In Newborns, postpartum care

We’ve got 5 proven ways to treat severe colic and we’re certain if you’re a new parent you’ll want to know them.

They’re not sick, hungry, wet or tired but they’re still totally inconsolable and the periods of upset can last for hours at a time and usually occur three or more days a week. You’ve guessed it. Colic. But what is it? Well, rather than a diagnosis, ‘colic’ is a behaviour, and refers to babies that cry a lot for no apparent reason. It can be upsetting, frustrating and baffling. To help relieve some of the stress, here are 5 proven ways to treat severe colic.

What is colic?

As any mother who has dealt with colic will tell you, if your baby has it, you know it! But if you’re not familiar with the signs, here’s what to look out for:

  • Intense bouts of crying that last longer than three hours and occur three times a week or more
  • Crying in the late afternoon or evening
  • Drawing up knees, arching back and clenching fists
  • Cluster feeding
  • Unable to settle or sleep easily

What causes severe colic?

Unfortunately nobody knows the exact cause. However, some theories of what’s behind it include:

  • Gas

Digesting food is a big task for a brand new gastrointestinal system and can result in a gassy tummy for bub. In this case, baby doesn’t know how to cope with trapped wind, which often causes them to experience tummy pain. The result is that they begin to cry and squirm which is colicky behaviour.

  • Over stimulation

Over stimulation definitely plays a part when it comes to severe colic. Isn’t it remarkable how newborn babies have the ability to sleep through everything from a tornado to a fire alarm in those first few weeks? The reason for this is that babies have a built-in mechanism for tuning out sights and sounds. However, near to the end of the first month, this mechanism begins to disappear, leaving babies much more sensitive to their surroundings. In turn, this can cause them to be stressed and unsettled, resulting in lots of crying. This also explains why colic tends to clear up at around three months, when babies learn how to filter out environmental stimuli and noise.

  • Development

One theory is that it’s a natural development that babies go through as they adjust to all the different sensations that come with life outside the womb.

Is severe colic normal?

While theories vary, some estimates suggest that between 8 and 40 percent of babies become colicky. While the cause is unknown, what we do know is that episodes of colic are equally common among boys and girls and both babies who are breastfed and those who are bottle-fed.

How long does colic last?

Hang in there because most episodes peak at around six weeks and then end as suddenly as they started at around the three-month mark.

How can I relieve my baby during bouts of severe colic?

Each baby is different so it’s definitely a case of try, try and try again! But here are a few things you can try to relieve symptoms.

1) Feeding on demand

Whether you’re breast feeding or formula feeding, smaller, more regular meals make digestion easier for bub.

2) Burping

Burping at the end of a feed is common practice but burping halfway through a feed is also a good idea if baby is suffering with severe colic. Some babies are easily burped while others take a long while, so be patient and allow yourself to get into the groove. It often takes practice to know your babies cues.

3) Keep baby upright

Keeping baby upright for a good 15 minutes after feeding is a good way to relieve severe colic. It can be tricky if you have other children around, as you may need your hands, so try a  sling or a carrier, as this allows you to keep baby upright, while also being able to get on with other things.

4) Bath baby in warm water

A warm bath can work wonders for soothing their tummies, as well as their spirits.

5) Use white noise to distract them

A 40-baby study found that white noise helped 80 percent of babies fall asleep in just 5 minutes. Another study found that white noise significantly decreases the duration of crying and increases sleepy time in colicky babies.

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