Colic. For those of us who have lived with a “colicky” baby, there is nothing like it. The shrill screaming, inconsolable tears (Mom and baby), and sleepless nights (and days) spent jiggling, pacing, bouncing and pleading for it to stop. Yes, I speak from experience.
My first child was the exact opposite of colicky. She was easy from the get to – breastfed well, didn’t demand every last nanosecond of my time (although I loved giving it to her!) and rarely “fussed”. She didn’t react to much of what I ate through breastmilk (she did have a milk sensitivity to tomatoes though) and slept through the night (on her own free will) by 9 weeks. Yes, she was a dream baby.
My next two children (twins) were polar opposites of each other. My daughter was relatively “easy”, but not much was easy with my son. They were both premature, but he was smaller and spent time in the NICU. He had reflux, didn’t gain well, reacted to numerous foods via breastmilk and was the definition of a colicky baby. Cute, but very, very colicky. And to be honest, living with him through his colic was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
But, having lived through it, I am able to blend some personal experience with my professional opinion on how to address colic and hopefully bring some peace back to the family.
- Address food sensitivities. This can’t be overstated. Many, many babies (even those without colic) react to foods in their mother’s milk. Milk, nuts, and chocolate are just a few of the common culprits. The best thing to do is to bring in a 7-day diet diary to an ND who can figure out what the most likely offending foods are. If you aren’t breastfeeding, we can discuss alternate formulas which may be gentler on your baby’s digestive system.
- Provide comfort . Most mothers who have lived with a colicky baby fight the urge to run away every day. Take the time you need to decompress, but when you’re with your baby hold them close. Wear them, sleep with them, nurse on demand. Babywearing is especially helpful in the early days when you can literally wear them while they sleep. We consulted with Carol Nasr (a local waldorf educator) when my son was 13-months old, and her words of advice have stuck with me.
“Give into him – don’t push him away. If you are what he wants, give it to him.”
- Treat the gut. Babies born by c-section, or to mothers who received antibiotics during labour may have an altered balance of good and bad gut bacteria. This can lead to gas, which will aggravate an already unhappy baby. Probiotics are very safe and very effective at restoring the balance.
- Try different comfort measures. Not all things work for all babies, so there’s rarely a one-size fits all approach. Swaddling may help some babies, but gassy babies may not like to have their legs stretched out as their instinct is to bring them up to their chest for relief (froggy position). Wrapping a baby on your chest allows them to remain in this “frog” position. Music, swings, white noise machines and car rides are all worth trying, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t work for your baby.
- There’s a place for herbs. Calming herbs can be given to the mother, which will benefit the baby via breastmilk. They can also be used in the bath directly for baby.
- Seek a second opinion: Osteopathy and chiropractic are two wonderful therapies that can be used in conjunction with the above suggestions. Dr. Michelle MacDonald has written about Chiropractic Care & Colic here.
- Ask for help. My husband and mother were my greatest allies in the early days. My Mom still bears the title of “Jiggling Nanny” as she literally spent hours on end jiggling him to sleep. If you need a break, ask for help.
For some babies, colic type behaviour is mild, peaks around 6 weeks and eases off by 3 months. Most babies have a “witching hour” or fussy time of the the day. But, there’s no mistaking a colicky baby. If you need help figuring things out, make an appointment with us and we will do our best to help you and baby through this challenging period.