Colic? What really causes it?

Most of us will have either suffered with a baby with Colic, or know someone who has. But what is it and what causes it? 

Trapped Wind?
Historically we have attributed the classic baby colic with wind/trapped wind, Now this could be the case, but there is usually a reason baby has trapped wind. 

Tongue Tie/Ineffective Latch
Baby's shouldn't get trapped wind if they are feeding effectively (breast or bottle), if they are gulping air and they are breastfed, their latch needs looking at. This should be done by a specifically trained Lactation Consultant (Find one here). Another good resource for helping with baby's latch is Biological Nurturing or Laid Back Breastfeeding.  Baby could have a Tongue Tie which  will affect the latch, baby can therefore gulp air, or not be feeding affectively, which will leave baby hungry and crying!

If baby is bottle fed, a Tongue Tie could still affect feeding. Ensure bottle teet is full of milk before offering to baby. A great tip from Aine Homer - The Baby Reflux Lady, is to ensure you use a bottle specifically designed to reduce wind, she recommends the Medela Calma bottle to reduce the air being swallowed on the release of milk, baby has to physically suck, which removes air from the mouth. 

Crying causes wind
If a baby really cries/screams, they gulp air. Toddlers are the same, watch them after the mother of all tantrums, they burp when they calm down! Why, because when we really cry we gulp air. So it may not be the trapped wind causing pain, but they cry for another reason (reflux, lack of milk, overstimulation), gulp air, and a few mins/hours later, they burp, you therefore think it must have been the wind all along when, actually, the wind is a side effect of the crying. 

Birth Trauma
If baby had a traumatic delivery (forceps or ventouse) it may be worth visiting a cranial osteopath or similar. They provide very gentle treatments that can help realign baby following a traumatic birth, anecdotally I hear great things following Cranial visits. 

Overstimulation
This is far more likely to be the cause of Colic. Classically colic happens during the evenings, an accumulation of daytime simulation for little one, and by the time evening comes it all gets too much! 

We are living in a commercial world. Baby Product marketeers will have you believe that every baby needs a beautiful, colourful and noisy cot or pram mobile, or a baby gym/play mat to look at and a baby bath scent to make them sleep. Baby class marketeers will have you believe that your baby will thrive off sensory stimulation including lights, parachutes, music and bells. A young baby (under 2/3m) doesn't need any of these things. Babies are programmed to facial track, so they will be fascinated and take in every last detail of your face, they will stare off into space, looking at the contrast between light and dark and they will be happy just looking at the world around them.  Don't get me wrong, if you put all these things over your baby, they will look at them, imagine if you had lived in darkness for 9m, you would find it all pretty awesome, doesn't mean you would know when to stop looking them!

Very young babies cannot deal with prolonged stimulation, this includes even looking at your face, or the difference between your wall and your window! 20-30mins max is usually about as much as they can handle. Some really struggle to switch off, and sometimes laying them under cot mobiles, or nursery lights this can make it even harder for them to switch off. 

Using a good sling, I love the Caboo Carrier, it holds the baby really close and really tight.  Unlike the baby Bjorn or other more structured carriers it holds the baby with its legs bent and tucked up (frog legs) in a similar position to how they are when you hold them in your arms, just gives you your hands free!

An over-tired or over-stimulated baby needs a few things:

Strong/Firm/Confident hands - Hold your baby firmly into you (hence a sling being great), choose one position and STICK with it, It is hard with a crying baby not to try lots of different positions, this can stimulate more. 

Movement - Don't stand still, dance, sway, bounce (birth balls come back into their own), movements need to be big and pronounced, rhythmic and prolonged.

Noise - White noise will be your best friend. It needs to be LOUD, hoover loud, so either turn on the hoover/hairdryer, or play some LOUD white noise,

Containment - As above hold them close to you and in ONE position. Young babies have a moro/startle reflex.  As soon as you lay your baby down, that moro reflex can be stimulated (arms flail). This will do what it says on the tin, startle your baby, so their arms need containing. Do this either by holding firmly in your arms, putting in a good sling or swaddle.

Patience - I tell mums when I am doing 1:1s these calming techniques need to be done for a good 10-15mins to get baby calm (you need to time it, 5 seconds with a screaming baby feels like a lifetime). 

Calm - This is hard one, your baby will pick up on your stress, Dads, grans/grandads tend to be quite good at calming baby as they aren't as knackered, stressed and sleep deprived as mum.

Dummy - Contentious issue, but I am a HUGE fan of dummies..Baby's have an innate need to suck, a dummy can be a great way to soothe and calm. Generally very "sucky" babies will find something to suck, usually a thumb if not a dummy. Having had 3 kids, 2 thumb suckers and 1 dummy sucker, I can tell you which was easier to get rid of! 

The symptoms of Colic do subside, usually around the 3-5m mark (see my blog on fourth trimester here). If you are living it right now and want help, contact Nicky 07900 676719 or email me here