It’s a position many moms find themselves in, as one in five otherwise healthy newborns suffer from colic. If you’re wondering if your baby could be one of them, follow the rule of three: babies with colic cry for more than three hours a day, for more than three days a week, for more than three weeks. This typically lasts from a few weeks after birth to around the age of four months. Despite many studies, scientists haven’t discovered why this all-too-common problem occurs.
The more research there is, the less we seem to know for sure. For decades, if not longer, colic was chalked up to wind. One of the key ways to deal with it was making sure your baby was well-winded after feeding. But research published in the journal Child Care, Health and Development this year claimed that this had no impact on the number or severity of colic episodes.
The scientists’ best guess is that there are multiple causes of colic, so it makes sense that there may be multiple solutions. And taking a proactive step to soothe your crying baby – whatever that step may be – will help you feel more in control of the situation.
1. KEEP LIGHT AND NOISE TO A MINIMUM
Some scientists believe there is a link between migraines and colic. A 2012 study found that moms who get migraines are more than twice as likely to have babies with colic. A year later, another study discovered that 73 percent of children aged six to 18 who experienced migraines had colic as an infant, compared to 27 percent who didn’t. This has led to speculation that colic may be an early symptom of migraine. So, it’s worth reducing overstimulation by light and noise, which helps migraine sufferers, such as dimming bright lights, avoiding noisy toys, and turning down the music.
2. TRY THE ‘TIGER IN THE TREE’ HOLD
One of the long-suspected causes of colic is digestive pain, particularly trapped wind. This holding technique may help by placing gentle pressure on your baby’s tummy. Lie your baby along one of your arms, with her tummy downwards and her head by your elbow. Hold one of her thighs in your hand to ensure she is secure. Let your arm support her weight. Try jiggling her gently in this position too.
3. USE AN OVER-THE-COUNTER REMEDY
There are many colic remedies on the market. Some work by releasing air trapped in your baby’s digestive system, helping you burp her more quickly. Others, like Colief (R163, Amazon), aim to help her break down lactose in milk, to avoid trapped wind and bloating, which can lead to tummy aches.
There isn’t enough evidence to say any work, but many moms wouldn’t be without them. Most over-the-counter treatments take time to begin working, so use them as directed and discuss them with your doctor as there may be other alternatives out there.
4. EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEED
Exclusively breastfed babies generally have fewer tummy issues and this is of course first prize in fighting wind however they can still suffer from bouts of colic. If you are expressing your milk and using bottles choose specific anti-colic bottles that work on the principle that if your baby swallows less air as she feeds, she’ll suffer less from tummy aches. Trapped wind can take a few days to build up and disperse, so it’s worth sticking to a bottle for at least a week before you decide if it’s helping or not.
5. KEEP FOOD DIARIES
If you‘re breastfeeding your baby, it’s possible that the food you eat is causing her colic. An infant experiencing a cow’s milk allergy is not uncommon, so when you eat dairy it might trigger her colic. But it can also be caused by a huge range of food, from orange juice to chocolate to cauliflower. Keep a food diary and make a note of colic episodes, you’ll soon see if a pattern emerges.
6. MASSAGE HER TUMMY
If you think digestive pain is the cause of your baby’s colic, a gentle tummy massage may help. Use a cold-pressed organic oil and in a warm room, lay your baby on her back, and gently rub her tummy in a clockwork motion around her belly button. This stimulates digestion and promotes blood flow, as the motion follows the direction of her intestines. Touch can also have a healing and soothing effect.
7. CYCLE HER LEGS
This is another trick for getting the digestive system working and expelling trapped wind. Lay your baby in your lap, facing upwards. Gently hold her ankles and slowly move her legs in a bicycling motion. A similar exercise is to sit her on your lap with her back to your chest. Gently hold her knees together and bend them up towards her tummy. Hold for five seconds, then draw them down again, and repeat.
8. TRY PROBIOTIC DROPS
We’ve all seen those little bottles of yogurt, that offer to give us “good bacteria”. Now studies are being carried out into whether giving your baby probiotic drops containing these bacteria will help colic. The largest-scale study to date, in 2014, found that they don’t, but said further research was necessary to discover whether they may help particular babies. An earlier study found evidence that they might have more of an effect on babies who are exclusively breastfed rather than those who are fed formula. Either way, it can’t hurt to try! Discuss with your paeditrician.
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