The most frustrating aspect of colic is the apparently inconsolable nature of the baby’s discomfort. While parents often feel helpless, there are steps that may provide you and your baby with comfort and help boost everyone’s sleep.
You can not only alleviate your babies suffering but also limit the duration of colic by following some of these tips below but because every baby is different and causes may vary, not every tip will work. Some trial and error is required.
- Keep a Colic Diary: By documenting your babies colic episodes you may be able to help yourself anticipate episodes and even pinpoint the cause. A colic diary should contain a record such as the time of day the episodes started and their duration, sleeping and eating patterns, what soothing strategies you’ve already tried and their effect, the sound of baby’s cry, your baby’s behaviour, body posture during episodes and smell and colour of stool and urine.
- When breastfeeding: Make sure your baby latches on correctly. If you are unsure or are experiencing difficulties with latching your baby to the breast, seek the support of a lactation consultant. If your baby gulps due to a fast supply (which often occurs during the early weeks of breastfeeding) slow down feeding by nursing lying down. Where supply is plentiful and your baby is gaining large amounts of weight, offer only one breast at each feeding (alternating breasts at each feed). If your milk supply is plentiful and letdown reflex is strong and provides a rush of breast milk, which your baby experiences difficulty in coping with, pump off a little of the milk BEFORE latching your baby to the breast (freeze pumped breast milk for future use).
- Mother’s Food: One of the suspected cause of colic is intolerance to the mother’s diet. Try and avoid some of the foods that are known to commonly affect infants. You might have to keep a food diary to note what foods seem to affect your baby most. Such foods may include legumes, calciferous vegetables e.g. cabbage, citrus fruits, wheat and dairy products.
- The Colic Hold: The colic hold uses gravity to apply gentle pressure to your baby’s abdomen. This may help baby expel gasses and increase motility in the gut. Carry baby face down with baby’s tummy resting on your forearm, baby’s legs straddling your elbow and baby’s chin resting in your hand. You can give the baby a gentle back rub for additional pressure. A similar result can also be achieved by putting baby face down on your leg, whilst you are seated. Alternately try the neck nestle, where baby’s head is placed in the groove between chin and chest and lean back slightly whilst holding baby upright to place gentle pressure on the tummy area.
- Herbal Tea – Lukewarm herbal teas are an old “folk remedy” for colic. There is some evidence that dill seed and fennel tea, in particular, may help. Give a teaspoon to your baby every few hours. If you are breastfeeding, do take the same through the day as well.
- Sound: Background sounds from the womb can be simulated using a white noise from a hairdryer, vacuum cleaner, tumble dryer, radio static or shushing.
- Music: Recorded lullabies or just singing to your baby may work at least by distracting the baby’s attention from discomfort, not to mention soothing the frayed nerves of mom and dad.
- Motion: A gentle rocking, vibrating motion or slow dance can soothe an upset baby. You can hold the baby in your arm, a cradle, swing or even take the baby for a car ride. You can also sit on an exercise ball to create the bouncing motion many babies love.
- Massage: A gentle stomach massage has been known to help some babies relieve the digestive discomfort associated with colic and to improve the motility of trapped gas.
- Cuddling, Swaddling and Holding: Keeping your baby close in your arms, swaddled in a blanket or in a sling may help calm your fussy baby. This creates a warm and confined environment more like the womb.
- Drug Relief: Speak to your doctor about prescribing some medication to cope with the symptoms
- Increase Frequency of Feedings: Shorter and more frequent feeding may help placate your baby if hunger is a factor in the fussiness and the sucking reflex certainly has a calming effect on infants. Be careful not to overfeed as this could actually worsen symptoms. If breastfeeding, empty one breast completely before switching sides as the hindmilk has less lactose which could trigger increased gassiness.