Infantile colic, more popularly known as baby colic, affects up to 40% of all babies. Although baby colic is generally considered benign, it can create a very tense atmosphere at home for both the affected babies and parents.
Thankfully, for most babies, anti-colic bottles provide a great and quick solution to the problem.
What is baby colic?
Baby colic is medically defined as a condition which causes infants to cry inconsolably for more than three hours daily, at least three days a week, over a continuous period of more than three weeks.
The condition typically peaks around six weeks after birth, and in most cases, gradually resolves itself when the baby is aged between three and six months old. Some babies continue to demonstrate symptoms of colic until the age of one. However, the numbers are relatively small.
Babies with colic usually cry because of feelings of discomfort in the stomach and intestine area, as well as, in rare cases, slight constipation-related pain, which may get exacerbated if they pass a lot of gas. Aside from crying, babies typically react to the discomfort by arching their back, pulling up both legs, or clenching their fists in an attempt to mimic the comfort of the womb.
What is the cause of baby colic?
The exact causes of baby colic remain a mystery to the medical community. However, researchers believe that it is caused by one or a combination of the following factors:
• A change in the intestinal or gastrointestinal microflora caused by consumption of cow-based milk, substitute dairy products (such a powdered milk or processed cereals) or lactose
• Gastrointestinal imbalances caused by inflammation or heightened serotonin production (which regulates bowel functions)
• Poor feeding method which introduces outside air and air bubbles into the digestive and gastrointestinal systems
All the factors above share one common denominator – they affect aspects of the infant digestive system. This hypothesis is supported by multiple studies which demonstrate high levels of calprotectin in the faecal samples of babies with colic - calprotectin is a reliable marker for digestive and colonic inflammation.
It should be pointed out, however, that organic factors account for less than 5% of infantile colic, which strongly suggests that feeding, psychosocial, and neurodevelopmental disorders play a far greater role in the condition.
How dangerous is baby colic?
On its own, baby colic is neither dangerous nor life threatening, even in worst case scenarios. None of the symptoms can result to any serious health complications. However, they could make the task of caring for a baby harder. For instance, babies might resist drinking milk or suffer from lack of sleep.
Colic, nevertheless, can seriously affect household members. The constant cries of babies can disturb sleep, heighten tempers, and cause irritation. Over time, it can be psychologically draining and lead to chronic fatigue.
The situation can get worse in single parent households, or when it involves mothers who suffer from postpartum depression. The threat of self-injury and infant abuse is quite real in extreme cases. This is why the support of family and friends are crucial for new parents.
How to treat Baby Colic
Currently, there are no prescription medications or clinical treatments to treat baby colic. Formula replacement may help, in cases where babies demonstrate intolerance for certain brands of milk or milk substitutes. Tapping babies between the shoulder blades after each feeding can also help clear trapped air.
In addition, when preparing milk, don’t shake the baby bottle – it will create extra air bubbles. Gripe water and antigas are also reputed to be helpful in treating baby colic, but there is no evidence to support the efficacy of such products.
In recent years though, there is growing evidence that anti-colic bottles can help relieve babies of colic. Unlike ordinary baby bottles, anti-colic bottles are designed to reduce the amount of air that babies can swallow during feeding. Some designs even incorporate internal vents to divert air away from the nipple when the bottle is upturned.
So the next time you go shopping for a baby bottle, remember to look out for anti-colic bottles. It could prove to be crucial in combating colic, as well as creating a happier household.