Colic can make the new parenting journey grueling! What can parents and care-providers do?
Babies are said to have colic if they cry for more than 3 hours daily on a regular basis. The cry is often high-pitched and relentless, accompanied by a red face and rigid body. It often happens later in the day or evening. Nothing seems to soothe the baby. Research shows 10-20% of babies experience colic. It’s heart-wrenching and exhausting for care-providers.
There are theories about what causes colic but no certain answers. Colic resolves in most infants by 3-4 months, which is the entire “4th trimester”, when we expect babies to sleep a lot and when new families are typically bonding and getting to know each other.
The first thing to consider is your baby’s health. Is your baby gaining weight and soiling diapers as expected? Check out the handy Best Start Chart for signs that feeding is going well. Watch for signs of illness that require medical attention, such as lethargy (limp baby), fever, diarrhea, forceful vomiting.
Is there a chance your baby is overstimulated? Some babies get overwhelmed by a seemingly low level of sounds, sights, and attention. Others can’t get enough.
If your baby is fed, dry, healthy and the usual soothing techniques (rocking, walking, warmth, fresh air, holding, breastfeeding, singing etc) don’t help, then suspect colic. Here are some suggestions that can help an otherwise healthy baby who has colic.
- Infant Chiropractic care, from a Chiropractor who has specialized training and experience. Over 90% of colicky babies show improvement! It’s gentle and nothing like adult adjustments. I’ve heard countless stories from clients who’ve seen amazing results after only one or two treatments from their local baby-chiro.
- Consult with a Lactation Consultant. Suggestions to help with latch and positioning can make a big difference, especially if the colic is related to swallowing gas while feeding. LCs spot all kinds of little or big things that can be easily corrected.
- Infant massage. There are classes and videos demonstrating how to do infant massage for colic. This can help move gas along, colic or not.
- Homeopathic remedies such as Cocyntal. I used to run the Vitamin & Supplement department of a busy health store and this was one product I could never run out of for fear of the pleas from desperate new parents. Many of our customers swore by this remedy.
- Fennel tea is a natural remedy for digestive issues such as gas, cramps, flatulence. It helps with colic too. Ready-to-use fennel tea is sold commercially; just add boiling water and steep for 5-10 minutes like any other tea. It can also be made by boiling fennel seeds (5ml seeds per 250ml water; 1 tsp per cup) for 10-minutes in a covered pot. The breastfeeding parent can drink 3 cups daily. For babies being formula fed, cooled fennel tea can be given to the baby orally with a dropper, 3-5ml (½ – 1 tsp) three times daily.
- Break the stress cycle, if there is one. Never punish or shake a baby who won’t stop crying. Take 10. While it might go against your instincts, it’s better to put your baby down in a safe place and step away for 5-10 minutes to breathe slowly and deeply and regroup. Colic is one of the hardest parenting issues!
I worked with one family who tried everything to no avail. Both parents were loving and kind but exhausted, distressed, anxious and at the end of their rope. Finally, in desperation, they asked a relative to come and stay for 2 nights so they could go sleep at a hotel. They figured they could go home to care for their screaming infant again once they’d restored some energy. When they went back home the colic was over. Done. Never came back. Coincidence or an environment of stress responses cleared up? We’ll never know but they sure were relieved. This is an extreme example but sometimes we have to ask for help and try something we’ve never done.