If you're worried about your baby's colic, you're not alone.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, 20-25% of babies meet the definition of 'colic' as defined by Wessel's criteria (sudden and extreme outbursts of fussing and crying for three hours or more per day, three days a week). It's also the cause of 10-20% of early paediatrician visits.
Colic can be a common cause for early cessation of breastfeeding and a considerable contributor to postnatal depression. Caring for a baby who constantly cries and cannot be soothed is stressful, tiring and can be downright depressing. It's incredibly upsetting when you're not sure what's going on, or how to help your baby.
Read on to learn about natural solutions that may help.
The new Rome IV criteria define colic as ‘recurrent and prolonged periods of infant crying, fussing or irritability reported by caregivers that occur without obvious cause and cannot be prevented or resolved’.
Symptoms are as follows:
- Colic can start from a few weeks old and is often over by six months.
- The APA state that colic ends for 50% of cases around three months, and in 90% of cases by nine months of age.
- Restless, irritated and hard to comfort and soothe.
- Going red in the face, looking paler around the mouth or clenching fists while crying.
- Excessive fussiness, even when not crying.
- Tension in the body, a tense abdomen, arching of the back, extending of legs or bringing the knees towards the tummy.
- Loud tummy rumbles and wind.
- Baby cries more often in the afternoon or evening.
- It seems like your baby is in pain.
Potential causes and triggers of colic
We are all unique, and often it’s difficult to know what the exact cause is. It may be better to describe colic as ‘colic like symptoms’ as there may be causes with very similar symptoms such as reflux.
Sometimes, it can be down to your baby’s personality or sensitivity. La Leche League state that “Some babies are more sensitive than others and need more comforting. It’s not unusual for a baby to cluster feed in the evening both for comfort and to increase milk production, and crying which is labelled as “colic” may simply mean that the baby needs to nurse again.” Sometimes, a baby may still be experiencing discomfort from the birth process. They could also be more sensitive to stimulation.
Your baby may be struggling to digest food. They could be suffering from wind, find it hard to burp, have acid reflux, or an oversupply of milk.
3) Gut bacteria
Your baby may have unbalanced gut bacteria. Babies delivered by C-section can be deficient in crucial gut microbes as they have not passed through the birth canal. They can also harbour harmful microbes that are common in hospitals.
A small study supports ‘swabbing’ your baby immediately after C-section with bodily fluids from your birth canal to expose them to all the beneficial microbes. This is still controversial in the medical profession, and further studies are underway.
Your baby might have food allergies. Milk allergies and lactose intolerance can have similar symptoms to colic. It could also be something that you are eating that your baby is sensitive to. Bottle-fed babies may be intolerant to proteins in their cow’s milk formula.
5) Nervous system
While their nervous system is still forming, some babies may find it harder to soothe and calm themselves. This should improve once they get a bit older.
Your baby could simply be hungry.
7) Early migraines
Frequent, unexplained crying may be a sign of migraines. One study showed that women with a history of migraines were 2.6 times more likely to have babies with ‘colic’. It could be that a genetic predisposition to migraines may present as colic in infants.
Babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy and post-delivery are at a higher risk of colic.
Coping strategies and tips on how to calm your baby
Firstly, let’s look at some coping strategies and tips for parents:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your parents, family or friends. You can also speak to your health visitor, call NHS 111 or seek advice from your GP.
Share the load
Share the burden and take turns holding the baby with your partner or a family member.
Meal plan and batch cook
It’s essential to eat well, especially during this time. You need to keep your energy and strength up and immunity strong. Planning your meals and batch-cooking stews, soups and casseroles, portioning them up and freezing them for a later date, can be invaluable when time is short and things are tough.
If you’re not preparing meals during the evening when your baby is more likely to be struggling, you can spend more time with them. If you’re too busy to prepare meals yourself, get help from family members and friends.
Parents’ support groups
Take a break and breathe
It’s stressful and hard to keep your cool when you’re at the end of your tether. Take a break whenever you can. If the crying is too overwhelming, pop your baby down somewhere safe, take a beat, walk away for a minute or two and breathe.
Getting outside in the fresh air for a moment is always good. When you can, ask others to look after your baby and take some time for yourself – have a snooze, take a walk, go shopping. Your mental health, and not feeling too overloaded, is crucial during this time.
If you’re worried that you’re going to harm yourself or your baby, immediately ask for help.
Sleep deprivation is the worst, and you need to get as much rest as possible. Try sleeping when your baby sleeps, so you are more able to cope when your baby is awake and struggling.
And here are some tips pertaining to the baby.
Cuddles and love
Stay close to your baby and nurse them whenever they need. Offering the breast will often calm them, especially if there have been prolonged intervals between feeds for whatever reason. Hold them, even in quieter phases. You could try carrying them in a sling while you go about your everyday activities.
Don’t worry about cuddling them too much, it won’t make them more clingy – and they need you to comfort them while they’re going through this. For more detailed information on tried and tested calming techniques visit La Leche League GB.
