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Is Colic and Reflux the Same Thing?

Is Colic and Reflux the Same Thing?

I often get asked ‘is colic and reflux the same condition’. The short answer is no, they are not but the reason why you are no doubt googling this question means you probably have a crying baby and he is bringing up his feeds. You want to know if the two things are linked. Well, yes they could be. To understand the link, first, let’s understand what is colic…

What is Colic?

Colic is crying in a baby who is otherwise appears healthy. The rule of 3 is often cited by health professionals – crying for 3 hours a day, 3 times a week for 3 weeks or more.  However, we know that babies cry for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps we should change this definition to crying and irritability in a baby who cannot be soothed for a long period of time.

Colic occurs for various reasons but for many babies it is a form of digestive discomfort. This is especially true when the crying is associated with other symptoms such as clenched fists, red face, hard tummy and arching back. It can be caused by something as simple as swallowing air whilst feeding. This leads to trapped wind and that causes a lot of discomfort. Immature digestion can cause trapped gas and many young babies struggle with this. Although colic can be caused by more complex issues such as milk allergies or intolerances. These can be trickier to diagnose in a baby.

What is Reflux?

Reflux is the regurgitation of feeds, so in other words, a ‘sicky baby’. This can happen once a day with just a little posseting or it can be after every feed and appear to be a significant amount. Reflux can occur for a number of reasons, just like colic. Including swallowing air, can be associated with a tongue tie, an immature lower oesophagus sphincter or it could be allergies.

Reflux is often diagnosed if your baby is regurgitating her feed regularly (bear in mind that most babies will posset at least once a day). There is a distinction between ‘the happy spitter’ and a baby who is very uncomfortable with reflux. The baby who is miserable will often be diagnosed with colic due to the associated crying. Whereas, it could be the reflux that is causing your baby to cry.

Colic & Reflux together

A baby who is swallowing air can have both colic and reflux symptoms. This is because it is the air that is causing the digestive discomfort, but the trapped air also pushes up the stomach contents resulting in the spit up.

Allergies can also cause digestive discomfort such as trapped gas and constipation. The allergy also can result in reflux as the body acts to rid the ‘intruder’.

So you can see that colic and reflux can be associated with one another but they are not the same thing.

Do you need help understanding the cause of your baby’s crying? Becky offers consultations to help you understand your baby’s crying. Offering helpful advice, tips and guidance on dealing with your baby’s distress.

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