What causes colic?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive medical answer explaining what causes some babies to become colicky and others to remain unaffected. There are a number of theories, including:
- Wind. Many people think that colic is a result of abdominal pain caused by trapped gas in a baby's digestive tract. Babies often swallow air when feeding and during strenuous crying, which increases gas and bloating, adding to their discomfort.
- An immature digestive system. Newborn babies' digestive systems have never processed food, and their gastrointestinal systems are literally just learning how to function. The muscles that support digestion take time to develop the proper rhythm to move food efficiently through the digestive tract, and until the body learns to process food properly, digestion may be uncomfortable.
- Lack of lactobacillus acidophilus. Recent studies have shown that colicky babies have different "gut flora" patterns, including a lack of lactobacillus acidophilus. Giving babies a probiotic (substances that help to maintain the natural balance of "good" bacteria in the digestive tract) may improve colic, although this should only be done in consultation with your GP.
- Overstimulation. Some researchers feel that colicky babies are adversely affected by a combination of things, including a sensitive temperament, a busy environment that they are unused to, and an immature nervous system.
- Maternal smoking. Infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy or after delivery have twice the risk of developing colic.
- Anxiety and stress. This is a complicated theory, but basically, there are links between a pregnant mother's stress levels, a difficult birth for the mother and/or the baby, and a mother's post-birth stress. Some researchers feel that colic could be a manifestation of a baby's anxiety and stress, and may actually be a healthy "stress release" for the baby, although colic is extremely traumatic and disruptive to the family's life.