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Can You Prevent Colic? Experts Weigh In

You may have heard your friends’ scary stories of their baby’s nonstop crying for days and days on end, and she and her partner may be looking a little worse for the wear (understandably). They tell you it’s colic, and that just doesn’t sound good at all. So if you’re pregnant or just had a newborn, you may be wondering, can you prevent colic? How do you know if your baby is just fussy, or if it’s another underlying medical issue? And how can you try to cope with this crappy situation if it does happen to your family?

According to Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, the short answer is not really. “If we could figure out the exact cause of colic, we would have a better shot at trying to prevent it," she tells Romper. "There has been a study showing that maternal smoking can be linked to colic, so having passive or active cigarette smoke exposure should be avoided if possible."

How do you know if your baby has colic? Oh, you’ll know. But scientifically speaking, “Colic is a pattern of crying in infants that tends to last for several hours, often in the evening, for at least three days a week and that can go on for 3 to 6 months of age,” Fisher says. “Some physicians think colic is caused by the babies having a lot of neurological growth in the first three months of life (often called "The Fourth Trimester"), whereas other theories include gastrointestinal upset or discomfort or allergy.”

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So what in the world can you do for this condition that is stressful for both parents and baby? Fisher says, “There are studies that have examined the link between colic and bacteria in the gut. Probiotics are the bacteria that colonize the gut and aid in digestion; a good balance of that bacteria is thought to maybe cause some improvement in colic symptoms. Studies that compare probiotics to placebo do not seem to be very promising, so as a pediatrician I recommend a trial of probiotics in a case by case basis.

“There is also an important evaluation into the digestive tract and the baby's diet (formula versus breast milk), and there is an important distinction between gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and colic,” Fisher says. “The baby's pediatrician should discuss GERD and symptom evaluation with the parents of a colicky baby.” Fisher also mentions the baby could be having a reaction to the mother’s breast milk if they’re being breastfed by a mom who is consuming dairy. The baby might have a milk protein intolerance. Fisher suggests the mom try removing dairy and soy from her diet to see if that helps. “Again, these techniques should be used under guidance from the baby's pediatrician.”

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So why are some parents oh so lucky to not have to deal with colic, while other parents aren't? Fisher says unfortunately, there isn’t a good answer. “But colic does occur worldwide, so it is not a regional problem affecting babies solely born in the U.S.,” she explains.

The good news, however, is that colic always resolves, according to Fisher. Remember this when trying to save your sanity. “Reassurance that the baby is actually healthy and safe is an important first step,” Fisher explains as a way to not go nuts while dealing with a colicky baby. “The awareness that most colicky babies improve by 3 to 6 months of age is important information for the families of colicky babies.” Fisher also highly recommends breaks for the parents, which “are key to their sanity.”

There is a light at the end of this tunnel, mama. Try to take a breath and remember it will eventually end. And until then, be sure to take breaks when you can, and definitely have a visit with your pediatrician to see if there are any remedies you can do at home to make it better. Good luck.

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