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Understanding What is Infant Colic

In this post, learn what is infant colic, what causes colic in infants and remedies to treat colic in newborns at home.

Today I want to share my personal story with infant son and his experience with colic.

Then, I will dive into what is infant colic, and share tips on calming colic in your newborn.

*Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor and I am not giving medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional if needed. I am mother and blogger sharing my personal experiences and opinions with the goal of helping other fellow parents.

Related baby tips:

What is Infant Colic

Here’s my story with infant colic

If you have read any of my older posts, you know that my adorable son, Lennox, was not an easy baby. From day one of his 9.4 lb. entrance into the world via C-Section, he was a horrible sleeper (and still is to this day). He suffered from infant reflux, and breastfeeding was a straight-up battle.

Those first few weeks of his precious life sent me spiraling into a deep, dark postpartum depression. I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was doing wrong, and instead of spending the time loving my wailing infant, I was consulting Dr. Google every five seconds.

On my search history you might have found:

“Why is my baby not sleeping?”

“ Is it normal for my baby to be spitting up so much?”

“Why don’t I feel connected to my baby?”

“Is it okay not to love the newborn stage?”

“Why is my baby fussing at the breast?”

By week three, I felt that something was off with me, and I knew that to take care of Lennox properly, I needed to help myself first. After self-diagnosing myself with Postpartum Depression and confirming it with my doctor, I started to free myself from the deep dark cloud that was not allowing me to see the clarity and take the proper measures to ameliorate Lennox’s fussiness.

Did you know that 50-70 percent of women suffer from the “baby blues,” and 15 percent of these women go on to develop a more severe PPD? If this is you, you are not alone. Please reach out to your doctor and find a support group as soon as possible.c

That’s when I had a lightbulb moment and referred back to The Happiest Baby on the Block. It all made sense now. My baby was not broken. I simply needed to change the way I was doing things. Once I came to this realization and implemented Dr. Karp’s tips with Lennox, I knew what the underlying issue was, and I became an expert on how to take charge of his colicky moments.

I would love to share Dr. Karp’s main points with you. However, I highly recommend buying this book and reading it entirely because it is genuinely so useful for understanding the myths and theories of colic and how to combat it.

Keep reading below to understand more about colic and tips on how to survive it.

What is Infant Colic?

Colic is a very mysterious and undefined term. According to Mayoclinic.org, “colic is frequent, prolonged and intense crying or fussiness in a healthy infant.”

The key term here is healthy. Baby is eating, sleeping (maybe), peeing, pooping, growing, (read more about healthy babies here), but for some reason, she has crying spouts throughout the day that can last hours.

When Lennox was born, he was the most charming baby during the daytime. All of a sudden, the clock strikes 7 pm, and it was nonstop crying. There were pauses in between, but I couldn’t figure out any method to make it stop until he would finally fall asleep for the night—sorry, I mean the next 45 minutes, all to start the screaming over again.

This cycle happened All. Night. Long.  

I remember when Lennox would finally fall asleep, I would lay in bed scared even to attempt to close my eyes because I knew he would start screaming bloody murder, and I would have to start the whole process over again.

It was scary, and it was absolutely exhausting. Having a baby in itself is tiring, but having a colicky baby is out-of-this-world exhausting. I was in pure survival mode.

You best bet that when I heard family or peers talked about how their baby was “sleeping through the night”—a concept I still do not understand and Lennox is almost three!—I would grit my teeth and imagine poking their eye out with a skewer. Okay, not really, but maybe.

Please don’t get me started about when everyone and their mothers visited and tried to help during a screaming spout only to realize it made the situation worse. They would graciously say goodbye exit as quickly as possible. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. All I know is that their visits became near to extinct.

This, my friends, is infant Colic at its colicky finest…

If you are reading this, and relate to this story, do not fret, because I am here to highlight Karp’s most essential points about Colic and give you some reaffirmation and tips on how to deal with a colicky baby,

But first, I want to start with one of the most encouraging quotes from Karp’s book. “If you have a challenging baby, don’t lose heart. These kids often become the sweetest and most enthusiastic children on the block!” (Karp, 59).

“If you have a challenging baby, don’t lose heart. These kids often become the sweetest and most enthusiastic children on the block!” (Karp, 59).

What is infant Colic according to Dr. Harp?

In chapter three of The Happiest Baby on the Block, Karp goes into the five theories of Colic that have emerged over the generations. They are the following:

Theories of Colic over the generations

  1. Gas, constipation, and overactive intestines.
  2. Food sensitivities and stomach acid reflux
  3. Maternal anxiety
  4. A baby’s immature brain
  5. A challenging temperament

He goes into further detail of each of these theories and explains how each theory may be the cause of the baby’s crying throughout the day, but is not the underlying cause of Colic.

His arguments reveal that Colic happens during a specific timeframe, usually around two weeks past the due date until months three or four.

Karp emphasizes the start being two weeks past the due date because even in situations with premature babies, Colic does not typically begin until two weeks past their due date.

Therefore, if a baby were to incessantly cry from tummy issues or because she has an intense temperament, why would the crying stop after a precise time frame?

He also argues that Colic is much worse in the evening, also known as witching hour. Then, if tummy troubles (gas, constipation, food sensitives, reflux) were the issue, the baby would be crying at all times of the day.

