what is colic?
Colic is a prolonged bout of crying, typically over three hours long, that occurs regularly in babies under four months old.
The causes of colic are unknown. It may be a form of indigestion, trapped wind, a temporary sensitivity to proteins found in milk, or simply extreme crying. However, these are still just theories. Colic can happen to any young baby, and it makes no difference whether they are breast or bottle-fed.
does my baby have colic?
There are several signs that your baby may be experiencing a bout of colic.
- your baby is healthy and fed, but will suddenly start crying uncontrollably – usually loudly, and often for hours
- your normal methods of comforting simply don’t work
- your baby draws up their knees or arches their back while they’re crying
- they are red and flushed when they cry
- their tummy rumbles, or they pass wind
- the crying often happens in the evening (when you’re already tired yourself)
how can i help my colicky baby?
We know this can be a distressing time for parents, as your tried-and-tested ways of soothing simply don't work. Here are a few things you could try to comfort your little one.
- motion can help – gentle jigging, rocking, a trip in the pram, a ride in the car
- hold your baby upright while they’re drinking to prevent them swallowing air. Then burp your baby frequently
- make the environment as calm as possible, perhaps with relaxing music and low lighting
- a nice, warm bath is soothing, so it’s worth a try
- baby massage can be really good. Your health visitor will know of any local classes or can maybe advise you on some simple techniques
- plenty of cuddles!
do i take my baby to the GP?
Colic itself is harmless. However, speaking to your health visitor or GP when it first starts can be a reassuring and comforting step for worried parents. They can also help rule out any other causes of persistent crying.
Always see your doctor if:
- the bouts of colic are accompanied by a raised temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea, or constipation
- your baby’s crying sounds like they’re in pain
- your baby isn’t hungry in between crying bouts, and isn’t gaining weight
- it’s been over four months, and your baby is still colicky
how do i cope with the colicky phase?
Dealing with colic can be a tough little period for your baby, but it also takes its toll on parents too. First things first, remember that this isn't your fault – your little one is still the happy, hungry, loving little bundle you see them as (they just have a bit of colic in the way).
Make sure you find time to sleep and have moments of calm for yourself. If you are on night-time feeding duties, recruit friends and family to take over for a little while during the day so you can rest. Going for a walk outdoors, reading a book or having a soak in the tub while a loved one looks after your baby can make coping with colic easier.
If it all feels a little too much, speak to your health visitor or GP – they’re there for you as well as your baby, or give support group Cry-sis a ring. The helpline 08451 228 669 is open seven days a week between 9am and 10pm, or visit www.cry-sis.org.uk
The colicky phase may seem hard to bear, but it will pass.