What is colic really and 7 things real Mama's have found that helped their babies!
Colic is a condition that approximately 1 in 5 babies suffer with. Colic is basically described as a baby that cries for more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, 3 weeks in a row, whilst otherwise appearing healthy and unhurt. There seems to be no explanation why your otherwise happy bub suddenly begins to cry non stop, usually as the evening or night progresses.
Apart from hours of crying, your baby also might be very gassy, she may have a very tight, bloated tummy, a little like a drum, he might be red in the face, clenching his fists or straining to pass wind. She is likely pulling her knees in to her tummy.
By it's very definition colic is a "behavioural syndrome not caused by organic disease". It is part of "the normal ‘crying curve’ of healthy infants" which is "not the result of pain. Colic “is something infants do, rather than something they have,” according to Dr. Ronald Barr, a researcher and developmental pediatrician.. It is also known to generally correct itself at about 3-4 months of age. Dr. Barr, who " has likely done more studies on infant crying than anyone in the world, came up with the phrase The Period of Purple Crying." Well worth a read.
All the same, when your baby suffers colic is exhausting for everyone! It can be frustrating, overwhelming scary and downright demoralising to a new parents' confidence that they are doing anything right in this parenting gig. Let me make one thing perfectly clear here....this is not because of anything you are doing wrong. You are doing a great job, and adding to the fact that you have likely been walking the floors for hours, days, weeks makes you even more amazing. Tears and fears and all.
If your baby suffers colic you may find great relief in this scientific definition, and strength to ride it out. Alternatively this may be absolutely not what you want to hear, and you may find yourself wondering why there seem to be many different hypotheses from all directions. Hypotheses as to what triggers this diagnosis, and just as many suggestions of how to help ease a baby's symptoms.
I guess if you are going to look at the expert research, and then try to sift through all of the other 'advice' you are offered, you'll find yourself wondering who is right. Perhaps everyone is though? Perhaps some bubs just cry more and there is nothing you can do but wait it out, while there are others who have found answers to their unique story. At the end of the day, do you care who is right? Are you wanting to try something to help, or are you managing ok and waiting for this to pass. Because it will pass. If you are a parent who is suffering alongside your baby, you are likely either grasping for something to help or completely fed up with other people making suggestions that you have already tried.
"It really took me to the edge. Feeds & the after-effects took about 3 hours and it was almost time for the next feed when I was staggering to my bed."
-words from other Mama's
Photo by Jenna Norman
Let me make it clear, I am no Dr, no scientist and not questioning the research. But I too have heard all the different thoughts on why and what to do, and wonder, perhaps there are babies with 'true colic', and other babies that meet the symptoms of colic for other reasons. This is just my own thought, and expressed with the greatest of respect to those with scientific backing.
After chatting to a mum this week who is in the thick of some long exhausting nights with her baby's colic, and knowing how overwhelming it can be when too many well-meaning people suggest 'have you tried..." I decided to ask the question, and collate the feedback of other parents who have lived this journey, and found some relief for their baby.
Let me tell you this is a BIG topic. I have never had such a huge response to any other question I have asked mum's. If your baby and family are suffering today, know that the greater parenting community is silently backing you. Sending love and strength to get through this trying time. Following is a summarised compilation of a whole bunch of other Mamas answers to their own colic relief.* Things that you may wish consider, or not. Only if the idea works for you. Lets take a look at the what is, the why, and the how can we help options coming not squarely from the Dr's, but from some popular parenting experiences*.
"I rang a help line at 6 weeks with my first colic bub, and was given a light in the knowledge that it usually/often eases at 8 weeks."
-words from other Mama's
What else could be causing my baby's colic symptoms? Because so often we hear people saying any number of things were causing their baby's symptoms.
1. Allergies or digestive issues: reacting maybe to something passed through the milk, breast or formula. I have sadly seen some mums give up breastfeeding far before they were ready, feeling it may be her milk causing these symptoms. Please mama, unless you are ready, consider all other options first. Talk to your Dr, midwife, a lactation consultant. Your breastfeeding journey is just that . Yours!! You deserve to take it as far and long as you want it to be, so trust me when I say there are other alternatives to consider first.
