About one in five of all infants suffer from colic. Colic is defined as repeated episodes of excessive and inconsolable crying in a newborn baby which otherwise appears to be perfectly healthy. This type of crying is also commonly referred to as persistent crying.
This type of crying can be upsetting and frustrating for a parent. Trying to comfort a baby who has been crying uncontrollably for hours is hard work. At times, you may feel like crying yourself but it's important to remember that you're not doing anything wrong and your baby isn't crying for any particular reason.
It's also important to bear in mind that this type of crying won't last forever and it will pass. It usually begins when a baby is between two and four weeks and is usually over by the time your baby is between your baby is three or four months old. It is actually quite common so even though it might feel like it, you are not alone.
The persistent nature of colic means that there are likely to be times when your baby cries, whatever you do. Be prepared for soothing methods to work at some times but not at others. If your doctor has ruled out a cause that can be treated for your baby’s crying, you are back to trying to cope with the colic in whatever way you can. Sometimes, you will find feeding or burping your baby will work.
Here are some tips you can try:
- Whether your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed, feed him whenever he seems hungry. This is what is known as feeding on demand. Your baby may become fussy or cry from hunger if you try to time his feeds.
- Try to be aware of your baby’s signals which will help you to recognise his pre-crying cues. You can then offer a feed or try putting him down for a nap before his crying becomes more intense. Your baby may not always give a sign that he is about to cry. When this happens, try holding him calmly or giving him skin-to-skin contact before he settles to feed.
- Wind your baby after every feed. Hold him over your shoulder, sit him upright on your lap, or place him face down on your lap. Then gently rub his back to bring up wind.
- Try massaging his tummy gently with clockwise movements to help move along trapped wind.
- In between feeds, some babies are soothed by sucking. He may be happy to use his fingers or if you are bottle-feeding, you could try giving him a dummy.
- If you are breastfeeding your baby, try to keep him as upright as possible during his feeds to help reduce wind. Also make sure he is fully emptying one breast before moving to the other.
- If he is bottle-fed, make sure he isn’t swallowing air from the bottle. Try to sit him upright for feeds and tilt the bottle enough so that the milk covers the entrance to the teat. There are also special “anti-colic” bottles which you could try.
You can also try these other approaches to soothing which are thought to help recreate feelings and sensations that your baby had while in the womb.
Your baby may be comforted if you:
- Hold him close to you so that he can hear your heartbeat. Sit down, relax and take long, slow, breaths out so that your heartbeat slows down and regulates.
- Wrap him up snugly. If he is less than a month old, try swaddling him in a cotton sheet.
- Try having some white noise on in the background. Repetitive noise or vibrations may recreate the whooshing sounds of being in the womb. The sound of the vacuum cleaner or the rhythm of the washing machine may do the trick. A car journey often works to soothe some babies.
- Rock your baby by carrying him in a sling, rocking him in a swing or pushing him around in his pram.
- Try giving him a warm bath.
Following a certain pattern of care may also be beneficial. Your baby will become used to what happens next and be more settled.
If you feel that nothing you are doing is helping and you find yourself getting stressed, put your baby in his cot or Moses basket and take a break. Set a timer and take a few minutes to yourself. Remembering to look after your own well-being is a vital part of coping with colic.
There is no definite evidence that any particular soothing technique makes much difference to the amount your baby cries. Try to find what works best for you and your baby and before you know it your baby will have outgrown it!
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