WHAT IS INFANT COLIC?
Infant colic is a typical syndrome that usually appears since birth and during the first months of life in healthy babies. It is characterized by an intense, prolonged and inconsolable crying. This situation can cause a deep sense of anguish and despair in parents, that leads in many cases to a pediatrician visit. This situation is a pretty common and can affect 40% of babies up to 4 months. The causes of infant colic still remain a mystery despite all information available, but until today there is no right answer to satisfy the concerns of parents and even of health professionals. In order to clarify the etiology, diagnosis and treatment of colic, we will analyze the data currently available.
HOW TO KNOW IF A BABY HAS COLIC?
The criteria often applied in colic diagnosis are called Wessel Rules or "Rule of 3" and are based on three simple and precise criteria:
- Crying at last more than 3 hours a day.
- More than three days a week.
- More than three weeks in a healthy and properly fed baby.
Moreover, there are some other characteristic symptoms that can help differentiate an episode of colic from a "normal" crying.
Inconsolable crying for more than three hours a day, three days a week and at least three weeks.
Baby with signs of anxiety and tension shown by a generalized tonic contraction.
Red face due to a prolonged duration of crying and total inability to be comforted.
Legs bent on the abdomen is a characteristic gesture in babies who suffer from colic
Bloating: the baby has a swollen belly and more gas than usual.
If the baby has other symptoms than the above, such as diarrhea, fever or vomiting, you should see a specialist. It may be a more serious problem.
WHICH ARE THE CAUSES OF INFANT COLIC?
Infant colic is a condition well known by health professionals since many years and over time experts have developed theories about its etiology, but in many cases these theories have not been linked directly as causes for this problem.
Many studies have attempted to determine possible causes for colic occurrence in infants and the most important are:
- PSYCHOLOGICAL AND SOCIAL CAUSES: The stress situation caused by the constant crying or improper handling of the baby by inexperienced parents, can be one of the causes for the appearance of infant colic. It is important to mention that the way the baby is treated can be distinct according to cultural aspects.
- DIETARY CAUSES: The colic onset may be due to the ingested milk type, the type of diet followed by the mother during breast feed or even some type of food allergy. The only one of these hypotheses that has been proven is food allergies, but this situation is not common and can lead to severe complications and must be diagnosed using specific testing.
- NEUROLOGICAL CAUSES: It’s attributed to the immature nervous system of the newborn as the cause of colic episodes, also suggesting that the baby's crying is a completely natural process, even if it’s duration and intensity can be excessive.
Finally, recent scientific studies have established that the cause of infant colic, in the majority of cases, has a gastrointestinal origin and is mainly due to the immaturity of the digestive tract in the newborn, which affects the absorption of nutrients. A common situation is related to a low endogenous production of lactase enzyme that prevents optimal hydrolyzing of all lactose. A supplementation with lactase enzyme helps to improve the hydrolysis process of lactose and can correct the cause of infant colic.
OTHER WAYS TO TREAT COLIC
There are other possibilities that may help relieve the discomfort of colic and can be grouped into 3 categories:
- DIETARY CHANGES: It’s a kind of intervention to increase the supply of water and fiber in the baby’s diet or change the breast milk or formula for soy milk. This intervention can be effective, but baby’s dietary changes starts only after the 5th month and at this period the colics virtually disappear.
- PHARMACOTHERAPY: Some drugs are used such as dimethicone, simethicone or antispasmodic (Propinoxato) and can achieve an improvement in some cases. However, this type of treatment has some side effects and for this reason their use is not recommended.
- HERBAL EXTRACTS (TEA): This kind of products have demonstrated some efficacy in reducing anxiety, but have no effects in the gastrointestinal tract and for that reason, in the colic caused by transient lactase deficiency, aren’t effective.