Demystified: Infant Colic vs. Gas

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Crying is a natural part of babyhood—it’s how your baby communicates. But, excessive crying, which consists of intense wails and inconsolableness, can occur in some babies. When it does, we know it can be a difficult and upsetting situation for you and your baby alike, and finding a way to calm your crying baby in the moment is of utmost importance. So, what’s causing these outbursts in the first place? You’ve ruled out hunger, a dirty diaper, and other culprits; maybe it’s infant gas or colic, or could it be both? And, what are the differences between them? Ahead, we’re answering all that and more. Read on to learn how to tell if your baby has colic vs. gas. 

What Is The Difference Between Colic and Gas?

When your baby is wailing, it’s natural to want to know how to help calm them as soon as possible. But it’s best to not rush to judgement, especially when you suspect colic or painful gas. A common, albeit false, school of thought is that gas may be the cause of colic. Sure, it’s true that a colicky baby can be gassy (usually from swallowing too much air as they cry), but that’s not always the case. While infant gas and colic can coexist in your baby, they are two completely different conditions. Below, find out all about what gas symptoms and signs of colic look like, as well as the causes of each.

What Is Colic?

Colic is a mysterious thing. It’s defined as frequent, prolonged, intense crying or fussiness that come on for no apparent reason in an otherwise healthy infant. It usually peaks at about six weeks and disappears when your baby is around three or four months old. We know, it can feel like a really long few months, but there’s good news. Although caring for a colicky baby can be undeniably challenging, rest assured, the cries from colic aren’t harmful, and babies with colic usually continue to feed and gain weight as they normally should.

What Are The Symptoms of Colic?

It can be tricky to decipher between baby colic, gas, and regular crying and fussiness, but there are a few things to look for. In general, if your baby is crying for three or more hours a day, three or more days a week, for three or more weeks, you may have a colicky baby in your arms. Cries from colic are intense and high-pitched, more like screams or cries of pain. And, your baby may be extra fussy, even after their crying ceases. As random as these tiny tantrums can seem, colic outbursts do seem to rear their noisy heads in a pretty predictable manner—usually in the late afternoon or evening. 

Other signs of colic that can occur during your baby’s episode may include their usually adorable chubby little face getting red (cause that’s what happens when you blow your top), or the skin around their mouth may seem paler. Your baby’s body may tense up, and they might pull up or stiffen their legs, arch their back, tense their tummy, or clench their fists. They may also be gassy from swallowing too much air as they cry.

If any of these colic symptoms sound familiar, and they cause you concern, it might be time to consult your pediatrician. 

What Causes Colic?

Unfortunately, the truth is, no one has ever definitively figured out what causes colic. While it’s been researched extensively, the reason(s) behind colic remain elusive. This is because there are so many aspects of it that are enigmas, such as why it arises out of the blue around babies’ first month, how it varies baby to baby, why it favors a certain time of day to make an appearance, and why (poof!) it ultimately disappears. 

That’s not to say there aren’t a few theories. Some potential causes of colic may be as simple as the fact that your baby’s digestive system isn’t fully developed yet. Or, it may be something more complex such as a food allergy or intolerance, improper feeding, or even a kind of infant migraine. Stress or anxiety among the family may also contribute. Another possibility is that it’s caused by an imbalance of “good” bacteria in your baby’s gut.

Speaking of the latter: Did you know that colicky babies, as well as all babies, can benefit from probiotics? It’s true. For instance, our Infants’ Mylicon Daily Probiotic Drops replenish “good” bacteria in your baby’s digestive system, and over time can help reduce crying and fussiness associated with colic by 50% or more when given every day. You read that right. They can also help support your baby’s immune system and promote healthy digestion. So, don’t feel helpless if you have a colicky baby. As always, we’re here for you.

How Can You Diagnose Colic In Infants?

While it might feel tempting to diagnose your baby with colic yourself, the only one that can make that call accurately is your pediatrician. We know, especially after reading (and possibly relating to) all of the info on colic we just provided, you may feel like you have the answer. But we’re only here to educate, as well as help you, so leave the diagnostics to the pros.

What Are The Symptoms of Gas?

Just as crying is a fact of baby life, so, too, is baby gas. But when your infant has painful gas, especially if it’s frequent, it can cause your baby to cry or become fussy—until it’s passed; unlike colic, which causes crying and fussiness that lasts for hours across days and weeks. Gas can have distinctive symptoms, too, such as a swollen-looking belly. Likewise, your baby may lift their legs and/or arch their back. It may also cause your baby to cry while passing gas or soon after. Then, of course, there’s the obvious audible toots or burps. 

Infant gas, fortunately, isn’t a medical condition, but it can sometimes cause your little one pain or discomfort. However, there are things you can do to help relieve your infant’s gas—even simple tactics such as massage can help.

Another way to help your gassy baby feel better is to use Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief drops in either our dye-free or original formula. They quickly and gently break down gas bubbles to help your baby naturally expel them. The medicine in them is safe enough—even for the newest of newborns—to be given up to 12 times a day. Plus, it won’t stay in your infant’s system, since it’s not absorbed and just ends up in the diaper.

What Causes Infant Gas?

There are a number of causes of infant gas—some internal, some external. A major contributor is the simple fact that your infant’s digestive system is immature—it’s in the process of learning how to get things running smoothly. Another significant factor is somewhat of a catch 22. When your baby cries, they may swallow air, which causes gas; if it’s uncomfortable or painful, it may make them cry, therefore swallowing too much air again. Sometimes our little darlings just can’t catch a break! 

Another reason behind gas can be feeding time, when they may gulp air down with their breastmilk or formula. Air may get trapped in their bottle, too, or the seal between your baby’s lips and your or a bottle’s nipple can break, contributing to swallowing air as well. If you give your baby powdered formula, the process of mixing it can generate bubbles—so allow time for the formula to settle. Certain ingredients in formula or baby food may also cause gas, like cow’s milk, especially if your baby is lactose intolerant. 

Next: Tummy issues like gas don’t stop at infanthood. Kids get them, too. Find out some Common Causes of Stomach Discomfort in Kids.


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