What Causes Infants to become Colicky?

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The Cause and Treatment of Newborn, Infant and Baby Colic

by T.A. Lawrence B.Sc., CIRM, CPMP

What Causes Infants to become Colicky?

While there are many theories about colic there is no single consistent cause that experts all agree upon. However, a lot of evidence suggests that colic may be caused in different ways in different babies. There appear to be several contributing factors that, when occurring in combination, are likely to result in colic pain and discomfort:

  • Newborns have an immature digestive system that has never processed food. The gastrointestinal system is literally just learning to function. Muscles that support digestion have not developed the proper rhythm for moving food efficiently thought the digestive tract. Furthermore, newborns lack the benevolent bacterial flora (probiotics) that develop over time to aid digestion. This explains why almost all infants outgrow colic within the first six months
  • Certain foods eaten by lactating mothers contain volatile chemicals and allergens that in a small percentage of infants result in colic discomfort and digestive upset. Through lactation, trace elements of cruciferous vegetables and other gas producing foods may be passed via breast milk to baby and cause gas and bloating.
  • Infants often swallow air while feeding or during strenuous crying, which increases gas and bloating, further adding to their discomfort.

Since infants nervous systems are so immature, it is possible for them to get overloaded with unfamiliar sights and sounds. Infants that are easily overloaded often experience more severe colic, fussiness, and difficulty sleeping later in the day or at night. In general, the more activity (errands, visitors, T.V., phones, etc.) in baby’s day, the higher the chances of baby becoming colicky and fussy.

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