking at areas of tension in a baby’s body that could be causing them pain or discomfort. It is important to, and we always assess at the whole body when examining a baby but the most common areas we see issues when a baby has colic are the lower back, sacrum, the bowel, ribcage, diaphragm, neck, jaw and mouth.
Osteopaths treat the areas of tension in the baby’s body by using techniques such as massage, visceral release for the bowel, gentle stretching and craniosacral technique to help take pressure off essential nerves for digestion.
Your osteopath will also be able to advise you on exercises you can do at home to help relieve the tension for your baby, such as colic massage and specific stretches to help your baby. And will also give you advice on the best ways to manage your baby’s colic such as ways to carry them, ways to soothe them when they are crying and ways to help minimise colic crying episodes.
Every baby is different however newborn colic will often start as early as 3 weeks of age. Colic symptoms can often peak around 6-8 weeks of age and in most babies will significantly reduce or disappear by 4 months old, this is when the babies digestive system has started to mature and develop more. Depending on the underlying cause of the colic and if that is not addressed some babies however have colic symptoms that can last longer, even up to 6-9 months of age.