The other day one of my mums asked me about Colic and so I thought what a great topic for my first blog post. Two out of my three babies got Colic but I don’t really know why. I have put it down to their individual temperaments and if you are a fan of Ayurveda their different Dosha. But there are so many other factors that may also have affected it. As a parent there may be things you can do to help soothe, but you mustn’t feel it’s your fault or ever feel guilty.
So what is Colic? Colic affects the babies digestive system and manifests as inconsolable crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy. It often happens at night, 1 in 5 babies are affected, boys and girls, breastfed and bottle fed equally. It can start by about three weeks postpartum and will usually be finished by the time the baby is four months at the latest. Although common it is often particularly difficult for parents because it is relentless and the baby appears to be in real pain. There are no differences in outcomes between babies who have had Colic and those that did not. It is also ancient, with mention made by Galen and I find this amazing – mothers and Wetnurses of the Middle Ages used to smear their nipples with an opium paste to settle their babies. In 5% of cases there is a more serious underlying cause so it is definitely worth mentioning it to your doctor or child health nurse. If you are not sure that it is Colic go and see a doctor, doctors would rather you were safe than sorry. There is no consensus on cause and even what is actually wrong.
So what can you do?
If we look from an Ayurvedic perspective the Postnatal period is categorised as a time dominated by excessive Vata, which is ironically air. The very same element that might be aggravating your poor babies tummy. Ideally for her own rejuvenation a new mother should to be eating warming oily sweet grounding foods to pacify the Vata Dosha and avoiding cold raw foods and anything too stimulating and spicy. Since the mother milk is often the babies primary source of food, some of the soothing elements of her diet may be passed to the baby. Warming spices such as Cumin, Ginger and Cardamom can be helpful and can be added to foods or warming teas. On her information packed blog Julia Jones of Newborn Mothers recommends dill in the mothers food as it is sweet and warm. It is good not only for colic but hiccoughs, gas and cramps. It can be used in Mediterranean foods or added to stews. She also suggests that it is the constitution of a Vata baby which makes them more prone to colic, and they benefit greatly from warm oil Massage with a grounding oil such as black sesame oil. Massage their stomach gently using circular motions. She also recommends warms baths.
Poor mums feel guilt for everything, but there is no conclusive evidence that mums diet has any affect, although often parents are desperate to explore every possibility. A common suggestion is for mum to remove veggies like onions, cabbage and other wind making foods from her diet (these actually stimulate Vata too). If you think it might be that, just try for a week to see if there is any improvement. Other research suggests a hypoallergenic diet can help, whereby the breastfeeding mother excludes milk and dairy, eggs, wheat and nuts, just excluding dairy doesn’t seem to help, (Wikipedia, Baby Colic) but again this is a very restrictive diet and may be difficult and unwise to follow with sleep deprivation, baby brain and a body yearning for calories and nourishment.
The world of the microbiome is an exciting place where scientists still have so much to discover. I found this paragraph from Michael Mosley’s excellent book Clever Guts particularly interesting.
‘Turning their attention to infants, the ever curious scientists found when they looked into their nappies, that children with Colic ( inconsolable crying) had reduced gut diversity and fewer bacteroidetes (the good guys) than children who didn’t cry as much. One theory is that lots of screaming means parents are more likely to pay attention, fuss and feed, thereby providing the microbes which are irritating the baby’s guts and causing it to scream, with more food’
Recent trials have found that drops of Lactobacillus Reuteri can reduce crying in colicky babies by 50 percent. It’s is already available in shops. Results were found to be better for breast fed babies with Colic than bottle fed.
Massaging babies tiny feet is something that many parents do automatically and Reflexologist Laura Norman suggests gently massaging the point that corresponds to the Solar Plexus for help with colic. Gentle rubbing of the feet will help to calm baby too. This website has a nice simple baby foot map, the Solar Plexus is the circular area in the middle on pressure point 4#.
Feed on Demand
In cases where parents are trying to keep to a feeding schedule, Baby may actually be hungry or need more milk to colonise the microbiome with the useful bacteria found in breastmilk.
Could baby be over stimulated? Too many visitors, noises, doing too much? If so why not try dimming the lights and playing soothing music, white noise or silence. Gently rock baby, hold them close, Massage their tummy, have a bath. Take it easy. Try to keep the first forty days as calm as possible. Many cultures throughout the world keep this as a sacred time of partial seclusion for mother and baby so that they can fall in love, establish breastfeeding and gain in strength. If you think it may be this, how about limiting visitors, trips outside and electronic devices and see if it makes any difference. You could probably do with some more rest too.
Use a Dummy/ Pacifier
There does seem to be some stigma around using a pacifier but in some cases they really work, if your mental health is being affected by relentless crying and lack of sleep it’s worth a try.
Hold Baby Close
Baby has spent the majority of its life cocooned in your womb perhaps it just needs some more closeness. When our babies had Colic the thing that helped most was my partner resting the baby tummy down on his forearm (it didn’t work with mine) and gently walking up an down the hallway through the night, ( while I somehow slept) gently patting them on the bum and rubbing their backs until the worst had passed.
Having a newborn can in itself be stressful and put pressure on a relationship. Combine this with sleepless nights, non existent sex life, partner having to go back to work etc, perhaps baby is picking up on some of the emotions and feeling stressed. With my first I actually was in the process of emigrating when he was born and so took none of my advice, my first had the worst Colic, my third, born while we were more settled didn’t have it at all. Again, create that calm haven, get help, get a cleaner, hire a doula like me and don’t move house, emigrate, start a new business …
Babycenter.com.au has an excellent article on colic which covers some other causes, precautions, considerations and techniques you might like to try.
Did you have a baby with colic? What did you find helped the most? Please leave a comment I would love to hear your advice. Thank you for reading.
(Featured image by Echo Grid on Unsplash)