All babies have tummy ache at some point. However, about 25% of infants worldwide fall into the criteria used to medically diagnose colic; within this there is a great range in the severity of their pain.
Although this is very different to baby acid reflux, I thought it was worth considering baby colic relief here.
Symptoms of baby colic.
Colic is an acute abdominal pain with intense spasmodic cramping. The baby will be in acute pain and distress, crying and usually pulling his/her little legs up so that the knees seem to meet the stomach in an attempt to stop the pain. This is often the easiest way for first time mothers to tell if her baby has colic, as early on the cause of each cry is not easy to distinguish. However, the pulling up of the little legs is a consistent visible symptom.
Most babies grow out of colic at around three months old. It is very rare for colic to continue past six months. If it does, it is much more likely to be baby acid reflux and might need medical treatment and management and you should seek medical help.
Causes of baby colic.
There is no single consistent cause for colic which experts can agree upon. There appear to be multiple contributing factors and which one or which combination affects a baby is different in every case. These factors include:
1. Babies’ digestive systems are not yet mature enough to do the job they are being asked to do; ie digest milk. The muscles in the intestines have not yet developed a rhythm for taking food through their system.
2. Newborns lack the bacteria (probiotics) which develop in babies over six months which aid digestion.
3. If the baby is breastfed by the mother then certain foods which the mother eats can affect her milk and upset the baby. Peas, beans, cauliflower, spices and alcohol are probably most well known for leaving trace elements in the breast milk which can cause gaseous bloating in the infant.
4. Babies often swallow air when feeding or when crying which increases bloating and pain. This can be even more common with bottle fed babies.
5. Newborns have an immature nervous system. This means they can easily get sensory overload from sights, noise, visitors or just being awake too long. This may well add to the likelihood of colic.
6. Anxiety in a parent can also transmit to the baby and again this can lead to the baby feeling anxious and for some babies this can also lead to tension in the intestinal tract and therefore lead to colic.
Treatments for baby colic relief.
1. Companionship for the main carer.
Ironically, calming your own anxiety is the best form of treatment.
Sleeplessness and general worry about your baby’s health and about your own capacity to parent the baby well can leave you feeling frustrated, guilty, exhausted, inadequate and isolated. One of the best ways to help calm yourself and therefore calm your baby is to find others who are experiencing the same thing and know that you are not alone.
Most areas where extended families have dispersed will have a charity centre, local play area or medical centre for mothers of very newborn babies to meet and exchange thoughts.
Often the effort to get out of the door is so immense that it doesn’t seem worth it, but the right kind of companionship can help calm you and give you confidence. This will have an immediate good affect on your baby.
2. Gripe water
There are many different types of gripe water on the market, depending where you live. A homemade remedy of very very weak cooled fennel tea can be effective. All of them aim at dispersing the bubbles which form in the tummy and as the milk is going down through the baby’s intestinal tract.
There are many other remedies available in different countries. Just check carefully that the treatment is registered properly and check with your doctor. Another advantage of finding other mothers is that they may be one step ahead and have useful advice. Ask your doctor before giving your child any medication or herbal remedy.
3. Winding for baby colic relief
This is the most important thing. No amount of winding will stop a colicky child being colicky, but you can at least minimise it by ensuring that you have winded your baby fully before putting him/her back to sleep. This sounds obvious, but in the depth of a winter’s night I know just how tempting it can be not to hang on for the last bit of wind that you can feel your baby still twitching to release!
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