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DEALING WITH COLIC:
All infants cry and fuss — this is normal behavior and not necessarily indicative of colic. However, if the crying seems excessive with little relief, you may be dealing with colic.
Signs and symptoms of Colic (from the Mayo Clinic):
- Crying more than three hours a day, three days a week for more than three weeks
- Pedictable crying episodes. A colicky baby often cries about the same time every day, usually in the late afternoon or evening. Colic episodes may last from a few minutes to three hours or more on any given day. The crying usually begins suddenly and for no clear reason. Your baby may have a bowel movement or pass gas near the end of the colic episode
- Intense, high pitch or inconsolable crying.
- Your baby's face may flush
- You baby is extremely difficult — if not impossible — to comfort
- Posture changes. Curled up legs, clenched fists and tensed abdominal muscles are common during colic episodes.
- Colic isn’t caused by parents — You are not doing anything wrong or neglecting a need. It’s hard, but you have no reason to feel guilty.
- It won’t last forever — a lot of babies (and parents) see relief by 3 months, and by 4-5 months colic should subside.
- You are not alone — 1 in 4 of babies get colic
Here are member tips of things you can try to help with manage your colicky baby (scroll down for tips to deal with gas related to colic):
Colic is still largely a mystery but one theory is that infants lack the beneficial bacteria in their stomach which can cause discomfort. Some parents consider introducing probiotics to their infant.
Try eliminating certain foods:
Some breastfeeding mothers avoid certain foods (common culprits are dairy and/or soy). But before you try this, check with your doctor first!
One mother writes: “I cut out dairy on the suggestion of friends when my now 3 yr old was a couple weeks old. It really helped . . . Every couple weeks I would sneak a bite of cheese to see if she was still sensitive, and she was, until she was about 7 months old. She has no trouble with dairy now.”
Get your baby’s stool checked:
“I will caution you that you should go to your pediatrician and get the baby's stool tested before going to the trouble of changing your diet. They put some poop on a little test card that changes color if blood is detected. This indicates the baby is having a digestive problem and dairy is usually the culprit. Soy intolerance is found in large number of dairy intolerant kids so it's often recommended to cut that out too. Lactation consultants and lots of others are very quick to tell you to cut out dairy/soy as if it's no big deal. It will take at least a month off dairy alone before you should test again to see if you should cut out soy too.”
If you suspect you have a colicky infant, check with your pediatrician before taking the elimination diet–dive.
Check for GER/ GERD:
“Before you start changing your diet rule out that your baby doesn't have GER or GERD. We were in the same boat and then found out this was the source of the problem, not colic.”
Try medicines like Axid or Cocyntal:
“My son started at about 5 weeks crying incessantly esp after feeding, pulling off the breast and then trying to get more. I kind of dreaded feeding time because I could tell he was in pain. Cutting things out did nothing for me either. He never slept that well except when upright on me. The doc thought "colic" but I read about acid reflux. Got him on Axid. he was like a new baby in 2 days.”
Unfortunately, at the end of the day, any elimination diet may not help. Many doctors and parents say the best medicine is time and patience. As one parent put it: “As hard as it is to accept this, there is a good chance that you are doing everything right and that time will be the best cure.”
(Again, please see the PSP disclaimer above - always check with your Doctor!)
“I found that swaddling, wearing the babies, and spending as much time outside as possible seemed to help.”
“My husband and I really, strictly followed the techniques in the book The Happiest Baby on the Block — "tightly" swaddling our baby or "swinging" him or saying "loud" shhh shhh. I remember the first night we tried these techniques when our son was 1.5 month old. He literally stopped crying and fell sleep instantly. And the techniques worked every time we tried. I cannot even imagine how much this book helped us those days.”
“My daughter did better when she was tightly wrapped and taken out for long walks in a sling. And our battery-operated swing was a blessing - we probably used it 4-5 hours a day. Later on, white noise seemed to help her sleep better.”
Try alternative therapies like acupuncture and infant massage:
“Acupuncture cured our baby’s colic. It was the best $40 I ever spent.”
Specifically, for gas/ intestinal issues related to colic
Try gas drops:
"You can get these over the counter, the ones we have are just called "Infants gas drops" and the main ingredient is simethicone. You can check with your pediatrician, but they seem to be very commonly used and recommended to help break down the gas. Whether they work or not is another matter - but it makes me feel like were at least trying our best when he is going through horrible gas pains and we're giving him the drops."
