Expert / 8 August, 2018 / Peter Walker
Colic is also a term often used to describe long periods of crying that mostly reoccurs in the early evening and this seems to be a phenomena that affects many babies around a similar time in the evening.
Synchronised contractions take the milk/food your baby consumes through the digestive system and there are a number of sphincter muscles from the throat to the anus, that prevents its return. As the baby’s digestive system is immature, waste matter and/or air ‘trapped’ in the tummy or the intestines by a sphincter muscle, is most often a likely cause of pain.
Assisting your baby to relax their tummy can help the muscle relax, and ease the expulsion of trapped wind or waste matter, and there are a number of ways that this can be done.
Winding, or assisting your baby to release excess air from their tummy during feeding, can prevent the build-up of this and the discomfort that may occur before its release. This is often done at regular intervals during the feed by placing the baby over one shoulder and gently patting their back, or by sitting your baby upright over your thigh, leaning him/her slightly forward with your forearm under your baby’s arms and shoulders. Lifting your forearm to release pressure from the tummy while gently patting your baby’s back can also bring relief.
Colic and constipation, usually the result of wind or waste matter trapped in the intestine, is generally more uncomfortable and a little more difficult to soothe and release.
Regular periods of supervised tummy time will help to keep your baby’s tummy relaxed and bring about a variety of benefits not least of which is digestive ease. However, ‘tummy time’ should only be practiced once you have assisted your baby to release ‘physiological flexion’ the tension imposed throughout the front of the body from your baby’s fetal position in your womb.
Tiger in the Tree is a holding position during which the baby is held laying forward over your forearms. As with ‘tummy time’ laying the baby tummy forward can initially assist relaxation. Once positioned in this way rocking gently from the hip and patting the diaphragm can encourage the tummy to relax. As soon as you feel this you can then manipulate the tummy very gently and lightly with your palm and fingers to ease the baby’s discomfort.
Using Tiger in the Tree as suggested can bring relief during a period of distress. This technique has been shown by my teachers to have a very high rate of success. Between periods of discomfort tummy massage can be practiced and more ‘tummy time’ can be encouraged.
The whole area around the lower belly, known as the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) or the ‘Baby Brain’ is now a subject of intense scientific research. Unlike adults who are mostly centred in the Central Nervous System, the baby remains centred around their ‘Baby Brain’ / ENS which is responsible for their ‘here and now’ functions such as digestion and the elimination of waste products from the body.
However, the ‘Baby Brain’s’ function goes well beyond processing the food your baby eats. The ‘Baby Brain’/ ENS plays a significant role in your baby’s wellbeing, their moods and emotional expressions. As the structure and neurochemistry of the ‘Baby Brain’/ENS resembles that of the Central Nervous System, the gut bacteria or microbiota, a complex community of microorganisms, has become a centre of investigation in health research.
As the centre of nutrition, dysfunctions in the ‘Baby Brain’/ ENS have now been linked to common digestive disorders like colic and irritable bowel syndrome. The University of California have found a connection between early childhood trauma and irritable bowel syndrome. They have associated negative childhood experiences with ‘alterations’ in our gut microbiota. This seems to indicate some truth in the claims of ancient healers to ‘heal the belly and the body will start to heal itself’.
Acute episodes of any of these are often signified by a sudden loud cry of pain which generally continues until some kind of relief is experienced. As there are a variety of factors that can cause this, if these bouts are reoccurring, it’s best to consult your doctor, health visitor or breast-feeding specialist to ensure that nothing is being overlooked.
Article by Peter Walker from The Babies Website, Baby Massage Teacher Training