WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
the ins and out
Your beautiful baby enters into the world, you've skipped the colic pages of all the books because your baby won't have colic, and you envision this magical new chapter in your lives. You know it will be hard, everyone says so, but you've got this in the bag. You've prepared for this your whole pregnancy.. and then... then it hits you! Ha! It hits you hard! Day 1 is manageable, then the snowball of exhaustion sets in on Day 2. This is lack of sleep like you have never known. You now understand why sleep torture became a thing. And this is just Day 2.
But more than that, the time you thought you would have bonding with your baby, is met with a screaming infant seemingly in a lot of pain. You don't know what to do, and you just want to ease it for your new little bundle of not-so-much joy!
With all the years of experience I had with working with babies and children, nothing prepared me for the severe colic and acid reflux that my son suffered! The constant screaming from morning to night, and right through the night, to begin a new cycle again the following day. It was probably one of the hardest times of my entire life. What kept me going was the phrase "this too shall pass", and I found myself trying to enjoy every moment, even the tough ones, because I knew when the time came to kiss this colicky period good-bye, I would also be kissing my sweet baby boy's first few months away. Also, despite the exhaustion, frustration, and extreme lack of sleep, this wasn't about me. This was about my baby, who was suffering. This was not how I envisioned him to experience the world in the first few months of his life. All he knew was pain. This, my dear readers, this is colic!
WHAT IS COLIC?
Despite what I read in many books, articles and heard from experts, I found that colic was in fact "something" caused by "something". I read over and over again that nobody understand why babies cry for no specific reason, and that the causes are unknown, but the thing is, my baby WAS crying for a very obvious reason. He was in pain. A lot of it. Plain and simple. Some babies may have immature guts, some may be allergic or sensitive to substances in breast or formula milk
We struggled to get the winds out, he didn't burp easily, and when the gas passed through his system, it caused him great pain, and explosive bowel movements. He would cry so intensely and so furiously that his face blamed red. His fists were always clenched so tightly, knees drawn up as described in books, back arched and his abdomen muscles were very tense. There was no specific time of day that he cried, he would scream throughout the day, specifically more so after a feed. Getting into a routine was difficult due to long bouts of crying episodes. We could not drive anywhere! Being in a car with a screaming baby for more than 10 minutes was going to kill someone, we would end up in an accident!
The shock to the system not only hit me, but hubby too! Boy, did it put a toll on our relationship. Patience, calmness, tolerance - all out the window! The struggle was real!
Press play and put the sound on to see what colic looks like:
There are no clear-cut remedies for babies with colic. What works for one, may not work for another. In fact, the best remedy unfortunately is: TIME. I was told by my well-known pediatrician that my baby may be lactose intolerant, that I should refrain from breastfeeding, and put him on a hypo-allergenic lactose free formula. I refused. My gut said that went against what my instinct was telling me. She also advised we take him for very traumatic x-rays, to rule out any internal problems. All came out in the clear. I continued on our breastfeeding journey, and did what I could do to aid my baby's pain.
Tips and tricks that aid, but do not cure, colicky babies:
Feeding your baby in an upright position so that less air is swallowed.
Bouncing gently on a yoga ball (see video below)
Removing dairy from your diet. Note: This may be effective, but dairy takes 6-8 weeks to be completely eliminated from your diet. By the time dairy elimination is effective, time would have lapsed and (hopefully) colic subsided.
Removing spicy and acidic foods from your diet if breastfeeding, as well as hypoallergenic foods such as nuts, eggs, and wheat, tea and coffee too.
Visiting the chiropractor (see next section below)
Different babies respond differently to comfort, so it is a matter of trying out different methods, and using the ones that work for your baby.
Here are some products / remedies shown to help colicky babies, recommended by some, and tried and tested by us:
Colic drops: Contains simethicone said to help relieve colic and wind in little ones. We didn't notice a difference, and this can in fact lower the PH levels of the body.
Lactase drops: Breaks down the lactose in a baby's milk, making the feed more digestible. We gave these drops to our son after the paediatrician's recommendation and advice that he may be lactose intolerant. Our son was and is not lactose intolerant, therefore we did not notice a difference and gave this to him unnecessarily.
Gripe water: Said to help babies with cramps. We did not notice a difference in our baby. In addition, gripe water contains 4.4% alcohol!
Behoedmiddel: Said to treat winds, colic and stomach aches. We did not notice a difference in our baby. In addition, behoedmiddel contains 6.48% alcohol!
Antispasmodic syrup: Said to soothe and relief stomach cramps and infant colic. We did not notice a difference in our baby.
Natural Homepathic gripe water: For relief of gas and colic. This was the ONLY product which had a relieving effect on our baby. Also, this product does not contain sugar, sodium bicarbonate, simethicone, wheat, gluten, dairy, soy, animal products or artificial flavours and colours. It is expensive, but it was worth every cent! Did it cure colic? No. But it did relief our son for a small period of time.
Despite the above remedies, as mentioned above, time was unfortunately the only "cure". Had I known that no product (other than the natural homeopathic grip water above) would relief my baby's symptoms, I would never have given him any medication! At the time I was a distressed mommy trying to do the best for her child and relief him of his excruciating pain. I'm afraid that the constant dosage of medication may have done more harm than good, luckily none having any long term effects that I'm aware of!
VISITING THE COLIC GURU
Visiting the chiropractor can be very beneficial for all babies, not only colicky babies. Why do so many people recommend going to a chiropractor? Well, I had the privilege of having my baby seen to by the Colic Guru himself, Dr Greg Lacock, to find out! Dr. Greg Lacock has been specializing in colic and reflux for 25 years and has been at the forefront of research into this poorly diagnosed and treated condition. He has personally treated over 5000 babies and spoken to parents in all corners of the world.