Feeding and digestion
Your baby could be gulping and taking in too much air while feeding. A shallow latch or tongue-tie could be the reason why. They may also be guzzling at the breast and eating too fast if they are hungry. Sit or hold your baby upright to help stop them from swallowing air or change bottles and bottle teats. Feed them more frequently if they are hungry.
You can find helpful information on La Leche League about positioning and attachment and tongue-tie. Be sure to wind them properly. You could also try gently rubbing their tummy and moving their legs to encourage digestive flow.
If you’re worried that your baby might be intolerant to the proteins in their formula, talk to your GP and seek out an alternative. A breastfeeding mother should be able to eat what she wants, but some have noticed a positive change when they cut suspected allergens out of their diet.
If you have a history of allergies in your family, this may be more likely. If so, you may notice that when you eat a particular food, your baby’s colic-like symptoms are worse. Perhaps they are also suffering from hives, eczema, a rash, sore bottom, dry skin, wheezing, coughing, congestion, cold-like symptoms, irritated, itchy eyes, ear infections or diarrhoea.
Common allergens include wheat, dairy, soy, nuts, eggs and peanuts. If you are concerned and would like to try eliminating certain foods from your diet, seek the advice of your GP, a health professional or nutritional therapist first. You want to ensure that you are still eating a balanced diet for both you and your baby.
Some mothers have also had success cutting stimulants like caffeine, chocolate and spices out of their diet.
Other forms of comfort
Take your baby for a walk in the pram or a drive, play some quiet, soothing music, sing to them, rock them over your shoulder. Gently sway them in the pram or their basket, try bathing them in a warm bath.
Some gentle white noise in the background might also help (if you don’t have a white noise machine, try leaving the hoover or clothes dryer on, you could also try the radio or TV on low). Some parents find that using a pacifier helps. Try laying them on their tummy and gently rub their back.
Progurt Probiotics have had success with colicky babies
Colic is generally harmless with no long-term health problems. But some researchers have found that, for some children, colic might be an early expression of common childhood disorders including ‘recurrent abdominal pain, allergic and psychological disorders’.
There may also be a link between crying beyond the usual colic period, and later sleep and behavioural problems and allergies.
This is interesting, as compromised microbiome and poor gut health have strong links with inflammation and allergies, digestive disorders, sleep disruption, and mood.
According to Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPS diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome), improving gut health can also help to alleviate symptoms of autism, ADHD, ADD and Dyslexia. Although there are many sceptics out there, her book has helped countless parents to help relieve their children’s symptoms.
In terms of colic, creating the right gut environment could be the key to relieving your baby’s symptoms. Probiotics may be a way to achieve this, and Progurt has had some success with colicky babies.
What’s special about Progurt is that they have a unique, cutting-edge range of effective gut care supplements designed to restore and maintain a healthy and balanced gut environment. For an optimally functioning gut, it’s not just about probiotics but also the right pH and electrolyte balance, temperature, oxygenation and circulation.
Most probiotics on the market come from bovine strains which are not indigenous to humans. Progurt probiotics are more specific to us than those derived from an animal source, as they use Human Probiotic Isolates, identical to those found in a healthy human gut from birth. Perfect for your little one should they lack any essential gut bacteria.
These are among the most advanced probiotics you’ll find. They are clinically tested and have an exceptionally high strength of one-trillion colony-forming units to populate your gut. Most off-the-shelf probiotics contain a mere fraction of that figure.
The beauty of taking these human strains is that once your baby’s gut has populated effectively, they should remain established, and you don’t have to keep supplementing. However, should their healthy gut environment be disrupted due to ill health or the need for medication, for example, they may require a maintenance dose to re-colonise.
**Progurt Probiotic Sachets are suitable for use by children 12 months and over. For those under 12 months, Progurt recommends that the mother takes them, and the baby receives the benefits through natural breastfeeding. If your baby is on formula, put a little bit of the probiotic powder on your finger and let your baby suck it. They are also safe to take during pregnancy.
You can find out more about the rest of the Progurt range here.
Generally speaking, colic starts when a baby is a few weeks old and stops around six months of age. The cause is not well understood, and other conditions like reflux can manifest with similar symptoms and be mistaken for colic. Depending on your baby, there could be various reasons why they are experiencing colic-like symptoms.
There are different caring techniques you can use to console and calm your baby; it’s a case of trying things out to see what the most effective ones are. Websites like La Leche League have lots of helpful information. You can also consider and address potential causes too. Remember to seek advice from a health professional, and if you are at all worried about your baby’s symptoms, contact your GP or call NHS 111.
It can be beyond stressful to care for your baby when they are in such distress, so it’s just as important to look after your health and wellbeing during this time. Don’t underestimate what you’re going through. For a mother, tending to a colicky baby can lead to postnatal depression, so don’t try to be supermum or be afraid to ask for help. Be sure to gather up support, get your partner, family or friends to pitch in whenever possible and try to eat and sleep well. Take regular breaks and remember to breathe.
Probiotics may help to relieve your little one’s colicky symptoms, and Progurt probiotics have had some success in this area, so it may be worth giving them a try.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
Creating the right gut environment could be the key to relieving your baby’s symptoms. #guthealth #colic #health