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Can Colic Cause Sleep Problems in Babies?

by Barbie Carpenter

You expect periods of fussiness out of your baby, but you can typically minimize the crying by feeding, rocking or soothing your little one. When these methods do not work and the crying fits are prolonged, you might have a colicky baby. While colic does not always have a direct impact on sleep, it can interfere with your baby's normal sleep pattern depending on when these regular periods of fussiness occur. Understanding colic, its causes and its remedies can help you ensure that your little one gets enough sleep.

Definition

Colic is marked by prolonged periods of fussiness that intensify and persist throughout the day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org. Often, this extended period of fussiness occurs at the same time of day, often in the afternoon or evening. This intense, inconsolable crying starts a few weeks after your baby is born, and colic usually improves by 3 months, according to the Mayo Clinic website. Overall, one-fifth to one-fourth of all babies suffer from colic during their first few months of life. Rather than diagnosing colic yourself, take your fussy baby to your pediatrician for an evaluation. Your pediatrician will want to rule out any medical issues that might be causing the crying before confirming that your baby has colic.

Causes

While no clear cause of colic exists, a baby's inability to self-console or regulate her nervous system can contribute to these inconsolable fits, according to HealthyChildren.org. A colicky baby might be particularly sensitive to stimulation, which can trigger these crying jags. Many theories abound concerning the cause of colic, from lactose intolerance to allergies or acid reflux, but research has yet to identify a clear cause of colic.

Timing

Colic can occur throughout the day, so it has the potential to interfere with a baby's sleep pattern. Many colic fits take place in the afternoon or evening. In these cases, a baby who takes a mid- to late-afternoon nap might have his nap interrupted by colic. When this constant crying extends into the night, your baby's nighttime sleep can be further impacted. You might struggle to calm down or console your colicky baby, which might result in missed sleep for both of you. As a result, colic can contribute to a lack of sleep in some babies, depending on the timing of the crying jags.

Treatment

While no medical treatment for colic exists, you can treat underlying problems, such as gas, with medication, which might ease the symptoms of colic. Talk to your pediatrician about how to best treat your baby's gas or any other underlying problems. Otherwise, you can rely on soothing methods to ease your baby's fussiness -- rocking, swaying, playing soft music, using white noise or even driving your baby in the car might help. Many of these soothing techniques may also help encourage sleep, helping your colicky baby catch up on the potential missed sleep from the crying fits.

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.

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