All babies cry from time to time, but if your baby is crying for extensive periods during the day, then he may be suffering from colic. But what is it and what can you do about it?
Colic is the term given to infants who are healthy and well-fed, yet cry uncontrollably for two to three hours at a time. It often starts within two to four weeks after birth and can last for as long as three months. For parents, being faced with a crying baby who doesn’t seem to respond to the usual forms of comfort, can be a worrying and difficult time. What doesn’t help is that some doctors aren’t altogether sure that the condition exists, plus those that do recognise colic, aren’t 100 per cent sure of the cause.
Statistics suggest between 10 and 20 per cent of all babies are affected by colic. Amongst the theories surrounding its cause include ideas that it could be due to the intestines working too hard, or too slowly, due to eating too fast, swallowing too much air without burping or as that it could be linked to cow’s milk. Whatever the exact cause, the key symptoms include excessive crying which occurs at about the same time each day and often at night, high-pitched screaming, bad stomach rumbling and wind, as well as your baby pulling their feet up under their body and clenching their fists.
There isn’t one single cure for colic, but there are several things you can try to help ease the discomfort.
Comfort your baby
Some infants react positively to being comforted, either in your arms, by being rocked in a cradle or by being carried around in a baby sling. Sometimes sucking on a dummy provides comfort, too.
Some infants respond well to a gentle massage. Focus on the stomach area and gently massage with your hands, using circle movements. If the baby has trapped wind, then it should help relieve it.
If you’re breastfeeding, then it’s possible that something in your diet could be making the colic worse. Particular culprits may include onions, cabbage, fruits, spicy foods, orange juice and caffeine, so you could try experimenting with cutting them out for a bit.
If you’re formula feeding, it might be worth changing to a different brand to see if it makes a difference.
Sometimes an extra bit of warmth ease the colickyness. Try a snugly blanket or a warm hot water bottle.
Use music or noise
Play soothing music or try your hand at singing to your baby. Although it may sound a bit strange, being near monotonous noises, such as from a washing machine, hoover or dishwasher, may also work.
Try cranial osteopathy
This isn’t something you can do yourself, but qualified cranial osteopaths use a very gentle manipulation technique on infants and it’s said to help relieve colic in some instances.
Having a colicky baby in the house causes disruption for all the family and can prove to be a stressful time. The good news is that colic does pass over time and doesn’t harm your child in any way, so you will all get over it. Whatever you do, don’t blame yourself as it’s not your fault and remember to take care of yourself, so you don’t feel too exhausted and worn out.
Note: It’s important not to self-diagnose colic – always get a medical opinion and ensure other conditions are ruled out first.
By Rachel Newcombe