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Did you know that your fussy, “colicky” baby may actually be an overstimulated, “under-stimulated” or overtired baby instead?
How do we know the difference?
In this post we are going to discuss colic including its medical definition, symptoms and possible causes.
We are also going to explore what it means to have an overtired, overstimulated or under-stimulated baby.
Could it be that you have an overtired baby who isn’t actually in pain?
Yes! It’s very possible!
The good news is… that if this is actually the case with your baby, it can be a relatively easy fix and very preventable too!
In this post….
Here’s what we are going to discuss about colic in this post:
- its medical definition
- symptoms of colic
- possible causes
- the calming reflex in newborns
- the 5 S’s
- the SNOO Smart Sleeper
- how to help the overtired/overstimulated baby
- why sleep cues are important
- better naps=better night sleep
- the 60-90 minute rule!
What is Colic?
So, speaking of colic, what exactly is colic?
Well, the medical definition of colic is described as an infant whose inconsolable crying lasts at least three hours each stretch, occurs at least three days a week and persists for at least three weeks in a row.
Wow! That’s a lot of crying!
Sadly, many babies exceed this amount of crying too.
It is also believed that 1 in 5 babies have some degree of infant colic.
What are Symptoms and Signs of Colic?
- Crying occurs at the same time every day (usually in the late afternoon or early evening, but it can vary).
- Crying seems to occur for no reason (not because baby has a dirty diaper or is hungry).
- Baby may pull up or kick his legs, clench his fists, arch his back, and generally move his legs and arms more.
- He will often close his eyes or open them very wide, furrow his brow, even hold his breath briefly.
- His face may appear flushed or distressed.
- Bowel activity may increase, and he may pass gas or spit up.
- Eating and sleeping are disrupted by the crying — baby frantically seeks a nipple only to reject it once sucking has begun, or dozes for a few moments only to wake up screaming.
- His tummy may appear bloated or hardened.
- Baby’s crying is inconsolable and may turn to screaming.
What Causes Colic?
Well, this is where things begin to get a little fuzzy.
Notice that the medical definition of colic doesn’t exactly mention anything about causes of all the crying!
That is because the cause of colic remains a mystery to those in the medical profession.
However, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t answers to this question!
Here are the most commonly believed causes of infant colic:
- Overstimulated or Overtired Newborn
- Immature Digestive System/Gas Pain
- Food Allergies or Sensitivities
- Infant Reflux Pain
- Exposure to Tobacco
Is Colic a Myth?
For centuries, it was believed that colic was caused by gastrointestinal or digestive distress in the newborn.
But that is no longer believed to be the case.
While some babies may indeed experience digestive pain or gas which causes inconsolable crying, there is little modern research to suggest this to be the actual cause of so-called “colic”.
There are many experts who go so far as to say that colic is actually a myth!
One such doctor is Dr. Harvey Karp, MD., author of The Happiest Baby on the Block.
However, if you are a parent of a screaming baby, you know full well that colic is indeed very real!
Am I right?
What is the REAL Cause of Colic?
So why would Dr. Karp and other newborn experts say that colic is a myth then?
The reason is that they DO believe that there is an underlying cause to most cases of colic.
But it’s not what you’d think.
In fact, most “colicky babies” may not be experiencing physical pain at all, but they are still suffering in a sense.
According to Dr. Karp, newborns are all born too early.
Their brains are not fully developed and they still have lots of developing and maturing to do during the 4th trimester.
Because their brains are not fully developed, they are easily over stimulated, under stimulated and quickly become overtired.
The good news?
We can help them settle down and relax by recreating the environment of the womb and tapping into their calming reflex!
With a few soothing techniques, your baby will be able to stop his crying and feel safe, secure and relaxed.
How to Help an Overstimulated, Under Stimulated or Overtired Baby
According to Dr. Karp, we can help our newborns to get the gentle stimulation that their brains received in utero without overstimulating or overtiring them.
We can do this by using the 5-S’s.
What are the 5 S’s?
- Swaddle – Make sure you swaddle properly too!
These five calming techniques will not only remind baby of the womb, but allow him to stimulate his brain in a way that activates his calming reflex.
When you use the 5 S’s, it’s much easier to calm a fussy baby and help him to fall asleep faster.
Speaking of the 5 S’s… did you know that there is now a special bassinet that implements some of these calming techniques for you?
It’s called the SNOO and it’s getting quite the buzz these days in new parent circles!
