There are two types of parents in this world
- Parents who have had a colicky baby
- Parents who haven’t
If you’re reading this, welcome to camp #1.
Colic: It’s Complicated
The problem with colic is that there isn’t just one solution. Colic, by definition, has no known cause.
While colic is defined by relentless screaming (3+ hours/day for 3 days/week for 3+ weeks), babies do it for different reasons.
Pediatricians and medical experts are still speculating about whether it stems from gas or their nervous system.
Because different treatment works for different babies, I’m confident that the cause of colic differs from child to child.
The Most Common Colic Culprit: Diet
Because babies have underdeveloped digestive systems, it’s not uncommon for them to experience discomfort from their diet.
This discomfort can range from mild irritation to extreme gas pain.
Both breastfed and formula fed babies experience gas pain.
If you are breastfeeding and unsure if the problem is your diet, begin with an elimination diet to see if you notice a difference in your baby’s behavior.
If you are formula feeding, the issue could be with the bottle, or the milk. Consult with your pediatrician before changing formulas.
If your pediatrician feels that your baby’s formula could be the problem, you will need to transition your baby to a new formula over several days or weeks.
Tips to Help Your Baby’s Tummy
In the meantime, there are several other things that you can do to help your baby’s digestive system and ease his gas pain.
Apparently, being able to fart is something we take for granted.
Most babies need a bit of assistance getting gas to travel through their intestinal tract.
Here’s a short video to show you how.
A rectal catheter is a great way to quickly relieve baby’s gas.
Babies can have a difficult time relaxing their sphincter muscle, thereby making it difficult for them to fart.
A catheter gently opens up their sphincter, helping everything pass as needed.
Before you write this off for fear out of pure disgust, check out my review Windi the Gas Passer.
Worth it? Absolutely
Because your baby hasn’t been digesting food for very long, her digestive system is still pretty underdeveloped.
Probiotic drops are a natural way of giving your baby good bacteria needed for her gut to digest food correctly.
Many parents (myself included) have noticed a big difference after giving their baby probiotic drops.
Gripe water uses a combination of herbs and sodium bicarbonate to dissolve gas bubbles in your baby’s belly.
It’s a sweet liquid that’s not too thick. I’ve never met a baby that doesn’t love it.
Gas drops use simethicone to break up and dissolve gas bubbles in baby’s belly.
A little bit goes a long way. You can mix it with water, formula, or breastmilk.
For bottle fed newborns, it’s important to use an anti-colic bottle.
To be anti-colic just means that the bottle allows air to flow while your baby is drinking.
This prevents a vacuum effect which causes your baby to inhale large amounts of air at one time.
My personal recommendation is these Dr Brown’s bottles, but there are many other great bottles on the market too.
Is A Birth Injury Causing Colic?
Babies can also experience pain and discomfort from their nervous system being out of whack. The biggest reason for this is trauma during birth.
While it’s possible for any baby to experience some level of misalignment from birth, it is most common in babies who experienced:
- A prolonged labor
- Extraction by vacuum or forceps
- Posterior positioning (sunny side up)
If you have tried the approaches listed above, and they didn’t seem to work, or if your baby experienced a traumatic birth, there’s a good chance that your baby’s nerves could be bothering her.
Here are your options:
This is a technique which includes a Craniosacral Therapist applying gentle pressure (no heavier than a five cent coin) to baby’s head and spine.
This is done to correct any twisting or misalignment of the cranial bones or spinal column that may have occurred during the birthing process.
It often takes 2-4 sessions to notice a marked difference.
I don’t have any personal experience with craniosacral therapy, but I have several friends who swear by it.
Some parents notice a significant difference in their baby’s colic after having them adjusted by a chiropractor.
Spinal manipulation of an infant is a pretty big deal though.
Not only has little research been done about how safe it is, but it could also cause significant adverse effects.
If you do decide to bring your baby to a chiropractor, make sure that he or she has been trained to adjust infants.
Not every chiropractor is qualified to do this.
Overstimulation Can Cause Screaming Too
Most parents overlook the stimulation in their baby’s environment, but it can have a huge impact on your little one.
When your baby came into this world, he began to experience everything for the first time- sights, sounds, smells, touch.
His new environment is completely different than his old one, and he can quickly become overwhelmed.
Additionally, while most babies will naturally fall asleep when they’re tired, some won’t.
They want to stay awake to see everything.
These babies get overtired, and in turn struggle with even more overstimulation.
You can help your baby by reducing the stimulation in their environment, and making sure that they don’t go too long between naps.
The Baby Sleep Site has a phenomenal chart, as well as tons of advice about how often babies should nap by age, how long, and how many hours they should be awake in between.
Fun fact: a newborn should only be awake for 30-60 minutes at a time.
Tips for When All Else Fails
The frustrating thing about colic is that there is rarely a fail-proof way to soothe your baby. This is not only difficult for the baby, but for you too.
The best thing you can do is to build up an arsenal of tricks to pull out, and cycle through them as needed.
Here are more tricks for your bag:
Bring baby outside
For some reason, many colicky babies are often comforted by going outdoors.
It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s hot or cold outside.
Just make sure to dress her appropriately for the weather, and never leave her unattended.
Babies are great at sensing when you sit down. So grab your sneakers, because you’re about to get a workout.
Some babies have a preferred type of movement to force their parents into such as lunges, while others are content with simply walking, jogging, bouncing, or going for a ride in the stroller.
Better yet, many parents have found solace in strapping their baby into their carseat and going for a ride.
Do you know that it’s ridiculously loud inside your womb? Silence can actually be quite uncomfortable for babies.
Try using a white noise machine, vacuum, blowdryer, or bringing baby into the laundry room when the dryer is on.
Each of these types of white noise have been found to be extremely helpful for fatigued parents.
The 5 S’s
In his book, the Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp shares his theory that our womb provides a comforting environment for babies, and that we can continue to comfort them in a similar way using what he calls the 5 S’s.
They are swaddling, side lying, shaking (more like bouncing), shushing, and sucking. Karp insists that they must be done in that order.
Will you Survive Colic
With all of these tools in your bag, you should be able to use the process of elimination to determine what is causing your baby’s colic.
And even if you can’t pinpoint the exact cause, you should at least have some tricks to cycle through.
When dealing with a colicky baby, the most important thing to do is find ways to take care of yourself.
You can’t take care of your baby if your own needs aren’t being met.
So enlist help and do whatever it takes to stay sane because you matter too, mama.