Monday, 11 November 2013

Colic - what is it and how to cope

I've been unlucky. Both my boys have had colic. JC was the worst hence his nickname 'Grumpinator'. On a good day he would cry for around 2 hours sleep for 40mins, wake up crying, feed and start the cycle again. I lived for the times when a smile would break through the tears. On a bad day the crying would last a good 12 hours with no break for sleep.

I've been luckier with Jamie. For a start, he sleeps! His crying is mostly at tea time from 6pm- 10pm. I am coping better as I guess I know that this period, however stressful, is relatively short lived. I know there will come a point when his tummy will cope with the milk and he will be a happy little chap. 

I'm writing this post to give an insight into what colic is and the various strategies we have tried. If you are reading this whilst trying to console a crying baby, I hope it gives you peace of mind that you are not alone, fills you with promise that this will eventually end and deliver some tried and tested methods to help you cope. 

Firstly, there is no cure. Sorry, but I may as well open with that! Secondly, nobody knows what it is. The term colic refers to pain experienced by an infant accompanied by excessive and prolonged periods of crying. There are various ideas on what us causing the crying such as pain from trapped wind and/or constipation, dietary intolerances, overstimulation and tiredness. The treatments really address these theories and it's a case of trial to find out what will work for your child. 

Trapped Wind...
There are various drops and medicines that you can use to help bring up the wind - Infacol, Gripe Water, Colief. You could try cooled boiled water (spoon or bottle). There is a particularly useful herbal remedy called Colocynth which is a homeopathic granule you give them prior to feeding. 

Feeding technique - if bottle feeding you may need to take more regular breaks to wind baby, position in a more upright position, use anti colic bottles and ensure that the milk is fully in the teat when feeding. If breast feeding, the same applies in terms if position - try to feed baby more at an upright angle, ensure good attachment so that the baby isn't sucking in air. Take the baby off the breast for winding regularly and keep upright for half an hour after feeding. 

Massage is well researched and proven to help ease colic. There is a specific colic massage you can use to help release the trapped wind. Here is an example of the massage I use... 

Baby Grumpinator gets a colic massage. Sorry the sound isn't working but all i'm saying is:

Repeat each move 6 times for 3 sets. Try and do this before every feed, even through the night. You can do it with the baby clothed or without.

Dietary ... 
Commonly, diary or lactose intolerance can cause colic pain. Cutting dairy from your diet or using a specialised milk can help to reduce wind caused by an allergy. 

Any food that gives you wind can also cause wind for your baby if you are breast feeding. You may want to avoid foods you know cause you this reaction or keep a food diary to look for patterns. 

There is some evidence that evening colic is caused by a build up of stimulation and tiredness. To combat this, keep evenings quiet, low key, dim lights, turn TV off or volume down, play soft music, give baby a bath, lots of cuddles, rocking, share a story or speak quietly to the baby, try a massage with grapeseed oil and make sure your baby gets plenty rest throughout the day (taking walks or car rides if necessary). 

How to cope with excessive crying ... 

It's one of the hardest things to cope with. There's nothing worse than listening to your baby cry and not know how to soothe them. You are not alone and it's important to know where you can go for support. Here are some tips that worked for me ...

- make plans, go out, have somewhere to be each day to get you out the house. 
- seek out people to visit and hand over the baby as you enter their house. Use this time to relax and enjoy having your body to yourself. 
- eat well and look after yourself, even if you just slap on some mascara, you'll feel better for it. 
- talk about it. Don't feel embarrassed about how bad it is. Most parents have been there so don't hide behind a smile, admit when you need help. 
- at the end of everyday think of something that has gone well, something will have!
- when it's all getting too much make sure the baby is fed, clean nappy, dressed for a comfortable temp. Put the baby down in safe place (cot /Moses basket). Leave the room, take a break for 5 mins, have a cuppa, go outside in the garden if the baby is still screeching. Take some breaths, tell yourself it'll pass because it will.  
- if you feel you've hit crisis point you need to contact your health visitor, GP or national helpline such as Cry-Sis (

It's a really crap time and I wouldn't wish a crying baby on my worst enemy but it's true what they say "this too will pass". After 12-16 weeks things should have improved. If not then it's worth hassling your GP. 

One of the things that keeps me going is the thought that for every mother crying in the dark because their baby won't stop crying there is a mother that is crying in the dark because cruelly they don't have a baby to comfort. No matter how awful it gets, it pays to keep in mind that this will get better and that we are all extremely blessed to have a baby, colicky or not. 

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