By Dr Lisa Prichard
Crying is a normal part of your baby’s development. We sometimes use the term ‘colic’ which suggests there is an illness causing your baby’s crying. We now understand that prolonged episodic crying in young babies is common and usually normal. Mostly we can’t find a medical cause for the crying. As parents we are often distressed and exhausted which is understandable! There is much confusing and conflicting advice on the internet which can add to the burden. Crying begins in early weeks and peaks around 6-8 weeks of age. Crying may last for several hours and is often worse in the late afternoon and evening. Thankfully crying usually improves after 3-4 months of age.
If your baby is acutely unwell and behaviour has changed then the crying is presumably not normal and you should consult with your GP.
If your baby is crying for prolonged periods in its first few months of life we appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you and to examine your baby. There are some indicators that may suggest there is a cause for your baby’s crying, e.g. poor feeding, poor weight gain, excessive vomiting, blood and mucous in the stool. In this case we many need to consider cows milk protein allergy (CMPA). If there is a family history of allergy and if your baby has eczema they are slightly more likely to have CMPA. Babies with CMPA often become most distressed during feeding and just after. There is no test for CMPA. We usually request mums to strictly exclude dairy for 2 weeks then rechallenge by reintroducing dairy again. We would suggest you make an appointment to discuss this.
There is no evidence to suggest that reflux causes crying in babies <1 year and there is no evidence that treating with medication is useful in reducing crying. In fact, it is now well documented that use of some medications called PPI’s (proton pump inhibiter) can cause adverse reactions for example increased risk of infections.
There has been a recent study suggesting that a probiotic called lactobacillus reuteri, may be effective in reducing crying in breastfed babies but unfortunately the findings have not been reproduced consistently. We don’t believe there is any harm trying this probiotic for up to 2 weeks.
We appreciate the opportunity to see you and your baby to consider all your concerns, and most likely we will be able to reassure you that you are doing an amazing job under challenging circumstances.
My final comment – please don’t be tempted to seek advice on forums – only search reputable sites such as those listed above. Even better talk with your Maternal & Child Health Nurse, GP or paediatrician.