One of the things you don't often find covered in ante natal classes is colic. It's not something people tend to bring up in conversation either, which means that new parents can sometimes be faced with an almighty shock. In this article I'm going to be looking at what colic is, signs to look out for, and how to cope.
Babies cry. We all know that. No one preparing for the arrival of a new baby is going to be of the belief that their baby won't cry. Nothing quite prepares you for the experience of a regularly crying baby, but at least there's usually something you can do to sooth them fairly quickly. Unless it's colic.
Soothing a baby will usually involve things such as changing a nappy, singing to them, giving them a feed, wrapping them in a blanket or entertaining them. The crying usually stops after a short while and you can, at least briefly, return to something vaguely resembling a faint echo of a life once considered normal. Unless it's colic.
Colic generally occurs in very young babies, sometimes right from birth itself, and can result in a baby crying for hours, unable to be consoled. Not just crying - more of a high pitched wailing that's impossible to ignore or escape from, and seems impossible to alleviate. And it can happen night after night.
For new parents this can be something of a shock, and it can become incredibly stressful, and place even more of a strain on the relationship. So what's going on, and is there anything you can do to deal with it?
First of all, the good news. Colic isn't dangerous, and there is no need to worry unduly about the welfare of your baby. It's common enough for it to be considered perfectly normal, if unwelcome. Secondly, more good news. Colic doesn't last forever! It might feel like it at the time, but babies grow out of colic fairly quickly - certainly by about three months old.
In the grand scheme of things three months is nothing, but when you translate that into a hundred consecutive lost nights of sleep, it can feel a pretty big deal. Just remind yourself, it isn't forever, and it will be over soon.
As a concerned parent you'll probably be worried about what colic actually is. You may find some literature on the subject, but more often than not this can be a little confusing. There's a good reason for this: nobody really knows what colic is!
The general consensus of medical option is that colic is caused by the initial growth and development of a newborn baby's digestive system as they move from feeding through the umbilical cord to feeding more normally. Trapped wind is generally thought to exacerbate the symptoms, but is not entirely to blame.
So what are the symptoms? In general they are very much like the symptoms of trapped wind. Usually a painful cry following feeding, and more commonly in the evening. The cry is often higher pitched than normal crying, and unlike with normal crying it is often very hard or impossible to calm them and stop them crying. Which is why it is so distressing for the parent.
Is there anything that can be done to help your baby with their colic? There are a few things you can try. First of all you may have seen colic bottles and colic teats available, and these do work for many people. The design is such that much less air is taken in while feeding, and less trapped air means that the colic symptoms are less noticeable.
It is also worth applying gentle pressure on your baby's tummy, and the best way of doing this is to sit him or her on your lap, place your arm across their tummy as they face away from you, and then gently lean forwards. Be prepared for a little bit of sick sometimes though!
If possible try feeding your baby at a slightly different time in the evening to see if that helps at all. You might try feeding them slightly earlier, and then putting them straight into a warm bath afterwards to help soothe their tummy and give them something fun to experience to take their mind off any discomfort.
Finally, a word of advice to parents who are worried, and stressed. It is not just normal to feel the need to get away from it all occasionally, it's important that you do. If you can let someone else occasionally look after your baby for a while, get yourself out of the house, get a complete change of scene, and escape the crying. It is important that you look after yourself and get yourself calm, as you'll be much better able to help your baby when you get back.