There are not many treatment options for colic, but there are a number of self-care tips that you may find useful for when your baby has colic
Between 10% and 15% of all babies get colic. There are several theories, but doctors aren’t agreed on a single cause or even on a course of treatment. The most popular theory is that the child’s intestines are working too hard, which causes them to get a sort of cramp. Some doctors believe that colic arises because the child’s bowel movements may be too slow, so that air in the bowel makes the intestines expand, causing the pain. Others believe that colic has something to do with eating too fast, eating too much, or swallowing too much air without burping. There’s also a theory that there’s a link between colic and whether or not the mother drinks cows’ milk. For parents, seeing a baby cry inconsolably can be distressing and upsetting, making them feel that they are either doing something wrong or letting their child down. It is important to remember that, if it is colic, it is a common phase, which will eventually go away and has nothing to do with bad parenting.
What causes colic?
Colic can start within two to four weeks after birth and may last for up to three months. Experts suggest wind or indigestion may be involved – but as mentioned above, nobody really knows what the causes of colic are. Some wonder whether the baby’s gut is immature and sensitive to some of the substances in breast or formula milk. Milk allergies and lactose intolerance have similar symptoms to those of colic. However, these theories are not supported by evidence. Recent research has found that a common cause of colic is reflux. The milk ‘refluxes’ back up the oesophagus from the stomach and irritates the lining of the oesophagus. This can cause symptoms in your baby that are similar to ‘heartburn’ in adults and may cause colic.
Can diet help?
Breastfeeding. Sometimes the mother’s diet is blamed if she is breastfeeding but it is unusual for a change in diet to ‘fix’ the crying. Occasionally babies seem calmer if their mother removes cow’s milk and other dairy products from her diet. This should only be done with the help of a doctor. It may be useful to reduce the amount of caffeine a mother is having. Other suspects include spicy food, wheat products, nuts, strawberries, cruciferous vegetables garlic, caffeine, and alcohol.You could record what you eat and see whether some foods seem to change the pattern of crying.
What are the treatment options for colic?
There are not many treatments for colic. As a rule, colic does not need medical treatment and because all medication has side-effects, many doctors prefer not to prescribe medication in any case. However, a drug called simethicone, which has the same anti-gas ingredients found in many adult preparations, is commonly used to treat colic. Although there is no clear scientific evidence that gas is the cause of infant colic, it is recognised that babies who suffer from colic often pass a lot of gas. Ask your doctor about simethicone drops if your baby suffers from colic and passes a lot of gas. Another over-the-counter preparation that may help to relieve the symptoms of colic is gripe water. However, there are things a parent can do when dealing with a baby with colic. Comforting a baby with colic is often a question of trying out various methods and pursuing the ones that work – babies respond differently to comforting when they have colic. The following suggestions may help:
- Swaddling a baby during a crying episode may help (wrapping him/her up firmly in a blanket).
- Some babies respond well to just being held.
- Sit the baby upright when feeding; this makes it less likely that air is swallowed Sometimes more frequent – but smaller – feedings may help.
- Breastfeeding mothers may find that if they avoid tea, coffee, spicy foods and alcohol the baby’s colic symptoms become less severe.
- A soother (dummy) – some parents have found that offering the baby a pacifier helps.
- Make sure the holes in the bottle teats are the right size. If they are too small the baby is likely to swallow more air during each feed.
- Make sure you have burped your baby after a feed. Sit the baby upright or hold him/her against your shoulder with the neck and head supported. Rub their back and tummy until air comes out. Sometimes the baby may bring up a bit of milk; this is normal.
- Switch on the washing machine. Some babies seem to be soothed by the white noise created by this or other electric devices such as vacuum cleaners, as it supposedly reminds them of womb sounds. White noise CDs are also available.
- Gently massage your baby’s stomach or back or place them in a warm bath – stop straight away if the crying gets worse.
- Sometimes picking the baby up and putting him/her down frequently may make the crying worse. Comforting the baby in a quiet place with dimmed lighting often works better. When you are sure the baby is okay – fed, clean, not too hot or cold, leave him/her in the cot for a while.
- Some people find that going for a walk with the stroller helps settle the baby down, as might a drive in the car. Or anything that keeps the baby in motion – perhaps a baby sling will make it less tiring on the arms.
- Get someone to help. This may help calm you and your anxieties, which may result in more peace all round.