Preventing and Treating Colic

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Even the word colic can cause anxiety for parents, but what is it, can it be prevented, and how should it be treated?

If your baby is crying inconsolably in the late afternoon and on in to the evening and night without any consolation, he might have colic. For a brand new mum, or even a seasoned one, dealing with a colicky baby can be overwhelming. The constant crying is heartbreaking and nerve wracking, and leaves you with a sense of helplessness. It is important to know that colic is not the result of something you are doing wrong

What is colic?

Colic – pain and discomfort in baby’s tummy – is a common condition in young babies, usually starting at about two to three weeks and invariably disappearing at about four months old, although it can last up to about six months for some babies. Some studies show that it can affect up to 20 to 40% of babies and occurs equally in boys and girls, and in breastfed and bottlefed babies. Colic is not a very serious condition but it is very upsetting for any parent to see their baby so uncomfortable and distressed. It’s unclear what causes it but it’s generally thought to be the result of an immature digestive system, a temporary lactose intolerance, or feeding problems including swallowing air or trapped wind.

What are the symptoms?

You can identify colic by long bouts of crying over a period of days, which usually start in the late afternoon, and sometimes stretching in to the evening and beyond. Your baby will normally have a very high-pitched cry and he will arch his back and draw his knees up to his tummy in discomfort and pain. The cries can subside, lulling you in to believing the pain has gone away, only for the crying to start up again.

How can I prevent colic?

It is important to know that colic is not caused by anything you are doing wrong as a parent. And whilst it can be very difficult to prevent entirely, there are certain things you can do to lessen the likelihood of your baby developing colicky episodes, or reducing their frequency if they do occur.

  • If you are bottle-feeding opt for vacuum-free, fully-vented bottles. These will prevent your baby from gulping in air with her milk – a major cause of colic.
  • Regardless of whether you breast or bottle-feed, keep your baby in an upright position during feeding to prevent trapped wind.
  • Burp your baby extremely well after feeding. If the baby burps, and if wind has come up, give it another 5 to 10 minutes of winding. You will be surprised that there may well be more there.

Coping with colic

So what do you do if colic symptoms do appear? As there is no definitive cause of colic, there is no proven cure. But the first step is ensuring your baby really has colic in the first place. If you haven’t had the little one checked out by a doctor, do so. Sometimes what’s written off as colic is really a milk allergy or some other true gastric disorder, like acid reflux. If the baby is on formula, you should ask if making a change in brand might help.

Secondly, get help! If you have to deal with the colicky symptoms all by yourself every day, you’re bound to go nuts. Swap with your spouse, another family member or a friend. When trying to comfort your baby, wearing them is a very good place to start (this worked wonders with my daughter). Get a baby sling or harness and wear your baby as much as you can while crying, the motion and the noise can help settle them down. Get a change of environment and go out for a walk and have some time out.

Next, try some of those tricks everybody tells you about. A lot of them really do work! Take the baby for a drive. Hoover, play music or sit with the baby on the washing machine during the spin cycle. Try to take the baby’s mind off her misery. For some babies a warm bath and a rock in a rocking chair is helpful.

Quite often parents may try to settle their baby by feeding them, which can often cause more damage than good. Sometimes a baby can overfeed and you can get into a vicious circle of feeding and wind. Try to have intervals between feeding and watch for signs your baby is hungry as opposed to just crying.

This probably is not the time to try the “crying it out” method for colic. Your baby is truly in pain and needs comfort during this time, and letting her cry for a long time will probably only escalate the situation. There are over the counter remedies which can relieve symptoms for some babies. Get advice from your GP or pharmacist about the best one for your baby. Baby massage comes recommended, as does feeding your baby as upright as possible to prevent trapped wind.

Seeking medical advice?

Always seek medical advice if your baby has a temperature, vomiting, blood in their stools, a high pitch abnormal cry or feeding problems or symptoms other than just excessive crying. The number one thing to remember is it is not your fault and it will not go on forever. If colicky symptoms haven’t subsided within a few weeks, make a return trip to the doctor, just to be sure nothing has changed.

This article is proudly sponsored by Dr Brown’s. Dr Brown’s® has over 20 years’ experience helping parents combat windy colic – Prevention is better than cure!

Find out more about their range, including the Dr Brown’s Options+ bottle at www.drbrownsbaby.ie

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