Breastfeeding A to Z

Colic

This is a dreaded word for parents.

Usually colic in infants is defined as prolonged periods of crying and/or screaming.  It can last many hours and often is at its worst in the evening hours, but it can be any time of day.  Parents need to remember it is not their fault.

Colic and its causes are still poorly understood.  Most babies seem to outgrow it around 3 months of age as the intestinal tract matures. (1)  Things that may help you during a time with a fussy, irritable–colicky–baby include:

Research by Woolridge and Fisher (1) (2) suggest feeding on one side per feeding may help some colicky babies.  Sometimes when a baby is fussy they will be switched to the second breast before they finish the first.  This can increase the lactose content of their feeding may reduce the crying.  Later on most mothers in the study felt they needed to feed on the second side to satisfy their babies hunger, but by nursing longer on the first side, the irritability of their babies was reduced in most cases.

Another aid to parents of colicky babies is Dr. Harvey Karp’s suggestion that the first few months of life are like a fourth trimester and suggest creating a “womb-like” atmosphere is very calming.  His “five S” system from the book and video The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer may be what you need to soothe your baby. (1) (3)  http://www.happiestbaby.com/about-dr-karp/

You can try the five “s” system he describes:

Swaddling–Tight swaddling, wrapping baby in blanket provides what the womb was like during pregnancy.

Side/stomach position–Place the baby, while holding them wither on their left side to assist in digestion or on their stomach to provide support.  Once baby is asleep put them down to sleep on their back.

Shushing–These are sounds that imitate the continuous “whooshing” sound made by the blood flow thorough arteries near the womb.  This can be reproduced by a fan, vacuum cleaner, car ride or other white noise.  We’ve even had parents record the sound so they could play it back whenever they needed to.

Swinging–Baby is used to being in motion during your pregnancy.  Rocking, car rides and other swinging movements can recreate this motion.

Sucking–has a calming effect on the nervous system.  Sucking can be accomplished:

by breastfeeding,

a pacifier/bottle nipple (keep in mind the age of your baby; consider waiting until they are 3-4  weeks old and breastfeeding without difficult before introducing)

letting baby suck on your clean little finger, with short nail, pad side towards the roof of baby’s mouth.

References:

  1. Lawrence, RA, Lawrence, RM, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional, 7th edition, Maryland Heights, MO, Elsevier Mosby, 2011, pp 274-76.
  2. Woolridge, MW, Fisher, C, Colic, “overfeeding” and symptoms of lactose malabsorption in the breast-fed baby: A possible artifact of feed management. Lancet 2:382, 1988.
  3. Karp, H, The Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Newborn Baby Sleep Longer, New York, NY, Bantam, 2003.  http://www.amazon.com/The-Happiest-Baby-Block-Newborn-ebook/dp/B000SEI6L8