Photo by Luiza Braun
2. Baby is sucking in too much air: whilst feeding, or even gulping in too much whilst crying. And your baby has such a tiny space to move that air through.
3. Over-stimulation: The suggestion your bub is experiencing 'sensory overload' can make a lot of sense. Your tiny baby has come from their nice safe world, warm and cosy and dark, listening always to your heartbeat, your voice, feeling your breath. Suddenly all around them is mass stimulation. Bright lights and colours, visitors in their face and oh so many voices, all wanting to shower their gifts on bub. Everything is so enhanced and overwhelming. It can all get a bit much and a new soul may be taking this on all day, processing the best they can, and simply releasing the overwhelm as the day ends.
This may be unbearably hard for some baby's to manage. Even as adults, some of us just need a little more time to adjust to overwhelming environments. A little more help to manage our feelings. Of course this does not help when you are in the thick of it and your own feelings are completely frazzled.
4. This is your baby's normal crying behaviour (for this age): And that is okay. As seen in studies this level of crying is completely normal in some 10% of babies, as when looking at a scale of babies average cry and sleep patterns. Some babies sleep less. Others sleep 23hrs a day. Some babies are super chilled. Some cry A LOT MORE....they need more support. I know there is a whole lot of ‘expert advice’ out there telling you your baby should sleep and feed X hours, X times a day, but if there is only one thing I can ask you to take with you today, it is PLEASE stop reading these instructions!! Babies are just little people. Even between you and your partner I bet you have different needs in your sleep and feeding patterns. Different needs in your emotional support. Some of us just need more. No matter how big or small. Some of us need less. It's that simple.
Photo by Zach Lucero
5. Tongue-tied?? Some people suggest a baby's tongue-tie may be related. Others are adamant it has nothing to do with it and it is a cruel practise. I know for me personally, having my first bubs tongue tie snipped likely saved our breastfeeding journey from stopping way before I was ready (we did not suffer colic with our first). There are always two sides to every idea. Be sure to hear both and do what is right for your family, not what is right for other peoples.
What actual parents have found helpful for their baby's colic symptoms?
With all of the above possibilities of why, finally we come to the collation of what real parents have found helped their baby. Below are a collation of all the answers a whole bunch of parents shared of their own stories that you may like to consider trialing in your home? Or maybe you have already tried some without success, and are completely over people suggesting. If one of those are below, please feel free to skip that point and any that do not resonate with you, and scan for anything that does. Or feel confident in your decision to wait this out with your bub. You know what is right for your family.
1. Diet can play a big role in many colic babies
Probably the biggest response in asking "Did anything help your baby?" was this. A change in my diet or my baby's formula! And for almost everyone who said diet, the change was omitting dairy. And I mean ALL dairy. This can be so hard for a new mum to have to think about. With everything else to suddenly consider cutting dairy....coffee, cheese, chocolate. And these are just the obvious omissions. Checking ingredients on all packaged items to ensure no dairy can be tough. However for a great many (not all) the effects were well worth the effort. Time and again I read comments like this:
"I cut out dairy from my diet (everything that contains dairy, even in miniscule amounts i.e. milk powder in flavoured chips etc) and saw an immediate difference within a week (although it can take up to 6 weeks for symptoms to completely disappear as the milk protein can stay in their system a long time), he wasn't squirming in pain anymore, no gas at all and the happiest most content baby.
People actually started asking me does he ever cry?"
-words from other Mama's
Photo by Jagoda Kondratiuk
Omitting dairy (or other suspected allergens) has been a total game changer for some families. It is important to remember if you are going to do this, it will generally take at least a week, and up to six weeks to see a response as your baby's digestive system will take time for them to process any residual dairy in their body. So you will need to be a little patient to see results. The added bonus (coming from a lover of dairy), dairy is not really great for any humans. You just might be pleasantly surprised at how your own body feels. I've met many the mum who stopped dairy for their breastfeeding baby, then never went back.
"It's so sad seeing so many mums just being told it's normal for their babies to be in agony and that they're just colicy or have "silent reflux," being given medication as an easy fix.