Another one of Karp’s arguments is that there are many cultures around the world where Colic is not a thing. These babies, too, experience stomach issues, and some are born early; however, it is very uncommon for these babies to have screaming fits for hours.

His last point is that the colicky crying highly improves when the baby is rocked or held. This, in turn cause more damage to an infant suffering from tummy issues.

Enough already, tell me what is infant colic!!

Thank you for making it to this point. Karp has so many interesting points in his book. I could keep writing and writing about them all. But, to answer your question, he theorizes that:

Colic exists because of the missing fourth trimester.

He offers a history of evolution and how our ancestor’s babies grew to have bigger and bigger heads. To ensure proper delivery and safety of the mother, babies were born earlier.

Due to this earlier delivery, mothers learned how to protect their immature babies outside of the womb. By imitating the womb on earthside through slings, warm clothing, and cuddling…

(again, read this book to know more fascinating facts!!)

Karp argues that over the past century in the United States, parents have stopped cuddling their babies due to bad expert advice that it will spoil the child.

I can also add that living in a high-driven capitalistic society requires the participation of both parents to work to maintain a living. The short maternity leave given does not allow the mother sufficient time to be with her baby during the fourth trimester. 

Also, the idea of a village family has become extinct. Grandparents, who once used to look after the grandkids, also have to work to stay afloat.

This explains Karp’s theory about colic-free cultures, where mother’s and women (village family) hold their infants for 24-hours a day. You read right. 24 hours a day.

This may sound bizarre, but I agree entirely. Having a first generational LARGE immigrant family (well in-laws), I have witnessed this phenomenon first-hand.

The majority of Carlos’ (hubby) family live under one roof. The seven youngest babies, that I have seen grow up, were almost always held. They also co-slept, were breastfed into toddler years, and they hardly ever fussed.

Meanwhile, Carlos and I live alone with little to no help with Lennox. Having to carry out daily life responsibilities, plus having postpartum depression restricted me from giving Lennox exactly what he needed. A fourth trimester.

But once I took reigns of my postpartum depression and got treated. I put Karp’s “ancient art of soothing” tips to work, and Lennox’s colic slowly disappeared.

How to “turn infant Colic off” through Karp’s Ancient Art of Soothing

Karp says that a way to combat Colic is to create a resemblance of life inside the womb for your baby. This is done by implementing the “5 S’s” during times when your baby is inconsolable. (93)

The “5 S’s” are:

  1. Swaddling
  2. Side/Stomach
  3. Shhhhing
  4. Swinging
  5. Sucking

Karp goes into these “5 S’s” in the whole second part of his book, but I will mention them briefly to give an idea. Combining all five of these will work as an off-switch to your baby’s cries, and trust me, it works. It got me out of the fourth trimester alive and sane.

Step 1: Swaddle

The first step is to swaddle your baby, which will calm your baby’s reflexes. This will soothe the baby’s Moro reflex, or the falling reflex which according to Karp “ your baby’s arms shoot out and around, as if he’s trying to group hold of you.” (92)

Lennox has a strong Moro reflex until around four months of age (end of the fourth trimester!!) See picture below.

This reflex would instantly put Lennox into tears, which is why swaddling was a lifesaver for us.

Step 2: Put baby on side

Once your baby is swaddled, you then want to place her on her side in your arms. Similar to the way I am holding Lennox in the picture below.

Step 3: SHHHHHHHH

Thirdly, you want to make a LOUD sssshhhhhhh noise, or use a white noise machine, which will resemble the sound of the womb.

Step 4: Rock a Bye Baby

Swing your baby, or if you have a intense baby, rock/bounce her. The more intense the baby, the louder the shhhhing and the rocking needs to be.

Often times, once I got Lennox calmed and asleep with all the steps, I would put him in the Mamaroo or Rock n Play, where he took some of his most profound naps.

Step 5: Suck

Lastly, the baby needs to suck, whether it be the breast, or a pacifier. Often times, I bounced Lennox, on his side, swaddled, with white noise, all while holding his pacifier. I know, it seems like a lot, but it becomes second nature, and after the first few calming attempts, your baby will catch on will melt into a womb wonderland.

To sum things up…

Lennox was an intense baby, who had a hard time maintaining what Karp terms “state control”, the ability to shut off when he was overstimulated or under-stimulated. (51). The “5 S’s” helped him turn off and finally be able to settle down.

After implementing these tips, Lennox started to sleep better, and once I created a steady eat, play, sleep routine for him, he turned into a completely different baby.

With that being said, Lennox is still so intense, and maybe even more now as a toddler. But, he is so full of personality and joy, and I can tell you one thing for sure, he keeps me on my toes. He is a real jokester and has charisma for days. Even though he gave me a lot of sleepless nights during his colicky days, he taught me so much about babies and I grew so much as a person myself. That’s why I am so happy to share this story with you today.

Today, I can confidently tell you that I am ready for baby number two. I will be so much more prepared this time regardless if I am blessed with another intense baby, or a sleeping beauty.

Thank you for reading, and mama, if you are suffering from a colicky infant, just remember the time really does go by so quickly, but give these tricks a try and you might see a huge difference!!

Thanks for reading friends! Please comment below with any questions or comments!!!