How to help a baby with colic
This article is by Annabelle Loras the osteopath at the Angel Wellbeing Clinic in London. Annabelle focuses on the treatment of mum’s to be and mums and babies. This article looks at one of the most common of problems and one that can be incredibly upsetting for a parent as they can run out of options to treat their distressed baby.
What is colic?
Colic is a condition in which an otherwise healthy baby cries or displays symptoms of distress frequently and for extended periods. The medical definition of colic is a condition of a healthy baby in which it shows periods of intense, unexplained fussing/crying lasting more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week for more than 3 weeks. The condition typically appears from 2-3 weeks of age and often stops before the baby is three to four months old, but can last up to one year.
Causes of colic:
There are a variety of recognised causes of colic symptoms, the most common of which include:
♦ Build up of gas in the stomach (possibly due to poor burping or ingesting air when feeding)
♦ Gas build up in the intestinal track or bowel (associated with slow bowel movement or uncoordinated intestinal contraction)
♦ Lactose intolerance
♦ Neurological overload in over stimulated babies, for example continually picking them up and putting them down
Be sure to speak to your GP and Health Visitor if you suspect that your baby has colic to ensure that the crying and distress is not due to an underlying medical condition.
Tips for dealing with colicky babies:
Colic will improve on its own, however, if you have problems coping the following tips may help in dealing with colicky babies. Different babies respond to different methods, so it may be worth trying them one at a time for about a week or so.
1. Try holding your baby in different positions – Some parents find holding their baby during crying episodes help, others find laying their baby face down over their arm, the babies head resting in the crook of their elbow and their hand between the babies legs, helps to calm their baby. Otherwise try lying them on your lap face down, turning their head to the side and gently moving your legs side to side. Swaddling babies before soothing them can also be helpful, although be careful to avoid covering their head or overheating.
2. Prevent your baby from swallowing air when feeding – Try sitting your baby upright during feeding. If you are bottle feeding, ensure you have the correct teat for your bottle. Holes that are too small may cause babies to swallow air while feeding. Try using teats with larger holes, or "fast flow" teats, or buy bottles with anti-colic valves. Ensure the teat is full of milk to prevent your baby from sucking in air while feeding.
3. Sucking – Some babies get relief from suckling. Try letting your baby suckle on the breast, a pacifier or a clean finger. Try to avoid letting them swallow air when doing this.
4. Burp your baby after every feed – Be sure that your baby is an upright position, either on your shoulder or on your lap. If you are having trouble with your technique, ask your health visitor or GP for advice.
5. Watch your diet if you are breastfeeding – Some parents find that certain foods can aggravate colic. These can include: alcohol, tea, coffee, chocolate, spicy food, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onion and citrus fruits. Try removing certain foods from your diet for a couple of days to establish if any of them are aggravating the colic symptoms.
6. Remove lactose from their diet – Some babies have a short-term intolerance to cows milk and dairy products. If you are breastfeeding, try removing all dairy product from your diet to see if the symptoms improve. Try this for one week.
If you are bottle feeding, try a lactose free or hypoallergenic formula for a week. If removing lactose from your or your baby’s diet for a week makes no difference to the symptoms, revert back to normal feeding. Be sure to discuss the removal of food groups, such as dairy food, from your or your baby’s diet with your GP or a healthcare professional. Dairy products are an important source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bone development.
7. Movement – moving your baby around can be helpful. Try pushing them in their pushchair or pram, rocking and jiggling them over your shoulder or in your arms, carrying them around the house, taking them for a walk or a drive, or placing them in a vibrating/swing chair.
8. “White Noise” - Some babies find the background sound of a washing machine or vacuum cleaner soothing. Alternatively, try comforting your baby in a quiet, darkened room.
9. Gentle massage – Baby massage including gentle stomach and back rubs can help, can be helpful after a warm bath or try gently moving their hips in clockwise motion. Ask your Health Visitor or local osteopath if you are not sure on the techniques.
Other relevant articles:
If you have a baby with colic and you are struggling or if you are pregnant, having a check up with our osteopath can be helpful. Click below to make an appointment with our osteopath Annabelle at the London clinic.