He gives two quick and easy video courses:
Active burping techniques for gas trapped in the stomach: these six techniques are very effective for getting deeper burps to release. This is often the most important step in easing stomach colic.
Gas release techniques for intestinal gas: this routine of 'release techniques' targets the most common areas where pockets of gas get trapped - the cause of all that moaning, groaning, straining and cramping!
COURSE 1: Getting the winds out (Active Burping Techniques)
Some babies simply don't burp very easily, or they may release a burp but you'll still feel that something is stuck, that a wind is still trapped and can lead to discomfort and indigestion, most notable in the time soon after feeding.
The best way to resolve this is to learn these active burping techniques. By moving the baby through a variety of positions, you will open up the pipes and with a little consistent effort, the burps will start to come up more easily:
do each of the 6 positions after each feed, except in the early hours of the morning for 30-60 seconds each.
just do what you can without disturbing their sleep pattern.
try to do them in order if possible as the first positions are for shallow or easy burps - you want to limit the chances of throwing up some milk when you do these
if they do bring up a little milk, don't panic. Rather get the winds out!
if they don't seem to like a position, move on to the next one
don't expect to get burps out every time - 75% is a good target
do them daily for 5 days and you should see a marked improvement
once they are burping more easily, just do the techniques that work.
the whole routine is around 8 minutes - try not to carry on too long
See course videos below
COURSE 2: Trapped intestinal gas (Colic Release Techniques)
The biggest cause of colic symptoms (by far!) is excessive gas in the intestinal area. The baby will often push and strain continuously as they try to push it out. They cramp, cry and can moan and groan for hours, even when asleep.
Colic remedies may help to ease the symptoms by relaxing the muscular walls of the intestines, but this can mean medicating for several months. By learning and doing the techniques below, you are much more likely to see a faster overall improvement.
do each of the 6 exercises for about 1-2 minutes each
they must be relaxed and not cramping, crying, etc
don't do these soon after feeding - wait at least an hour and choose a time when they are relaxed
go slowly and let them get used to the pressure of your fingers
don't force anything!
if they don't seem to like an exercise, move on to the next one
do them daily for as long as it seems to help
keep at it - it make take a few sessions to get the gas moving
do them daily for 7-10 days and you should see a marked improvement
See course videos below
This was the case with my son. Although these techniques helped an enormous amount, it was no miracle cure.
In some babies, the techniques work very well but after a few days, the symptoms creep back again. If you don't get the burps out, this will probably keep happening, so make sure you learn the burping routine and get it right!
It may also be due to a formula that is not being digested. Try a different one and see if there is a change - it may take a week or so to know for sure. In the meantime, keep on with the exercises so that the problem doesn't get worse.
In some cases, the gas pockets are simply too deep to manually release. If symptoms are severe, you may need to use medication although this is a last resort (ongoing use of remedies and medication can lead to constipation). So use it sparingly and as advised by your pediatrician.
Click below for the course videos, courtesy of Dr Greg Lacock:
Course 1: Active Burping Techniques
6. Face Down
Course 2: Colic Release Techniques
5. Belly Wobble
6. The Bicycle
A quick word of advice from the Colic Guru
"It is only natural for the parent to want their baby's symptoms to ease as soon as possible. Soothing techniques and colic remedies are important for the crisis periods when your baby is cramping, crying and distressed.
But sadly, many parents medicate only, jumping from one 'remedy' to the next in their quest for relief. It is not uncommon to hear that a baby is being given 3 or 4 of these and they're only three weeks old! Like many conditions, treating only the symptoms will not solve the problem. In fact, it often ends up taking months longer because more appropriate treatment is delayed.
The good news is that it's not that difficult to help if you know what to do. As long as your baby is not sick, hungry or has an underlying problem, the cause of discomfort can usually be diagnosed with good history taking. Once you know the cause, you can stop experimenting!"
I wish I had heard this advice on Day 2! If you're a parent or caregiver reading this on Day 2 - then I have accomplished something with this article!
WHERE TO FROM HERE?
Having a severely colicky baby was one of the truest tests of time! I'd been tested as a parent, I'd been tested in my relationship, I'd been tested as a person especially when extreme exhaustion had set in! Yet it was also the most magical time of my life. I looked at him every day and thought, wow! I made this tiny little human. He made my heart so happy and filled it with so much love. The spark in his eyes ignited the fire in my heart and it burned so much love for him. It was in those precious moments that I had wished time stood still. When he was screaming so intensely for hours upon hours that his face turned blood red and he lost his breath, I patiently reminded myself that "this too shall pass", and in those helpless moments I held him a little tighter because I knew when it did pass I would never get that time again.
"I must be careful not to wish this mad season away, because there are threads of magic woven in its fabric that will not only keep me sane, but will never be repeated again."
Looking back, it was tough. As a first time mom, the sleep deprivation removed almost all patience, and not knowing what to do at the best of times to ease his pain, then trying everything, was what I thought was best for my boy. Sometimes, we don't need to do anything, we just need to patiently wait it out, nurture, love and comfort our colicky babies. That never fails them. Your gut instinct never fails them, and never forget that!
Today, my son is a healthy, happy boy. Over time it got easier. It was a shock to the system, we needed time to recover, and it took us a long time to get to the point where we considered more kids. But the important thing is that we all came out alive! ;)
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