What is Colic?
Colic is defined by episodes of crying for “more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week”. Crying often occurs in the evening. Babies with colic appear to experience ‘waves’ of abdominal pain. During the discomfort they will usually go red in the face and pull up their knees as they cry. It can be very upsetting for new parents who may not know how to help their baby.
What causes it?
One of the biggest challenges for treating colic is that the cause remains unknown! One theory is that up to 1/5 of babies under 3 months of age may have a transient lactose intolerance or an allergy to cows milk protein (CMPA). Some breastfed babies respond well to mum following a dairy-free diet for this period of time. Bottle fed babies may benefit from changing the formula feed, however, this should only be done in consultation with the Health Visitor and GP. For some babies CMPA will extend beyond 3 months of age and require ongoing support from health professionals.
Colic & Wind
Babies often suffer with trapped wind and this can exacerbate symptoms of colic. Whenever your baby appears uncomfortable it will help if you can find positions where your baby feels more relaxed. Many new parents report that their baby is most content when held. Remember that you are your baby’s greatest source of comfort and YOU CANNOT CUDDLE YOUR BABY TOO MUCH! Keeping your baby close in a sling can help them to relax and they will often drift off to sleep. There are a range of baby slings on the market and it is important to find one that both you and baby find comfortable and easy to use. It is also important to remember that babies can quickly overheat so keep an eye on their temperature and remove layers if necessary.
After feeds, experiment with a range of winding positions which focus on keeping your baby’s back straight and promoting relaxation. Watch your baby and see how they respond in the different positions you try. Which is their favourite?
What can help?
You may like to have a bath with your baby. This is particularly helpful if your baby is unsettled during the evenings. Immersing your baby’s body in warm water (37 degrees) can help them to release tension and allow trapped wind to move along.
- Medication & Remedies
You may like to try colic relief drops (such as Infacol) if your baby struggles to bring up wind after feeds. These drops contain the active ingredient, simethicone, which works by bringing together small bubbles of gas that can get trapped among the stomach contents.
For babies experiencing mild reflex (which causes discomfort in the oesophagus after feeds), Gripe Water can be given from 1 month onwards and contains various herbs including dill as well as sodium bicarbonate which acts as an anti-acid. If symptoms persist or worsen, it is important to speak to your health visitor or GP.
Colief infant drops can be helpful in relieving symptoms in some babies. Colief contains the enzyme ‘lactase’ which supports the digestion of lactose (natural sugars found in milk), thereby reducing discomfort caused by transient digestive problems.
- Loving Touch
Never underestimate the soothing power of loving touch. Try to make time in your day to enjoy skin-to-skin with your baby. There is nothing more comforting for a new baby than resting on your chest, smelling your smell, hearing your heartbeat and feeling your presence.
Baby reflexology and massage are both beautiful ways to connect with and calm your baby. There are specific techniques that can help to ease abdominal discomfort in babies. There are classes nationwide.
If you are concerned or worried that your baby is unwell, please contact your GP.
For more information on infant colic visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colic/
If you are struggling to cope with your baby’s crying visit: https://www.cry-sis.org.uk/