Colic is the umbrella term used for persistent and sustained periods of unsettledness and inconsolable crying in new born and young babies. Because colic is a sweeping diagnoses, there are a variety of suggested causes.
Colic can be extremely distressing for the whole family and parents of colicky babies say that it negatively affects their newborn experience. 1 in 5 babies will suffer from colic in the first few months of life so it is very common, but this doesn't make it any less upsetting. Periods of crying quite often occur late afternoon into the evening, something that is often referred to as the "witching hours". Colicky babies shouldn’t be confused with generally gassy babies who are easily soothed.
An underdeveloped gastrointestinal system, studies have pointed to a lack of gut bacteria in colicky babies
Trapped wind, an underdeveloped gut means that passing wind is hindered
Allergies from both breast or formula milk
Birth trauma that leaves babies pain and discomfort
Overstimulation during the day
Some have suggested that babies’ temperament is also a factor, where highly sensitive babies may cry more and babies with an immature immune system may be unable to regulate their crying once started.
It is also worth considering whether baby reflux, silent reflux or infant GERD are the real cause of the issue, these are serious medical conditions and should be discussed with your GP if you have any concerns.
What can I do?
Try not to take it personally, a colicky baby doesn’t reflect on you as a parent and there are so many supportive and loving techniques to help soothe and settle little ones with colic
Recreating the womb- or the fourth trimester, recreating a womb like state through baby wearing, water immersion, gentle rocking, white noise and swaddling.
Baby massage- given both remedially and routinely the benefits of baby massage are huge. Whether you attend a course to learn an entire body routine or just learn some simple remedial strokes, massage is sure to help your little one settle and become more relaxed.
Baby yoga-baby yoga offers a myriad of settling techniques, stretches and holds as well as poses to help ease intestinal distress.
Soothing day time sequences- newborns don't really 'do' routines and it can heap on stress trying to get into one. A relaxed flow throughout the day of massage, naps, play, fresh air and a bedtime sequence can alleviate the evening time upset and reduce stress for caregivers.
Who can help?
Colic is a very real and at times distressing condition. You are most certainly not alone. Reach out to friends and family in the first instance, let them know how you're feeling and see if there is anything they can do to provide practical or emotional help. Your health visitor or GP are also there to support you. Local baby massage and yoga courses are also an excellent idea for help and support through colic as well as Colic Consultants who can come to your home for a really personalised plan.
Here are some national organisations designed to support you should you need it too:
Association for Post Natal Illness
Support for postnatal illness.
Tel: 020 7386 0868
Helpline for parents with crying and sleepless children.
Tel: 08451 228 669
Self-help organisation for lone-parent families.
Tel: 0800 018 4318
Support group for dads at home
Tel: 0775 254 9085
Support to parents of under-fives.
Information line: 0800 068 6368
La Leche League (GB)
Promotes breastfeeding. Support helpline.
Helpline: 0845 120 2918
General enquiries: 0845 456 1855
Mother Nurture UK
Colic consultant and Soothe Settle and Sleep facilitator, Colchester Essex