For those interested (check out the Facebook page) Breastfeeding Mums with Allergic and Food Intolerant Babies Australia"
-words from other Mama's
2. Therapies....pediatric chiropractor, Osteo, Bowen & Craniosacral
All of the above have been accoladed by a number of mums. There are so many wonderful, gentle therapies out there that it is easy enough to consider one that works for you. Whichever you may consider I would recommend you do your research first. Ask around, and ask the therapist - "what is your experience with babies in general, and babies specific to colic?" Because like every modality, therapists will tend to focus either broadly, or specifically on a certain client-type. And if their people are not so much babies, they may not have the best experience to help you.
3. Homeopathics and probiotics
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
These two seemed to be suggested hand in hand quite often, suggesting the teaming up being more beneficial. There were a number of homeopathics suggested, but the one that seemed to pop up most regularly was Willby's Wind and Colic Mix. What I love about Willby's is they "conduct a free consultation about you and your baby to determine that your baby does indeed have colic."
"It's a chemist down south who makes it and ships it up cold and you put it in the fridge. We had terrible vomiting at night and it started working within two days. The mother and baby can also take a probiotic. https://willbyswindandcolicmix.com"
-words from other Mama's
4. Focusing on the calm - you and bub together
As suggested above, over-stimulation could be a possible aggravator for some babies. Perhaps try a few days in with LESS. Of course, you likely haven't even left the house much at this time anyway, but take general stock of your nesting environment. Can you reduce bright lights? Lesson visitors and passing around of bub outside of a few familiar people? For you and those people, can you share quiet time cuddling bub so he can feel the safety of your heartbeat? The warmth of your skin.
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič
5. Your baby is master at feeding off your emotions. And likely they are bouncing off the walls right now with love and fear and exhaustion and frustration and heartache. Can you pass bub to someone familiar (to them) so you can step out and regroup? Take a long calming shower and breathe deeply. Sit with a cup of tea. Lie on the bed and allow bub to feed IF this is what she needs. It may be absolutely not what she needs? Can you find your calm so she can feel it and feed off these feelings. This has to be the hardest suggestion yet! If you cannot pass bub to anyone, consider soaking in a warm bath, both of you. Keep the lights dim, music soft. My girls are loving the sounds of Mei-lan Maurits at bedtime lately, and a few Mum's with bubs I have introduced her to have found bub often settle to her magical sounds.
Photo by Kreated Media
6. Tea blends to consider - you can buy blends specific to help with digestive issues and colic, or you could easily make your own with a mix of herbs or spices - chamomile, licorice, mint, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds (a combination of say 3-4 of these) steeped in hot water can be good for beating gas in the baby if drank before a meal.(You drink the tea, not bub) Not to mention the mere calming process of mindfully steeping and drinking tea for you. (Remember, bub feeds off your emotions)
Photo by Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis
7. Baby Massage can work wonders! The benefits - you and your baby are doing this together, so already they are feeling safe and in a better place. You are supporting their tiny, immature digestive system. Stimulating and encouraging the movement of food and wind. You are helping your baby to understand how to relax their tummy, their whole body. And with that, things that should move will move. There is a specific tummy massage you can do to support your baby with colic. You can do this up to three times a day in your own home! If this interests you, it is certainly something that I can help you learn.
I think one of the most frustrating things about having a baby with colic, AFTER the heartache and sleep exhaustion and self-doubt of course is the onslaught of “Have you tried” that you often need to fend off. I hope by collating here some of the most common suggestions, it will allow you to look into them and try or dismiss them as it suits your family. I cannot stop people asking you, but certainly you can reply with a yes thanks, or no thanks, that's not for us. I hope that can help a little. And I REALLY hope for your family your baby's symptoms ease soon.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema
*FINALLY, It is important to note that all 'parenting tips' above are a collation of experiences and suggestions that parents and supporters of parents have offered. We are not Dr's, not dieticians, nor naturopaths (although of course, I have touched on some of these professionals’ thoughts above). If you suspect your baby of having colic, please first see your health practitioner face to face, not a google search. It is important to rule out the possibility of other health concerns that may be causing your bub to cry so that something else that may be treatable is not overlooked. After this, consider these suggestions, discuss them with your midwife or health person as you wish if any resonate with you. Or not. Perhaps for you you are best and happiest to ride this out together? This is your baby. Your family. With all the advice being thrown at you from all directions...YOU still know best. Tap into that knowledge and take it One. Day. At. A. Time. Xx