We have all been there as parents. You have fed him, burped him, changed him, rocked him, swayed him, and even bathed him and he just won’t stop crying! Could he have colic?
Well, to know for sure we first need to know what colic is, what it looks and sounds like, and what can cause it.
Stated simply, colic is when gas gets trapped in the intestines or stomach and your baby is having a difficult time ridding herself of this uncomfortable condition.
What does colic look like in your baby? Generally, a baby is determined to have colic by the “rule of threes”. That is, it shows up around three weeks, happens for about three hours a day, occurs at least three days a week and for about 3 months. This is not a hard and fast rule though. A lot of babies have what looks like colic and sounds like colic and don’t meet all of the requirements for the “rule of threes”.
Colic is sometimes called “purple crying” because colicky babies often cry until their face is purple. Your little one may tense up his body, curl his fists into balls, arch his back and have a round, distended and tight tummy. While colic involves trapped gas, no one really knows if babies are colicky because of the trapped gas, or if being colicky (which is now thought to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain) causes gas because the crying causes baby to inhale air quickly, causing gas.
Not all babies get colicky, but 1 in 5 do, so it is a fairly frequent condition. It is important to also note that in some babies, colic may be occurring because of reflux or food allergies, so if you suspect this is a problem for your child, please take them to see a physician so those things can be ruled out.
So, we know what colic is, what it looks like and some of its causes. Now, how can we stop it or relieve it? Keep reading for some quick tips on how to soothe your colicky baby.
Tips To Relieve Colic In Babies
- Walking, swaying, moving. Moving with your little one can often change their position enough to get gas moving through their bowels and out. If they start to settle and start passing gas, this has worked for them.
- Baby sit ups. One of the tried and true things for my little one was to put her on my lap and support her head, holding her legs stable and gently guide her to lying down and then sitting up again, while putting gentle pressure on her abdomen. The movement and gentle pressure help move things along.
- Rocking on Daddy’s forearm. I say Daddy here because men generally have loner forearms. This works really well on small, petite children. If you lay your child face/belly down on your forearm, with their head resting in your palm and legs on either side of your arm, and sort of sway while patting their back, this can also work wonders.
- Froggy legs. I don’t know who call it this, but I have also heard (outside of our family) it called Baby Buddha. Lay your child on his or her back, putting gentle pressure on their tummy with a hand. Then, extend his legs and bring them back up to his chest like frog legs. We also did bicycles and then brought them back up. This works much like sits ups and forearm rocking do. It just gets the gas moving.
- A pacifier. The sucking motion alone can soothe and relieve colic. Who knew?
- Swaddling. Swaddling your baby with a little extra tightness around their belly can give just enough pressure to reduce colic symptoms.
- A wrapped heat pack or rice sock. Used alone or in conjunction with swaddling, the slight pressure and heat can cause colic symptoms to dissipate.
- A warm water bottle. Filling a cheap plastic bottle with warm water and rolling it back and forth over baby’s belly can be a welcome balm and also help calm your crying infant.
- A warm bath with massage. An aromatherapy bath with lavender does wonders to relax and calm your baby at any time. Combining this with gentle abdominal massage can also ease colic symptoms.
- If you are formula feeding, switch formulas. Some kids have milk allergies or intolerances. Switching to soy or goats milk based formulas can rid them of colic altogether.(Note: Your newborn should only be fed with breastmilk or infant formula if your baby is still less than six months old.)
- Gripe Water. Why does gripe water work? I highly recommend gripe waters made of natural, herbal ingredients. These herbs are usually ones that aid in digestion, help relieve cramps and intestinal spasms, calm the baby, soothe reflux or heartburn, relieve bloating and dissolve gas . Natural gripe waters really work for some infants and that may be all they need to be soothed during those fussy times.
- Infant Probiotics. This works because some research suggests that the bacteria in the stomach and intestines of colicky infants is different than that of non-colicky infants . Infant probiotic powders can be found in nearly any health food store and can be mixed with water or breastmilk and administered with a dropper.
- Accupressure. There are specific pressure points associated with relieving infant colic. One example is to try gently pulling or tugging at the earlobes. However, you can also look for an acupuncturist in your area who is experienced in treating infants.
- Change mom’s diet. As with milk, your child may also be allergic or sensitive to wheat, shellfish, soy, nuts, eggs or have issues with broccoli, cauliflower and the like. Eliminating some of these foods if you are breastfeeding, can also seem to also eliminate your little guy’s colic.
- Visit a Chiropractor. Colic is not always digestive. Some babies may have genuine pain because of poor positioning in utero or during birth. An infant adjustment may help with this but make sure to seek out a practitioner who has experience with babies.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do try more than one method. Different things work for different kids at different times. If rolling the bottle of warm water worked for a week but it is not working now, try something else.
- Do hold your breath and count to 10. Caring for an incessantly crying little one can be stressful and exhausting. Do remind yourself to be patient and give yourself time and space before reacting.
- Do take care of yourself. Put baby in a swing or bouncer while you shower. A little self care goes a long way in our overall well-being.
- Do trust your instincts. If you try everything and nothing works. Trust yourself and take your little girl to a professional. Maybe it’s a UTI or an earache. Maybe she has a hernia or a host of other things that aren’t colic. If your gut says go, then go.
- Don’t forget to sleep when your baby is sleeping. All that crying is stressful. For both of you. You need to rest and recharge just as much as she does.
- Don’t forget to take time for yourself. Pass off your little guy to an auntie, a friend, your in-laws or your partner while you take a stroll, hit the gym or just have a coffee in peace.
- Don’t avoid social situations because your little fellow might bellow. Babies cry and so do we sometimes but you have to live life. Chances are a walk in the park or a stroll to the market will be just as good for him as it will be for you.
- Don’t neglect to take baby in for a second look. If you feel like your child’s colic isn’t improving and you have already seen your doctor, try another. Get a recommendation from a friend or family member, but exhaust all of your options for a little relief for both you and your child.
Colic is hard. Luckily, this is not a long lasting period of your child’s life. Colic usually improves when a baby reaches the age of three or four months and most colic resolves at around five or six months of age. There is hope. You will get through it and these suggestions help you cope, you will come out all right on the other side.
Recommended: The Happiest Baby (consist of book, DVD, Soothing Sleep Sounds CD and Swaddling blanket): exactly what you need to reduce crying and soothe your baby through the fist 8 months. Already millions of parents, from working moms to superstars like Madonna, swear by Dr. Karp’s secrets!