Could all that crying be about cow’s milk?

All babies cry, but excessive, unexplained crying could be due to colic or a sign your baby has a cow’s milk protein allergy.

What exactly is colic?

Colic is the medical term used to describe excessive, frequent crying in babies who otherwise appear to be healthy and well. The crying is usually very intense and tends to happen for at least three hours a day, for more than three days a week, and lasting for three weeks or more.

Signs of Colic

Along with excessive crying, other signs of colic in a baby could include:

  • Pulling the legs up to the tummy
  • Arching the back
  • Stiffening the limbs
  • Being full of gas
  • Having a tense, bloated belly

When does colic occur and what causes it?

Colic usually begins within the first few weeks of life but often stops by the time the baby is four months old, six months at the latest. It is relatively common and thought to affect around one in five babies. Experts aren’t really sure what causes colic or why certain babies get it but not others. Food allergies, like cow’s milk protein allergy (the most common type of food allergy in infants and young children), are one possible cause. Babies with cow’s milk protein allergy are likely to show colicky symptoms.

Could my colicky baby have CMA?

If your baby has cow’s milk protein allergy, he might show other symptoms besides colic such as eczema, vomiting and diarrhea. Take a look at these symptoms for more information on what to look out for, and talk to your baby’s doctor right away.

What can I do if my baby has colic?

Having a baby in tears all the time can be exhausting and worrisome. It’s important to remember that colic doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong or that your baby’s rejecting you. Looking after a baby with colic can also be draining so don’t forget to look after your own wellbeing, too. Ask for help from family members or friends when you start to feel overwhelmed.

Here are a few suggestions to try for soothing your little one:

  • Hold your baby in different positions – try carrying him in an infant sling or front carrier on your chest as you walk around. The body contact and motion can be calming. To ease any gas, try laying your baby tummy-down across your knees while gently rubbing his back.

  • Play calming sounds – recreate the soothing womb environment with soft music, a fan, or a recording of a heartbeat.

  • Use gentle, rhythmic motions – steady movements are soothing. Cradle your baby while rocking in a chair, or try a vibrating infant seat.

  • Massage your baby’s skin – babies love skin-to-skin contact, and you might find that regularly massaging your baby makes him less irritable and reduces his crying.

  • Hypoallergenic formula – if your baby is bottle-fed, your doctor may recommend an extensively hydrolyzed formula designed for babies with cow’s milk allergy to reduce colic. In this type of formula, cow’s milk proteins have been broken down, allowing your baby to digest the milk proteins more easily.

Talk to the Pediatrician

If you think your colicky baby might have cow’s milk allergy, make an appointment with your baby’s pediatrician and discuss your concerns.

Be sure to ask about possible food allergies that may be causing your baby’s colic, and whether you should try eliminating potential allergy-causing foods that contain cow’s milk protein. You should only make changes to your baby’s diet under the supervision of your doctor or a specialist.

To find out if cow’s milk allergy is causing your baby’s colic and other symptoms, your doctor may carry out some allergy tests plus suggest putting your baby on an elimination diet followed by a food challenge.

Keep Learning

In the meantime, continue to learn about what could be upsetting your baby by finding out which foods contain cow’s milk protein.

As well as colic, cow’s milk protein allergy is sometimes confused with lactose intolerance.