A parenting expert has claimed that colic doesn’t actually exist.
In 1954, American paediatrician Morris Wessel offered the widely accepted definition of colic as a healthy baby who inexplicably fusses or cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week for more than three weeks.
Since then, it has become a common condition amongst infants – with at least one in five infants born in the UK diagnosed with colic.
But Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a parenting and childcare expert and author of The Gentle Parenting Book, has criticised the tendency for doctors to immediately look for a medical diagnosis – and instead suggests that worried parents can treat so-called “colic” with simple changes to popular childcare techniques.
Sarah said: “Many babies who cry constantly simply need to be held longer. Our society is very much focused on “putting babies down” out of fear of creating bad sleeping habits, a theory which stems back to Victorian parenting strategies.”
“Science actually tells us that the more we hold our babies, the more secure we make them and the less they cry.”
Meanwhile, Sarah also believes that while many think colic is caused by tummy pain or trapped wind, “undiagnosed feeding problems” are a more likely cause – such as gut bacteria imbalances in formula-fed babies or babies who’ve received antibiotics, tongue-tie or latch problems.
She says: “These problems are easily put right with the help of a good lactation consultant and probiotic supplements.”
But above all, spending time with a baby, holding a baby and safely sharing a bed instead of “putting baby down” for a nap are all keys to putting an end to those heart-wrenching cries.
Sarah says: “Like all other mammals, our young are meant to sleep with us. No other mammal sleeps with their baby away from them.
“Research has repeatedly shown that sharing a bed with babies results in significantly more sleep and less crying.
“The Japanese do not have a word for colic and most Japanese parents share a bed with their baby for the first few months of life.”
Colic tends to appear in the first two to four weeks of life and peaks at around six to eight weeks of age. Usually, the baby seems quite happy until the late afternoon or early evening.
•Frowning and grimacing
•Reddening of the face
•The baby may pull up its legs, suggesting stomach pains
•Loud and long screaming fits
•Loud tummy rumblings
•The baby cannot be consoled
•The crying lasts for three hours or more
•The baby passes wind or faeces (poo) around the time the crying stops, which could be coincidental
•The baby recovers, none the worse for the experience.
By holding, stroking or rocking your baby, the infant is learning that you are there for them, even if they are not able to calm down yet.
Try the following ideas, which may help to calm your baby:
•Respond quickly if your baby is crying. This may mean that they will cry less later on.
•Crying babies tend to arch their backs and stiffen their legs. Holding them curled in a C (or flexed) position helps to calm them down.
•Check that your baby is not too hot or cold or uncomfortable in some way.
•Wrapping or ‘swaddling’ in a cotton sheet can be calming.
•Many babies soothe themselves by sucking, so a dummy can be helpful, once your breast milk supply is going well.
•Rocking and patting can help soothe a baby.
•Soft lighting can also help some babies who may be distressed by harsh lights.
•Baby slings are great to provide comfort and contact if the baby needs to be held.
•Deep baths and gentle massage relax some babies, but they often don’t help if your baby is already crying.
•Soft music or noise that has a beat or rhythm, such as a loud clock, may help.
•You may be trying too hard to calm the baby (too much bouncing, patting and burping). Put your baby down somewhere safe for a while and see if they settle.
•Take the baby for a walk in a pram or a sling or for a ride in the car. You might find yourself going out for many rides in the car for a couple of weeks, but this will not last forever and many babies seem to find it helps them calm down. Don’t drive if you are too stressed to drive safely.
This is quite frustrating to read I must say. I walked the floors day in day out with both my children, as do thousands of other parents. It certainly wasn’t something a cuddle would easily fix.
Did you have a baby who suffered with colic? What would you like to say to Sarah?
Share your comments below.
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