Many babies are diagnosed with colic in the first 6 weeks of life.
But what a lot of parents don’t realise is that there are obvious reasons why babies suffer from this stressful condition.
Even though I say condition, in my opinion, it’s actually a label that is frequently used when there is no rhyme or reason why a baby is crying for a long period of time.
So, what are the signs of colic?
Babies aged 2-3 weeks or older.
Babies cry for 3 or more hours usually at the same time of the day every day lasting for a number of days or even weeks.
Most often in the late afternoon and/or evening.
High pitched cry which is often inconsolable.Their movements are often jerky, and they are unable to relax no matter what.
They may not want to be held close to you and often try and push you away when feeding.
Settle only for a short period of time.
Other signs that may show up are green bowel motions, rumbling tummies and spilling.
While they may look hungry, sucking only provides relief for a very short time.
Why is my baby showing these signs of so-called “Colic”?
Babies take a little while to get used to the outside world. They have been nurtured and comforted inside the womb for many months.
They haven’t needed to ask for food or ask to go to sleep because their environment has done that for them.
Now that they are outside of their comfy abode. They use their voice and their bodies to let you know their needs.
But as a new mum, you have no idea what those signs are and how to determine them, especially with so many different approaches and advice from others.
The first 2 weeks is about getting to know your baby, realizing you have a little human to look after that is totally dependent on you and your family. Bonding, cuddling and coming to terms that your life has changed forever. Your baby sleeps a lot and feeds in between sleep. This is all very normal and to be expected. Your baby falls asleep in your arms many times and many times you will try and place them in their bed but soon to be back in your arms for more cuddles. Visitors come and go, and you are most likely been housebound.
After a couple of weeks, things start to change. Your baby is no longer sleeping for long periods of time. In fact, they are sleeping very little sometimes only 30 min or less. You are starting to feel tired. Your sleep is no longer of importance while you try and figure out what has changed. Your baby is feeding more frequently, starting to get quite unsettled and harder to fall asleep.
Part of the reason is that they are developing skills to survive. They are becoming more aware of their surroundings, the noises they are hearing and the people around them, while still enjoying the cuddles and sleeps in your arms. But you are now wanting a little bit more space. Time to have a shower, make yourself some breakfast or even just a cuppa.
You are home on your own because for most of you, your partners, family or friends have gone back to their daily routine. You may be feeling sleep deprived, alone, frustrated and overwhelmed. Your baby is no longer settling as they did in the first 2 weeks.
They are crying, searching for their hands, sucking on their hands. Even though they have only been fed 30 min ago, they are awake and you introduce them to more food.
This goes on for quite some time over several hours or days. You seem to be feeding more and more but your baby is more and more unsettled. Relatching on the boob seems to be one way to calm them down but again only for a short time. This goes on for days even weeks until you finally go and see someone to seek some answers only to be told your baby has “COLIC”
Colic a term, not a diagnosis
So, what could it be?
Sleep is very important for your baby. They grow and gain weight while they are sleeping.
However, your baby is used to falling asleep whenever they need to inside the womb and also in the first 2 weeks in the outside world. Then they start to be able to be awake a little longer and learning to trust their surroundings. They become more curious, know you are around, they can hear you, smell you and feel you. Which means they are awake more but also missing out on much-needed sleep. They become overtired and a lot harder to settle. If this goes on for too long you have a baby showing signs of sleep deprivation.
Most babies who are diagnosed with Colic are breastfed. Babies do feed frequently in the first few weeks. They are growing and gaining weight more in the first few weeks than they will in months or years to come. Mums lactation is starting to establish and getting the hang of breastfeeding becomes easier.
However, your baby is awake and unsettled and you are not sure why. You end up offering more food because they are showing signs of hunger. Before you know it, you are consistently feeding your baby and your baby becomes more and more unsettled. Yes, your baby has a small tummy but that doesn’t mean they need feeding every 30 min. Remember the milk needs time to digest. The optimum time for digestion is when your baby is at rest.
Rest to digest. The average amount of time for digestion is around 2 hours or up to 3 hours. If you are feeding your baby frequently their tummy hasn’t got a chance to empty and digest. Tummy is then filled again and again which creates more challenges with wind, digestion and ultimately sleep. Often mums with oversupply and feeding frequently present with colic a lot earlier.
After a feed, some babies need to get rid of excess wind. Accumulation of wind depends on your supply, quality of milk and time spent awake. Often mums are spending too much time trying to get a burp out. I recommend spending about 10 min and no longer. If your baby has brought up one burp, then this is enough. During the night they don’t necessarily need winding at all. What often happens is a mum has misinterpreted their baby’s sleep signs for wind and keeps baby up longer. Your baby will get more overtired and will be harder to settle.
The other challenge is that if your baby does have an upset tummy due to frequent feeding. They may produce more wind, struggle with indigestion and unable to settle to sleep. You feed to resettle several times, your baby will get more stressed, more tired and the signs of “COLIC” start to appear.
What can you do to prevent or help a baby with colic
Know your baby’s cues. These are the most important.
Your baby’s hunger, tired, pain and wind cues are all exactly the same
Trust your intuition- if you think they are full then they probably are and refeeding them will make symptoms worse.
If you are feeding frequently, you need to start spacing your feeds.
Start with 15 min at the first and second feed.
3rd feed 30 min
4th feed 45 min
5th feed 60 min
And so on until you have a good time between feeds for rest to digest.
2-3 hours for babies over two weeks is achievable.
Only burp when necessary.
Know your baby’s awake times.
Help your baby to learn to self-settle and create positive sleep associations.
If you need more help, get in touch:)