The constant crying of a colicky baby is heart-rending. It comes at a particularly bad time, when expectations for enjoying a newborn are cruelly dashed. It can make a new parent feel distressed and ineffective if nothing seems to help. It is also exhausting for those parents who find themselves walking the boards day and night in an attempt to soothe their little ones.
what is colic?
Colic is the name given to the sharp, intermittent abdominal pains or cramps that occur in babies whose digestive systems are still growing. All the internal organs as well as the rest of the physical body carry on developing outside the womb. It is also common in bottle-fed babies who are sensitive to cow’s milk and can occur in babies who have had a difficult birth.
Colic doesn’t always start directly after the birth, but comes on after a few days or even a few weeks. Babies pull their legs up or stretch them out and cry a lot, often after a feed. They may become constipated or you may notice a change in the colour of their stools. They can have colicky periods, usually in the early evening or suffer from more serious colic that lasts through the night — and at its very worst, all day, too. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.
feeding your baby…what you can do
If you are breast feeding, then fiddle with your diet as many foods are known to affect some babies through your milk, including cow’s milk (and dairy products), alcohol, tea, chocolate, coffee, spices (including chilies and pepper), onions, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, peppers (especially raw green peppers), strawberries, oranges and grapes. Occasionally egg or wheat products are to blame or even fruit with stones (cherries, apricots, etc.). Try eliminating foods that don’t agree with you or those you eat an awful lot of, or eliminate suspect foods from the diet of a baby who has just started on solids and give small meals of bland, easily digestible foods.
Some bottle-fed babies are actually sensitive to cow’s milk, but you will need to ask your health practitioner about changing the formula, especially if you are thinking of changing to a soya based formula. Although these babies will usually do well on soya milk, it is acidic for some and the high levels of sugar in some soya formulas is a cause for concern.
Some babies swallow air with their feeds which can cause colic if they can’t bring it up easily. If you are bottle feeding, then experiment with a teat that has a smaller hole (if you have a young baby) and a bigger hole (with an older baby). Don’t let your breasted baby get desperate for a feed as she may gulp and take in air which may cause her discomfort. If your baby is gulping milk and air, then experiment also with different feeding positions. ‘Wind’ your baby after a feed or carry her around upright (over your shoulder) until she settles down.
Offer a bottle of boiled and cooled water instead of a breast or a bottle-feed as there are times when babies are thirsty, especially in hot weather or if they are inclined to be sweaty, and need something thirst-quenching. Do this only if she is plainly thriving (gaining weight and producing lots of wet nappies).
Offer your little finger (the pad of your finger to the roof of her mouth) or a dummy to a distressed baby who has just fed. Some babies will feed almost continuously when colicky, but the extra milk can overload the stomach and aggravate the colic when all they want is to comfort-suck. Even with demand feeding it is possible sometimes to offer the breast too often.
Relax when breast feeding a colicky baby, get yourself comfy with a good book, a magazine or lie down and rest while your baby feeds. This may be one of the few times when your baby isn’t crying — you might as well enjoy it.
Remind yourself that your baby’s colic will not last forever, even though it feels like a lifetime most babies have grown out of it and have developed a strong enough digestive system to cope, by the age of three months.
what to do
Try placing your baby face down on your lap over a rolled-up towel, as pressure sometimes eases colic.
Place your baby over your knees so that there is no pressure on the abdomen: pressure sometimes aggravates colic. (You can use these symptoms as a guide to choosing a homeopathic remedy.)
Give your baby some dill- or fennel-seed tea. Simmer a teaspoonful of seeds in a pint (1/2 litre) of water for 10 minutes. Strain, cool and give it to your baby in a bottle or on a spoon. Do not add sugar or honey. Be careful about giving gripe water as it can contain a worrying amount of alcohol.
Help your baby to pass a stool, if the colic precedes the passage of one. Massage the abdomen very gently in gentle clockwise circular movements or hold your baby in a semi-squatting position, their back to your tummy, legs pulled up a little, again very gently.
Take a break from your baby if you are at the end of your tether. Even if your feelings aren’t affecting your baby, they will affect you and some time out will enable you to survive a very difficult time in your baby’s life.
Look after your own needs if you have become exhausted — get someone to look after your baby so that you can sleep. Ditch the housework and simplify any other chores so that you can reduce your stress load. You will find that you can cope better.
seek help if …
The colic persists – especially if your baby screams inconsolably. The colic is accompanied by persistent vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or absence of urine.
homeopathic remedies for colic in babies
Homeopathic treatment can be a real life saver for these parents at a time when they are concerned to find some relief for their baby’s pain.
Abdomen and stomach are bloated. Pains are unbearable and severe. With diarrhea: stools are green and may smell of rotten eggs. Babies scream with anger and are restless. They demand to be carried (fast rather than slowly) and cannot be comforted. They want things which are then rejected! They drive their parent crazy.
Colic with a bloated abdomen and green diarrhea. The pains are severe and come in waves. They are worse after eating (especially fruit) or drinking, if over heated and before a bowel movement. They are better after passing a stool and for pressure or rubbing. Babies draw their legs up and are better after having their tummies rubbed. They scream with pain and are better if you put them over your knees or shoulder.
The tummy is rumbly and windy. Pains are worse in the morning and better for bending back and stretching out. Colic in babies who arch back (like little bananas) and scream with the pain. They want to be held upright (they do not want to lie down) and their little bellies rumble a lot.
Colic with constipation after drinking cow’s milk. Stools may be green or more commonly are small and knotty and passed with difficulty, with a lot of straining.
Occasional colic with few other symptoms. Pains are better for warmth and for bending double — babies pull their legs up and are better for heat — a warm hand or lying on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel.
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