In the past, colic has been put down to various reasons including overfeeding, underfeeding, over active let down, mother’s diet, acid reflux, milk allergies, too hot milk, too cold milk, wind, gall bladder problem, baby’s stubbornness, and mother’s anxiety.
The reality is no one really knows what causes colic. All medical researchers have are theories and suppositions, with very little evidence to back them up.
Immature Digestive System Theory
As babies’ digestive system is still immature during the first few weeks of their lives, they may be sensitive to lactose, casein and proteins found in cow’s milk, making them feel bloated, thus giving them tummy ache.
But what about breastfed babies? People who believe in this theory argue that that breastfeeding mothers who consume cow’s milk, or anything that has dairy, including chocolates, cakes and cheese, can pass these substances to their babies through their milk. Therefore, they should avoid dairy foods.
However, there is very little evidence that support this theory. Additionally, breast milk, like cow’s milk, also contains lactose and casein.
Overactive Let Down Theory
This theory works on the premise that overactive let down is causing the milk to spray into the baby’s mouth, thus the baby may choke or spit while feeding, and swallow air in the process. As a result, the baby gets tummy ache.
Again, there is little evidence to support this theory. And it doesn’t explain the fact that babies experience colic only at particular times of the day, mainly around late afternoon or early evening.
This is one theory that is backed by some scientific evidence. Women who smoke whilst pregnant double the chances of their baby developing colic. Researchers put this down to a high level of Motilin during pregnancy. Motilin is a gastrointestinal hormone that helps regulate the movement of the digestive tract.
A high level of Motilin in the baby’s system can lead to babies having the symptoms of colic and indigestion shortly after they are born.
Words of Caution
When your baby has been having a fit of crying for three successive days, don’t be too ready to jump into a conclusion that he has colic. If you do, you’ll risk missing the real cause of your baby’s distress. Try to rule out other potential cause of his crying first before self-diagnosing colic.
Read the complete series on Colic - exclusive to Funky Giraffe
Coping with colic
What Causes Colic
Treatment for Colic
Colic: What Not To Eat When Breastfeeding
Comforting a Baby with Colic