Crying is a way for newborns to communicate with us. They can tell us if they are hungry, need a nappy change or just want a cuddle. However, if your baby has colic, crying takes on a whole new meaning and can be incredibly stressful!
What is colic?
Clinically colic is defined as repeated episodes of excessive and inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy and thriving baby. Babies with colic cry for no apparent reason, often in the late afternoon and evenings drawing their knees up to their tummies and arching their backs.
The rule of three
An easy way to define colic is:
- Three hours of crying
- At least three times a week
- For three (to four) months.
What causes colic?
No-one really knows what causes colic – or why some babies are more prone than others, but there are various theories.
- Some think it’s caused by an imbalance of healthy bacteria (microflora) in the intestines. You can ask your doctor for a probiotic recommendation, as this may help alleviate the symptoms in some babies.
- Another possibility, is inflammation of the gut.
- Or, psychosocial factors – in other words, that some babies may be more sensitive than others and come the evening are overstimulated and don’t know how to handle it.
- One thing we do know, is colic is more likely to occur if you smoke during pregnancy or after your baby has been born. This risk can be reduced if you breastfeed your baby.
What can I do to calm a colicky baby?
Unfortunately, there is no magic cure for colic. However, some of the following techniques may help soothe your baby:
- Holding your baby close and rock them. It might be easier to hold them in a sling, especially if the crying goes on for a long period of time.
- Why not try skin-to-skin too? This is a great tool in calming a crying baby and can be used by mums and dads alike.
- Take your baby for a walk, the fresh air and movement can calm some babies.
- Bath your baby. The sound and feel of water can be relaxing for some babies.
- If you are breastfeeding your baby, it is another great way to calm them down.
- Regular winding. In long bouts of crying, your baby will be swallowing more air than normal which can make them windy and uncomfortable.
- Consider a dummy, some babies just need to suck to self-soothe.
Your wellbeing is important too!
Inconsolable crying can be very stressful for parents, causing anxiety and even depression in some cases. If your baby is suffering with colic, it’s really important to surround yourself with a strong support network who can help you when things get tough. This could be friends, family or even your health visitors.
If you’re on your own and finding your baby’s crying too stressful, put your baby down in a safe place such as their cot and step out of the room for a few minutes. If you have friends or family close by, call them and ask them to take the baby for a walk so you can take some time to calm down too.
Colic is tough, but there are a few things to remember:
- It’s not a reflection of your parenting skills!
- It’s a phase, it won’t last for ever. As mentioned, colic stops in most babies by the time they turn three or four months.
- You might not be able to stop your baby crying but holding them close and responding to their needs is helping them!