We get hundreds of new mothers asking about Colic, and it’s something that’s always on our mind. It’s something I went through as a mother with my daughter and you feel utterly helpless. The good news is that it really does come to an abrupt end, but it’s always good to have some help and advice from the experts, so here you go:
Infant colic is a common condition, affecting around 1 in 5 infants in the UK in their first month of life. However, it is not a serious medical condition and does not cause any harm to your baby. It usually resolves by the age of 3-4 months. Colic is usually recognised by bouts of inconsolable crying, often for hours at a time, for no specific reason – i.e. your baby is not hungry, overtired, needs a nappy change or has a raised temperature.
Despite medical research, no one is certain what causes infant colic. A likely explanation may be the build-up of trapped wind in your immature baby’s bowel causing pain and discomfort.
Colic most commonly occurs in the late afternoon and evening when your baby may cry out in pain, draw her knees up to her chest and go red in the face. Her tummy may be swollen or bloated as if she’s swallowed a lot of air, and she might pass wind more than usual.
If symptoms persist after 3-4 months of age, it may be that your baby is suffering from reflux or lactose intolerance so medical advice will need to be sought
HOW TO AVOID COLIC
Check your latching technique. If your baby is positioned incorrectly and tends to come on and off the breast, they can swallow in air which can trigger colic. Also if breastfeeding, avoid eating broccoli, cabbage, peas, cauliflower, raw onions and lentils until your baby is around 6 weeks old as these foods are often connected with colic in breastfed babies. By ensuring your baby finishes on one breast first before starting the next ensures your baby receives hind milk which is thought to reduce the symptoms of colic.
Always ensure your baby’s teat is full of milk at all times. Try anti-colic teats or even anti-colic bottles. Anti-colic bottles and teats are designed to reduce the amount of air your baby takes in while feeding. You can choose a bottle that has an air vent or features a collapsible bag for the milk. Angled bottles also help stop your baby taking in excess air, so if your baby suffers from wind and colic, you may notice an improvement by using an anti-colic bottle but it does not work for every baby!
Some mums use a ‘fast flow’ teat as holes in teats that are too small may cause your baby to swallow too much air during feeding.
Changing your baby’s milk does not necessarily work but if your baby’s colic is severe, you could try changing to a hypoallergenic formula for one week & if your baby’s symptoms don’t improve then go back to your usual formula milk. Changing to a formula that does not contain cow’s milk protein can be more helpful in some cases where a potential allergy is suspected.
Regular winding and burping, during and after a feed can help. About 2-3 times during a feed should suffice and after winding your baby following the feed try keeping him upright for about 30 minutes to an hour to help aid digestion. Try placing your little one in a sling or infant carrier so your hands are free and your baby can hear your heartbeat, as this can also help to settle her!
Winding methods include:-
- Rubbing baby’s back whilst he/she is sat upright on your lap & leaning forward
- Holding baby upright on your shoulder whist rubbing your baby’s back
- Lying baby on his/her tummy cross mum or dad’s knees can also aid digestion & relieve wind
- ‘Tiger in the Tree’ hold
There is a school of thought that colic is attributed to sensory overload since your baby is more aware of his/her surroundings and taking in more sights and smells from 2-3 weeks of age than in his or her sleepier first weeks of life
Watch your baby for signs of over-stimulation, particularly in the late afternoon: watch for signs of looking away, sucking on hands and grizzling. Heed these signals so you can start calming your baby in the run-up to bedtime and remove whatever is irritating.
Anti-colic massage techniques can be performed on your baby’s tummy about 40 minutes after a feed in a clockwise direction to help move the bubbles in the gut & to help alleviate the bloating and wind discomfort.
There are five basic methods:-
- ‘Round the clock massage technique’. This entails gentle massage for about 10-15 seconds in each quadrant of the abdomen in a clockwise direction and should be repeated about 3 times
- ‘Bicycling’ – This technique can help stimulate the release of the trapped gas. Whilst baby is lying on her back, each knee is alternatively taken up to the abdomen. This can be repeated about 3 times and then again with alternate knees, gently bring the knee to the opposite side of the abdomen
- ‘The ‘I Love U’ massage technique’ is named as the massage movements are like the letters ‘I, L, & U’ & should then be repeated 3 times
- ‘Scooping the sand’ – This method entails a downward motion on the tummy starting from under the ribs towards the lower abdomen. This action should be repeated 3 times
- ‘Tiger in the tree’ or the ‘Lazy Lion’ hold can help greatly with colic, it really works!
For a better idea, check out the anti-colic baby massage videos on the Infacol website.
From around six to eight weeks, your baby will start to develop head control. When this occurs you can lay your baby on her tummy and she will try to lift her head and shoulders. This position helps to stretch his abdominal cavity and aids digestion. It can prevent colic, reflux and constipation but should not be performed immediately after a feed. Remember ‘belly time’ during a massage is important as it can also assist with crawling later!
Some anti-colic drops contain simeticone (e.g. Infacol), which helps the small bubbles of trapped air in your baby’s bowel join into bigger bubbles. This reduces the bloating and discomfort caused by excess wind and allows your baby to bring up wind more easily
Some mums swear by this as a calming method for colicky babies. The humming of a vacuum or sound of the washing machines can help to calm colicky babies! The repetitive noise or vibrations may recreate the whooshing sounds of your baby being inside you.
Infacol has a unique ‘Virtual Colic Clinic app’ which is a way for parents to get immediate, 24/7 support by accessing video response answers to important questions about dealing with colic; either through a smartphone, tablet or desktop. The Virtual Colic Clinic can be accessed here.
Remember colic will pass, but in the interim accept all offers of help from family and friends to ensure you get some time to rest too, as it can be a very stressful and tiring time for parents. Good luck!
By Nikki Khan, Expert Midwife
Nikki Khan, Sudacrem’s Expert Midwife, is a tried & trusted career Midwife (still registered & practicing for nearly 25 years now) from a long lineage of Midwives and a Mother herself. She is a Certified Baby Massage Instructor with a specialty in massage for babies with Cerebral Palsy and other developmental problems, plus being an Author and Journalist. She is a leading authority on ‘Anti-Colic’ Remedies, ‘Breast-Feeding’ and Umbilical ‘Cord-Care’. Nikki runs her own unique pregnancy & postnatal classes at the Notting Hill Harbour Club.