Most of us have heard of the word, ‘Colic’, ‘Reflux’ or the phrase, ‘a colicky baby’, but what does that actually mean?
Well, Colic is a condition that affects babies, generally between the ages of 2 and 16 weeks. Long story short, it makes them cry… a lot. Here’s what you need to know about it.
What Actually is Colic?
Essentially colic is a condition where a baby will cry regularly, without clear explanation, for long periods of time. Now, all babies cry and crying is a normal part of development, but when babies cry excessively, or they cry for very long periods of time, it’s known as colic.
It is heartbreaking to hear your baby cry like this… and as a Mum or Dad, the constant crying can really get to you. Now is the time to lean on family and friends that can help you through this very difficult time.
The Symptoms of Colic
Extended periods of crying isn’t really much to go on, so as a parent, it pays to know some of the other symptoms that are associated with colic. Often colic begins around the first two to four weeks of life, peaking a few weeks later. The baby can be very content during the day, only to be quite colicky in the evening.
Some other symptoms of colic include:
- Grimacing and frowning
- Redness in the face
- Long, loud fits of screaming
- Audible stomach rumblings
- Pulling up of the legs, suggesting stomach pain
- Difficulty settling
- Crying for three hours or more
Real Mum’s Stories of Their Colicky Baby
“My son is now 12, but seriously he is lucky to have made it that far because he was such an unsettled, hard collicky baby – it was hell on earth. He cried for nearly 13 hours, every single day. I can’t tell you how hard that is as a parent, not being able to soothe your child who is in pain. We took him to the Doctor and he was placed on some Colic medication which I had to give him before every feed – and to some degree it really did help. We also elevated his sleeping position so that he wasn’t lying flat when he went to bed.
At one stage I was so exhausted I wanted to throw him in the cot. I felt like such a bad parent. I ended up placing him there and walking around the block so I could cool down a bit.
I really recommend that you get as much help as you can when you have a collicky baby – you will need it.
The one day he just came good.... ” – Samantha, 32, Ipswich
“We thought we ruined our lives when my son was born. He would cry so hard he would turn splotchy. I wore earplugs just to hold him. It got a little better around 5-6 months and a lot better at about one year.
We like him now. We’re gonna have another kid.” Alanna, 28, Texas
“Oh man. It’s traumatizing. It’s hard to describe how difficult a colicky baby is to people who had “average” babies, but those were dark, dark days. I confessed to my husband that sometimes I prayed to just die in my sleep, because I didn’t think there was any way I could make it through.
Sometime around 10 weeks, things started getting a bit better. There were happy baby moments to break up the screaming baby moments. Around 4 months, the worst of it was behind us. Now she’s 10 months old, and she lights up my day. She sticks out her tongue at me when I stick out mine at her, gives high fives, makes silly noises with her hand in her mouth, and feeds me banana bits when she’s had her fill. It gets so much better.” – Amanda, 38, Sydney
The Cause Of Colic
Unfortunately, we still don’t know all the time what is the cause of colic. Some believe that it might be caused by a medical condition being suffered by the baby, others think that Mum’s diet (if breastfeeding) might have something to do with it. Remember, colic itself isn’t a ‘condition’, it’s just a word used when babies won’t settle, cry extensively, or are difficult to calm.
Colic might be caused by feeding techniques, emotional issues in the primary caregiver, a child’s challenging temperament, gastrointestinal problems, infections, hernias, allergies, nappy rash and nerves. Investigate these issues with your GP if your child is experiencing colic, and talk to them about what they think might be behind the crying.
What You Can Do About Colic
As a breastfeeding Mum, you can look at reducing or cutting out tea and coffee or any other drinks which contain caffeine. Avoid gassy vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower that might be causing bub to have painful gas.
If you are bottle feeding, there are a good range of anti-colic bottles available now that are definitely worth giving a go. If you are formula feeding, you could also consider swapping to a Goat’s milk based baby formula which is said to be gentler on babies tummies than cow’s milk.
Colic Friendly Baby Bottles:
- Avent Anti-Colic Baby Bottle
- Twistshake Anti-colic Baby Bottle
- Tommee Tippee CTN Advanced Anti Colic Feeding Bottle
There are a few chemist over-the-counter colic remedies that you can try giving to baby including:
There isn’t any scientific evidence that these liquids work for colic – but some people swear by them.
Dealing With A Collicky Crying Baby
At the moment, the consensus on treating colic is that medications aren’t always that helpful. That being said, you should absolutely get your bub checked out by a Doctor to ensure there aren’t any major issues.
There is a range of prescription medications for colic that may work for some babies.
Colic often gets better on its own, often quite suddenly and regardless of whether medications are used. That being said, a crying baby can be difficult to deal with, so if you’re having problems with a colicky infant, here are a few things to try.
1. Wrap Them Up
Babies are often comforted by the feeling of being confined and wrapped, particularly in the early weeks of their life. Swaddles can have a marked effect, but make sure they are not too tightly wrapped.
2. Soothe Them with Sucking
When babies are distressed, sucking can often be used to soothe them. If they don’t need to feed, a dummy is a good alternative to soothe their crying.
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Both rocking and patting can help to calm a crying baby, although sometimes movement is enough. Many parents choose to drive in the car, walk with a pram, or carry their baby in a sling to calm them.
4. Soft Rhythms
Some quiet music or other noise, like you singing or whispering softly, can often soothe a child, particularly when the music has a clear beat or rhythm.
4. Wear Your Baby
Putting your baby into a baby carrier close to your skin is a great way to get your hands free, and it is a constant cuddle for your baby and is comforting. Find something that is comfortable for you to wear, and breathable for baby.
5. Water is Always Soothing
Another great way to soothe both Mumma and baby is to go for a nice bath. Make a nice warm (not hot) bath, and relax together. Water is a great solution for any cranky kid of any age.
Managing Your Distress
One of the most difficult things about colic is dealing with parental distress over the constant crying. Caring for a screaming baby who doesn’t seem to calm down regardless of what you do can be incredibly stressful. You need to take some time for yourself as well, to ensure you don’t break down.
If your child will not stop crying, and you can feel yourself falling apart, put them in a safe place like a cot and leave the room. Take some deep breaths, practice clearing your head and blocking out the crying for a few minutes before heading in again. If you can, ask for help in caring for your child from your family, or have your partner take them. While they’re with someone else, take some time to go on a walk, and enjoy some peace.
Relax your body with stretches, and have a drink and something to eat. These self-care practices are absolutely necessary, so don’t let anybody make you feel guilty or self-conscious about taking care of yourself as well.
What To Do If You Need Help Now
If you are at your wits end and need help – here are some numbers to try.
- Reachout (131114)
- Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467)