Have you heard of it?
SNOO Smart Sleeper
So what exactly is the SNOO?
It’s a “magical” baby bassinet that helps your baby fall asleep and stay asleep by recreating the womb sounds and motions.
The SNOO has its own never-fail swaddle that is easy to use.
You will never have trouble with your baby busting loose with this swaddle!
In addition, the bassinet is able to detect when your baby is stirring and helps her stay asleep by automatically beginning a jiggly rocking motion with shushing sounds that lull her back to sleep.
Pretty neat, huh?
It’s a bit pricey, but many parents say it’s well worth it!
The best part…. you can rent the SNOO!
I personally prefer baby-wearing and human contact with our babies as much as possible, but let’s face it….it is not always feasible or possible!
Sometimes new parents just need a break to take a shower, right?
Not only that, baby wearing can be hard on the back or shoulders, especially if you have a heavier tot.
If you have a baby that only sleeps when held, cries when you lay her down, wakes up every 20-45 minutes, and has a hard time sleeping, you may want to learn more about renting or buying the SNOO.
Also, if you are exhausted from lack of sleep, or just need a break from holding your bab y now and then, you are NOT alone!
Having a new baby is REALLY TOUGH and the SNOO may help!
You can check it out here.
What about the Overtired Baby?
The problem of the overtired baby is closely related to an infant being overstimulated or under stimulated.
Babies need the right kind of stimulation to activate the calming reflex.
Likewise, too much of the wrong kind of stimulation can quickly cause a baby’s body to release adrenaline and cortisol, making it nearly impossible for the baby to relax, fall asleep and stay asleep.
Most Babies Do Not Get Enough Sleep!
Do you have a newborn that is often awake more than one hour after a feeding?
Once she falls asleep, does she have trouble staying asleep for longer than 45 minutes?
Does your baby have a “witching hour” or cry and fuss mainly during the evening hours?
If so, you probably have an overtired baby on your hands!
Let’s help your baby get the sleep she needs!
How to Help an Overtired Baby
The best way to help an overtired baby is to prevent it before it happens!
But, if you suspect that you already have an overtired baby, take action to get him away from noise and activity.
Take him into a quiet, dark room with a sound machine. (phone app works too!)
Use the 5-S’s as mentioned above and work to prevent your baby from getting into this state going forward.
How do you do this?
By watching for sleep cues.and getting him down to sleep as soon as you see them!
It is a MYTH that a baby who sleeps too much during the day will be awake all night. Don’t believe it!
The opposite is actually true!
You may have heard the phrase that “sleep begets sleep.”
This is especially true with babies!
The better your baby naps during the day, the better he will sleep at night…. Yes, really… Try it!
The truth is that babies need LOTS of sleep and most babies simply are not getting enough!
As long as your baby eats every 2-3 hours during the day, he can nap until his heart’s content. (in between feedings)
In fact, if you haven’t heard of the 60-90 minute wake rule and “wake windows” for babies, find out more in this post.
Once you have learned more about your baby’s “wake windows”, and how to watch for his sleep cues, it will be so much easier to get him down to sleep.
If your baby is getting better sleep, the evening “fussies” or “colic” could be a thing of the past!
- Watch for sleep cues and encourage lots of daytime napping mixed with plenty of daytime feedings!
- Reduce stimulation such as lots of visitors, TV noise, bright lighting, computers and loud conversations.
- Use the 5-S’s to soothe and calm your baby.
If Your Baby Seems Gassy
If you believe that your infant’s excessive crying is due to gas pains or digestive woes, you may be right!
However, know that it is very common for babies to spit up and pass gas while crying.
Just because your baby is kicking his legs, passing gas and spitting up during or after crying episodes, does not necessarily mean that this is the underlying cause of his crying.
Does this make sense?
If you haven’t tried the 5-S’s or explored the overtired baby theory, I encourage you to give these soothing techniques a try!
Take steps to improve your baby’s daytime napping and work to prevent the crying before it even starts!
Dealing with a crying baby is so hard, mama, and I sincerely hope that these tips will be a game changer for you and your baby!
There are other reasons that your baby may be crying. Check out these 21 Solutions for Calming a Crying Baby!
To learn more about how to improve your baby’s night time sleep, find out if you are making these common new parent sleep mistakes!
Do you think you may have an overstimulated or overtired newborn? Have you had any success calming him with these or other soothing techniques?
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