"Put the baby on his/her back when the baby is calm, and exercise their legs, making "bike riding" movements or just pushing their legs gently against their belly - this helps the gas move and pass, and you can get some very impressive farts out of the little buggers! :)"
Baby with his/her belly pressed against your arm, their head resting on your forearm. The pressure on the belly sometimes helps - and for Lucas, making jiggly movements when he is like this seems to work magic."
"Seems to make him feel better than lying down. I hold him against my shoulder either when sitting on the couch, or just have him in the carrier (Moby wrap for us) at home, so that he is upright and a little crunched up, which seems to help.
"Being on their bellies is often better for the pain than on their backs."
"Works wonders for L. Any movement combined with him being held upright seems to be the key."
"I have a strong let down of milk, meaning my milk comes down too fast and too heavily causing him to probably swallow a lot of air while nursing. Breastfeeding in an upright position (called biological nurturing/laid back nursing) or side lying position can help, because it makes the milk come down slower. I also try to make sure he burps after every feeding, and sometimes even during a feeding, so that the air doesn't get stuck in his little tummy. Another tip is to feed with one breast for as long as you can handle it, before switching over to the other one. If you're bottle feeding, you can get a colic bottle that should minimize air bubbles, and also the slower the flow of the bottle the better for their tummies."
Removing gassy foods from your diet if you're nursing:
"I've tried to cut out foods that are known to cause lot of gas, you can find tons of lists for these foods online. Haven't really seen a big difference myself, but it's another thing that makes me feel like I'm doing the best I can."
"Sometimes one thing works, and then next time the same thing will do nothing - but when he is really crying in pain, we will try every trick in the book. then there are times when nothing works, and he just has to ride it out - and we suddenly see and feel him relax when the gas finally passes, or a big poop comes out.. and then we celebrate the fart or poop and make up songs about it :) The things you we do as parents! If anyone else is experiencing similar challenges and has any tips, I'd love to hear them - or just commiserate together. There's nothing as bad as hearing your baby cry and not being able to stop it or help him :( "
A note from PSP's medical liaison, Dr. Gordon:
'There was one good study published in the Journal Pediatrics recently which showed an improvement in symptoms in the group given the probiotic lactobacillus reuterii (found in Biogaia brand) .The theory is that it takes about two months for the newborn gut, which is sterile, to become colonized with the helpful bacteria that promote gut comfort in all of us, so that by giving some by mouth we hasten that process.
Another way to look at colic is that your baby is experiencing discomfort associated with the new and constant experience of healthy normal processes -- eating, digesting, excreting, and metabolizing --and there may not be anything you can do to make those feelings go away.
By staying calm and supportive, and being present and attentive, you may help the baby go through these feelings and processes, and get to the other side of them. The repeated experience of feeling bad and then starting to feel better may help the baby to feel less overwhelmed by these feeling, and to anticipate the phase of feeling better/feeling good. Some neurodevelopmentalists believe that the discharge of emotional energy during vigorous crying and fussing may be actually play a part in maturation of brain pathways.
I always like to think that before the baby was born, she already knew how to go through the cycles of crying and calming, sleeping and waking, by herself. The mother was a kind of infinite enveloping support system, always present and never changing, and within that environment she learned how to weather these changes. Once the baby is born we can try to acknowledge and tolerate these changes with the same equanimity as when we were pregnant --although we didn't know when the baby was upset before he was born, we were still providing everything she needed.
Sometimes the addition of our attempts to soothe may actually delay the baby's cycling through his feeling the way he did in the womb, though certainly trying to calm the baby and not succeeding can lead to stress and anxiety in the parents, and the parents' tensions in turn make the baby upset.
In medicine we always say, "The hardest thing to do is nothing." But doing nothing and saying to your baby (and each other) "You're feeling bad, but everything is okay and after a while you're going to feel better" is always helpful and never harmful.
Remember, colic is mysterious, but it is not caused by anything the parents are doing wrong or are failing to do."
Further Resources From Around The Web
The Mayo Clinic's Guide to Colic is comprehensive and can be found HERE.