The 3 phases of colic
Does my baby have colic or are they just fussy?
It's not easy to tell in the early stages. But doing the rights things to address the cause is the key to preventing a progression of symptoms. Typically we see these phases progressing over the first 6-8 weeks...
If your baby does have colic, early signs of discomfort at 0-3 weeks:
my baby seems unhappy for some reason
moaning and groaning
fussy feeding, frequent or comfort feeding
fussy with perhaps little crying spells
If my baby does have colic?
The symptoms of colic
Moaning and groaning
An early sign that things could go wrong, is lots of moaning and groaning, pushing and straining, even during their sleep. If this early symptom is present, it's likely that there's excessive gas in their digestive tract. This is the best time to really learn good burping and abdominal massage techniques. They are often not the easiest babies to burp, which is why gas is building up.
As gas builds up and takes up more space, the baby starts to cramp, knees to chest and hands in little fists. A cramping baby that continues to show symptoms for more than a week is almost certainly experiencing colic.
Reflux and silent reflux
Reflux is spitting up or vomiting up milk. This can happen if the baby has too much milk or when there is a bubble of gas in the digestive tract. The milk stays in one place too long and digestive acids starts to irritate the lining of the stomach and intestines. The body protects itself by throwing this up. If the milk that comes up is still fairly milky and clear, and there's no real discomfort, then it's likely that they simply drank too much. If the milk that comes up is thick and partially digested (a bit like cottage cheese) it suggests that the blockage is a little lower down in the digestive tract. In the case of formula fed babies, it may also mean that their digestive system is having difficulty processing this particular brand in which case you may need to change formula.
If baby has colic, prolonged crying spells are the hallmark of late stage colic. The other symptoms would not bother us nearly as much if it weren't for a screaming and inconsolable child!
The goal must always be to try and prevent the situation getting to this point! This is our mission!
Why does the gas build up?
incomplete burping technique - not getting all the winds out
immature digestive tract - 'kinks' in the intestinal 'hosepipes'
baby still learning how to 'push' gas out but not quite getting it right
baby swallowing too much air when feeding