During pregnancy, I often imagined my time with my baby as a picture perfect one- a cooing , gurgling baby cradled in my lap; who smiled often, cried a little, slept aplenty with my hair curled round his finger. Alas! how wrong I was. What occurred instead baffled me- Baby G would scream like she was in intense pain and would scream for hours on end- with fists curled, back arched and legs stuck to her tummy. She would either pass gas or struggle to pass it or she would in between screams be stuck to my boob- lapping greedily for hours on end especially during late hours of the night from after midnight till 6-7 am. Everyday. A maddening rush to the hospital ended up with doctors comforting me with vague explanation:
- It’s just colic
- There’s nothing wrong. The baby’s fine. She’s just over stimulated.
- It’s just gas.
- She’s just being fussy.
- She maybe just a high-need baby.
All these words swirled helplessly in my overtired mommy mind. I wanted a solution to the endless crying – the nerve-wracking screams but there was none. It was supposedly just a phase in medical terms but a painfully long stretch of time for a mommy. what made it more painful was the fact that there wasn’t much I could do to help my baby- she would have to grow out of it. Personally, I feel that medical knowledge coupled with mommy instinct is a powerful weapon in deciphering our babies’ needs and requirements. So, in my frustration I researched, inquired and read all I could to figure what exactly was ailing my baby.
Colic: what is it ?
This one is a bit tricky as there are a lot of myths surrounding what colic actually is. Very often, all kinds of fussiness and crying are labelled as colic. But that is not so . Colic is often defined by the rule of 3: it begins when a baby is around 3 weeks old, lasts for more than 3 hours a day, for at least 3 days a week and persists for at least 3 weeks in a row in an otherwise well-fed and healthy baby. Of course, some babies may be colic over achievers and hence will cry for more hours, days and weeks. Colic attacks are associated with a flushed face, clenched fists, legs pulled up to the abdomen and loud, high pitched screams. This usually ends when a baby hits the 3rd-month mark but for some, it may stretch up to 6 months.
What causes colic?
According to Dr. Sears, a noted American pediatrician, the causes of colic appear to be:
Gastroesophageal reflux ( GER)
Although GER is considered as the most common cause of colic- it occurs in varying degrees ranging from mild ( frequent, painless spit ups- wet, sour burps) to severe ( colic, stomach ache and frequent night waking).This occurs when a baby’s immature digestive system is irritated causing partially digested stomach contents and acids to be refluxed out
How to deal with GER?
- If you’re exclusively breastfeeding your child, you’re on the right track! Continue to exclusively BF your child for as long as possible. Breastmilk clearly holds an advantage over formula as it is rich in digestion-aiding enzymes and thus gentler on their little tummies. Also, it digests faster and there is no risk of the child being allergic to mummy’s milk. Babies with GER are prone to being allergic to many types of formula so if your child is on formula, kindly use the hypo-allergenic formula on the recommendation of your doctor.
- Feed your baby more often than you do and in a smaller amount. The lower the volume of milk entering the baby’s stomach, the easier it is to digest leaving less to spit up.
- Keep your baby in an upright position for at least half an hour following a feed. Sit your baby up in your lap with his back and head against your chest and your arms around his tummy. Make sure to burp him too.
- If baby wakes up frequently at night as babies with GER usually do with sour burps, incessant colic crying and stomach ache- make sure he/she does not sleep flat on their back. Instead, encourage them to sleep on the left side and also elevate crib head about 30 degrees or elevate head with a soft pillow. This will reduce reflux and help them sleep better.
Sensitivity to mother’s diet or formula milk:
Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t any particular foods to avoid while breastfeeding because different children may have a sensitivity to different food products. However, common culprits appear to be cow’s milk products, cruciferous vegetables, nuts etc. Keep a tab of what you eat and how it affects your baby- if you notice a reaction, eliminate that item from your diet. But be patient as it may take 2-3 weeks for the food to be eliminated from your system completely. Symptoms of food insensitivity in babies include:colic, rash, hives, sore bottom, fussiness after feeding, diarrhea/constipation, green stool with blood or mucus, excessive spitting up, vomiting, inconsolable crying, sleeping little and waking up frequently with obvious discomfort, eczema, dry skin, chest congestion, red,itchy eyes or ear infection.
Also, remember that fussiness that is not accompanied by any other symptom and subsides with frequent feedings is certainly not food related. If your baby is on formula, switch to a hypo-allergenic formula on the recommendation of your doctor as these are gentler on baby’s tummies.
Some babies just crave the comfort of the womb and find their new home a bit over-whelming for their senses. They are trying their best to adjust or sleep it away all morning and come evening, they are usually hysterical. To soothe your baby, try some of our comforting techniques posted here.
Another theory suggests that mothers who experienced stress during pregnancy give birth to highly strung babies. This is due to the fact that stress hormones are released into the mother’s blood which affects her growing fetus. These babies, when birthed, face extreme difficulty in settling into their environment.
Please, do NOT let your baby ” cry it out” and turn a deaf ear to whoever advises so- it’s counter-intuitive as it will put further pressure on abdominal muscles and increase stomach ache. It also makes your baby more gassy. Keep a tab on your diet and how it affects your baby, what triggers your baby’s colic and what techniques soothe him/her. Stay relaxed ( difficult- I know!! ) as stressing over it will only make it more difficult to bond with your baby and remember! This too shall pass (: