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Colic: How can I help my baby?

advice for first time parents

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Colic is the term used to describe when an otherwise healthy baby cries excessively and cannot be soothed. It’s a very common phase (around 1 in 5 parents will have a baby with colic) and it will usually start when baby is between 2-4 weeks and be over by the time they are 3-4 months old.

What is colic?

Colic involves frequent bouts of inconsolable crying. Your baby may pull their legs up to their tummy and arch their back and the crying will most likely happen late afternoon or evening. Unfortunately it can go on for long periods at a time which can be upsetting for the whole family.

If you suspect your baby has colic you should make an appointment at the doctor. This allows the doctor to check there are no other reasons your baby is crying excessively and you can also get advice about over the counter treatments which may help. When you go to your appointment, be prepared to discuss feeding times, routines or anything else you feel is significant to the pattern of your baby’s crying.

Why do babies get colic?

Sadly this is still the million dollar question because no-one can be certain why some babies get colic and cry more than other babies.

With any baby, some crying is inevitable at times but colicky babies cry inconsolably more often and for longer than other babies. Research hasn’t shown any pattern between breastfed or formula fed babies and no links to gender either. What has been established however is that your baby is not in pain and your baby isn’t crying because of something you’ve done – this is extremely important to remember when you’ve been trying to console your baby and nothing seems to work – it will pass and it’s no-one’s fault.

Experts have a number of theories on why your baby cries so much. Some say it could be that the gut is still maturing and so indigestion and wind can temporarily cause the problem while others suggest that the brain and nervous system are still maturing so it’s hard for your baby to learn how to stop crying once he’s got going!

How can I help my baby?

Stay calm! This might be the last thing you feel after a long period of intense inconsolable crying but it’s so important. Colicky babies can test the boiling point of even the most patient parent so it’s very natural for frustration to start creeping in.

If you’re getting stressed, put your baby down somewhere safe like their cot or moses basket and take a few minutes to catch your breath and gather your thoughts. Coping with colic is hard so if someone offers help to give you a break, take it! And if not, then don’t be afraid to ask.

Mother and Newborn Baby crying

There isn’t a particular set of rules to try when soothing your colicky baby. Your doctor may be able to suggest an over the counter remedy but this doesn’t work for everyone so you’ll need to be prepared that those seemingly magic potions may not be the answer. There are lots of other things to try though!

You could try:

You may start to notice signs that your baby is heading for a full blown crying session, things like hunger or needing to be winded can often be triggers. If you feed your baby in a timed routine, changing to feed on demand may help – this involves feeding your baby whenever they are hungry. Using a dummy can also help sooth your baby between feeds.

Make sure you burp your baby after every single feed. If you breastfeed, ask your health visitor to check your baby is latching on properly and check the position they are in. A more upright position when breastfeeding will help reduce the amount of air swallowed during feeds.

If bottle feeding, tilt the bottle to ensure the milk covers the entrance to the teat otherwise your baby will be sucking in air, not milk. Some bottles are designed to be ‘anti colic’ so that may also help. Anti colic bottles can be expensive though so look out for small pack sizes to try out before spending lots of money on a big set.

Try laying your baby on your chest so they can hear your heartbeat. This can provide some familiarity from being in the womb and this may work best in a quiet, dimly lit room where your baby won’t be over stimulated.

White noise (like the washing machine, hoover or a shop bought CD), rocking or going out for a drive can also help. (The driving option is good for you and your partner to take it in turns to get a break too!)

Not everyone likes a routine but you may find it helps a colicky baby to know what to expect and so hopefully become more settled.

And remember, colic won’t harm your baby but it can test you to your limits of exhaustion and frustration. This is a totally natural way to feel but it will pass!



About Celyn Parry

About Celyn Parry

Celyn Parry has 12 years experience working with a leading children’s retailer but is now focusing on her passion for writing. With many years spent on the shop floor listening to parents, she prides herself on creating down to earth articles with a dash of humour and personal insight. As Step-Mum to adorable chatterbox Max, it’s a bit of a juggling act but it certainly keeps things interesting!

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