Colic Remedies

Colic remedies. A baby may have colic if, around the age of three weeks, it starts to cry inconsolably for three to four consecutive hours a day.

What is colic? A baby is said to have colic if, around the age of three to four weeks, it starts to cry inconsolably for three to four consecutive hours a day. This usually, though not always, occurs in the early evening period. The condition is called 'colic' because for many years it was assumed to be a symptom of stomachache. Doctors are now no longer sure that this is the cause of such crying in young babies, but the term remains in use and most parents and medical personnel are familiar with it and use it.

There are many possible remedies for colic. It is very distressing to watch your baby howl, apparently in pain. (In fact, even if the original cause of colic is not stomach ache, all the crying usually creates a stomach ache as the baby swallows a lot of wind while screaming). We are taught these days to comfort our babies and not to let them 'cry it out', so of course we want to do anything we can to ease the distress. The obvious things to check first are: is the baby hungry, wet, dirty or cold? Colic is not the result of any of these things, but all new babies cry when they experience these conditions and it is wise to be on the safe side.

In some babies, stomachache may be the original cause of the problem. Some babies cannot tolerate the cows' milk protein found in most baby formulas. If this is the case (ask your doctor), there are soy formulas which may suit the baby better. But do not change formula without seeking medical advice first, or else you may upset the baby even further. Even breastfed babies who are sensitive to cows' milk may have problems, if their mother eats or drinks dairy products. Other potential culprits in the nursing mother's diet may be root vegetables, acidic foods such as grapefruit or tomatoes, chocolate, or items containing artificial flavours, colourings or preservatives. Discuss the issue with your doctor as you may be advised to try an exclusion diet for a while. A newborn baby who is sensitive to any food substance will not necessarily go on to be sensitive to it in later life - most grow out of this in the first six months or so and will be able to go on to eat a perfectly normal diet once their digestive system has matured.

Some doctors blame maternal stress for colic. Colic certainly causes maternal stress! It is cruel to suggest that the mother herself may be causing her baby to scream in agony for hours. However it is certain that listening to the baby scream will cause the mother to be stressed, and it is easier to calm down a baby if you are calm yourself. Enlist all the help you can, and spend a little time doing something for yourself. Have a nap, a warm bath, a walk in the park; whatever will help you wind down a little. If you are relaxed you will stand a better chance of relaxing the baby. And maybe whoever has taken over from you may be able to sooth the baby a little while you are gone.

Many new babies just want to be held close and feel secure. You can try just holding the baby, or carrying it in a sling while you do other things. Some babies love to be wrapped up in a blanket. Others may enjoy being in a warm bath with mum - though be very careful not to fall asleep, and to have another adult present to take the baby out of your arms before you attempt to stand up to get out of the bath. Wrap the baby in a warm towel immediately, too, as new babies lose body warmth very quickly.

If you are breastfeeding, you need to be feeding on demand during this period, in order to establish and maintain a good milk supply. Don't be afraid to feed the baby a lot during the evening, as milk production is often low at this stage and frequent feeding will stimulate it. Sucking and being held close will also comfort the baby. However you do not need to feed non-stop for the four hours that the baby would otherwise have cried - once you are sure he is well fed you may offer a sterilised dummy (or the tip of your finger) for him to suck on. Sucking can be very comforting for babies with colic. If she is bottle-fed, make sure that you are tilting the bottle correctly so that she is not swallowing wind.

Gentle repetitive movement will sooth some babies. You can buy rocking swings, either wind-up or battery-powered, which can take the physical strain off you for a while. Other babies may respond to being rocked, or walked around with, or taken for a walk in the pram (not such a good idea at night). A time-honoured remedy is to take him for a car journey. Make sure that you are awake enough to drive safely, and not too stressed. It might be better to get dad to do this while you have a rest.

We are told to put our babies to sleep on their backs these days, and the incidence of cot death has gone down considerably since this initiative started. However some babies with colic like to lie on their stomachs. So long as you are in the room with them (and awake) this is fine, as you can keep an eye on them. However, do continue to put them to sleep on their backs.

Heat and massage can help. Most health professionals will be able to recommend a book or class on baby massage, which will have beneficial effects beyond the colic phase. A hot water bottle, not too hot and carefully wrapped in a towel, can be placed on the baby's stomach for relief, but adult supervision must be maintained at all times. Heatbags, which contain wheat and are heated in the microwave, may be safer. The usually come in fabric containers of various sorts and do not get as hot as a hot water bottle can, and neither can they leak boiling water. However they still require constant adult supervision, especially as they are not technically suitable for babies and may have long fibres or bits that can be chewed off.

Some doctors recommend indigestion remedies for babies, usually liquids that are administered twenty minutes before a feed. They are not very easy to use when you are demand breastfeeding, as you rarely know that it is twenty minutes before the next feed.

Ultimately there is nothing to be done for colic but to endure it. Hopefully some of these remedies will work for your baby. It is important to remember that apparent colic may mask a more serious complaint, so do see your doctor if you are at all worried. You may be missing an ear infection or something worse. No doctor is ever annoyed about seeing a newborn baby in distress, even if they do prove not to have anything much wrong with them.

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