Colic Finally Explained
Colic is the stuff of parenting nightmares. After 9 months of pregnancy, you can’t wait to hold your baby in your arms. You envision days of endless motherhood bliss but if you have a colicky baby then those blissful days are far from your reality.
Everyone offers advice, from Great Aunt Edie, recommending whisky in the bottle (eek!! Did they really do that?) to Pamela down the road who swears by a herbal tea. It seems everyone has advice for the suffering parents but nobody really knows what it is. Here Rebecca Palmer founder of Colic SOS and Smalltalk contributor explains exactly what colic is!
The medical definition of colic is a baby that is crying for more than three hours, three days a week, for a three week period, but is otherwise healthy.
This diagnosis is as helpful to parents as a chocolate teapot. A parent, who is currently holding a screaming, fussy baby, doesn’t need to know this rule of 3 but may find it beneficial to know what are the causes of colic.
Here are the 7 types of colic explained:
The Fourth Trimester
This occurs during the first 3 months of your baby’s infancy. The fourth trimester is the transition period your baby goes from the womb to the world and it becomes overwhelming.
Going from the dark, cosy womb to the big bright and cold world can be a huge sensory overload. This often results in a fussy baby who just wants to be held. It takes time to adjust and actions that emulate the womb such as white noise, rocking and swaddling can help. Your baby should begin to noticeably seem happier by 3 to 4 months old.
The Gassy Baby
This is when your baby is struggling to pass wind and suffers from trapped air bubbles and a build-up of gas. A newborn baby’s digestion is immature at birth and it can take up to 4 months for a baby’s digestion to adequately mature so that baby is noticeably less fussy.
Burping your baby well after feeds will help your baby dislodge wind. Baby massage is very effective for helping baby to eliminate the air bubbles, release natural pain-killing hormones and for helping your baby’s digestion mature[i].
The Reflux Baby
Reflux is when your baby is being sick after each feed. The milk washes back up the oesophagus, from the stomach. It often leaves babies feeling uncomfortable, especially when he is laid down flat. You find you can’t leave the house without at least 3 spare outfits for baby and yourself due to your baby consistently bringing up their feeds.
Physical reflux is a common issue for babies and often becomes better, the older the baby gets.
To help your reflux baby, small, frequent feeds are best. Keep your baby as upright as possible for at least 30 minutes after each feed.
The Silent Reflux Baby
Similar to physical reflux, there is a backwash of stomach contents up the oesophagus but the baby is not usually sick. It can be difficult to diagnose a baby with silent reflux due to the baby not being as frequently sick as a baby with physical reflux but they are usually very uncomfortable, often arching his back, flailing arms and is miserable throughout the day. Silent reflux babies are often poor sleepers too due to the uncomfortable sensation when being laid flat.
Keeping baby upright can help with his discomfort as gravity does its job of keeping everything down in the stomach. There are also medications available on prescription that reduce the acidity of the stomach, which may bring relief to babies.
Again, silent reflux seems to get better as babies get older. Although, the reflux seems to peak around 3 to 4 months old.
The Baby with Milk Allergies
A milk allergy is a reaction in the gut to the milk, usually the cow’s milk proteins. A baby usually suffering from an allergy is very miserable, all day long, especially after a feed. Other symptoms include eczema or a skin rash, mucus or blood in stools[i].
Babies who suffer from an allergy will not get better until they are on a dairy-free diet. Breastfeeding mothers can eliminate dairy from their own diet. The formula for special medical purposes is available for babies with milk allergies or sensitivities.
The Overstimulated Baby
A baby becomes overtired/overstimulated very easily, especially the younger they are. This often results in the ‘witching hour’ which many parents are familiar with. The endless crying, from around dinner time up to around bedtime, can become unbearable for parents and you are often left wondering what you can do to help your baby.
Watching out for your baby’s cues will really help limit your baby’s stimulation. Simple tired cues such as not engaging in eye contact or averting her gaze are often the first sign of overstimulation but it’s often missed. Ensuring baby has sufficient naps throughout the day is also important to ensure that she does not enter into a state of overtiredness.
Once you notice your baby is overstimulated, take away the stimulation, dim the lights and gently soothe your baby. Holds such as ‘Tiger in the Tree’ are very effective for an overstimulated baby.
A tongue-tie can cause colic and reflux in a baby because they often have a poor latch and take in too much air whilst feeding. This extra air sits in the tummy causing bloating, tummy ache and wind. It can also contribute to reflux too as the extra wind pushes up the stomach contents.
If the tongue-tie is diagnosed and revised or at least strategies given to parents on how to help their baby and improve tongue function, many parents find there is a significant improvement in their baby’s colic symptoms.
What help is available?
As a Colic Consultant and Baby Massage expert, Becky has many years of experience in helping colicky babies. She understands the pain that a family suffers as she has been there herself as a mother to a colicky baby. She has gone unheard and would not like any family to have to go through the misery that she and her family endured.
The Colic SOS signature programme is a completely personalised plan which is designed to help families who are in the throes of colic misery. By understanding the root cause of a baby’s colic, the right tools can be used to empower parents to help their babies. The programme also looks to nurture the parents too by equipping them with self-care tools so that they are not neglected during this difficult time.
Becky is the founder of Colic SOS. She is a colic expert with many years of experience working with families with colicky babies. She has a wealth of knowledge about colic, its causes and how to support both babies and their families during this difficult period. You can find out more here
Read more baby advice from Rebecca Palmer: “Help With Your Baby in the First 3 Months”