Baby Sense author Megan Faure runs her own practice in Cape Town where she assesses and treats extremely fussy babies and those with sleep and feeding issues related to sensory processing.
Here she answers common questions about colic.
The facts about colic
Colic is normal – most babies suffer from it to a degree. The crying usually starts at two weeks, peaks at six weeks and is decreasing by 12 weeks.
Most babies who exhibit colic, cry in the early evening between 5 and 9pm. Colic is defined as crying more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week and lasting for more than 3 weeks.
How can I prevent colic?
1. In pregnancy, avoid stress – this has been linked to stressed babies who cry more.
2. Watch your baby’s awake times. Babies that sleep regularly during the day generally have less colic. In Baby Sense and Sleep Sense we show you the awake times for each age band and you can use these to form a gentle baby-centric routine.
For a newborn, 45 minutes to an hour awake is enough and then it’s time to sleep again.
3. Do not over-stimulate your baby in the late afternoon – don’t go on crazy outings, to the shops or big social gatherings after 4pm. Batten down the hatches before bedtime.
4. Watch your baby for signs of over-stimulation, particularly in the late afternoon: watch for signs of looking away, sucking on hands and grizzling. Heed these signals so you can start calming your baby in the run-up to bedtime.
5. Use movement to soothe your baby and don’t worry about spoiling her – a sling is a great tool for preventing colic.
6. Swaddle, swaddle swaddle! In general, babies like to be swaddled until 9 – 14 weeks by which time they have found their hands and can self-soothe better.
Swaddle for both day and night sleeps. Try the Cuddlewrap, which is specially shaped to keep your little one’s hands near their mouth.
How to deal with a colicky baby?
Try settling your little one by using this pre-bed routine.
1. Don’t bath him before bedtime as he may be too overstimulated to deal with the extra stimulation of bathtime then. Instead, bathe him in the morning until the colic abates.
2. Swaddle him firmly as swaddling really helps to settle little ones.
3. Feed him the last feed of the day in the dark.
4. Burp him briefly – 5 mins at the most- if a burp does not come up, leave it and don’t ‘chase’ those winds
5. Put him down to sleep after his feed and burping.
6. If he starts to fuss, hold your hand on him and let him wriggle and fuss a little – NOT crying, just fussing. Often if you avoid fiddling with him, lifting and burping him further, he is more likely to settle.
7. If he cries, lift him and feed once more – a cluster feed before bed.
8. Follow steps 2-6 again.
9. If he is really crying, lift him up and place him in a sling to walk around with him until he falls asleep. A sling creates a womb space for soothing newborns.
What if I’ve got older children?
Managing colic with other children in the home can be an enormous challenge.
If your other children are old enough to understand, explain the situation to them and ask them to give you the space to settle the baby.
Make sure you spend good quality time with the older children in the afternoon or after settling your little one so that they don’t feel left out or resent the mummy-time their younger sibling is getting.
If your other child is a toddler, try to elicit some help from your partner, a neighbour, family or even a paid babysitter if necessary while you settle the baby.
If there is no help on hand, you’ll have to rely on the next best babysitter there is: TV, just while the pressure is on. Don’t feel guilty about this, it’s temporarily essential.
My first baby had colic, will No2 also suffer?
The good news is that no two babies are the same. If your first baby was colicky, your second will be different and often this means less colicky.
Also, as an experienced mum, you will be more likely to read the warning signs next time. This means you’ll find it easier to deal with, especially if you follow the steps above.
Are bottle-fed babies more likely to suffer from colic?
Since colic has more to do with over-stimulation, milk does not have a huge bearing on most cases of colic. Research shows no correlation between what a baby is fed and colic.
So breastfed babies are as likely to suffer as bottle-fed babies. Do not be tempted to stop breastfeeding in an attempt to rule out allergies or intolerances or to see how much milk your baby is getting. The chances are there will be no effect on the colic.
Likewise, breastfed babies are not immune to colic so don’t berate yourself if you are bottlefeeding. Very rarely an intolerance may cause irritability or reflux which will impact on crying levels. To rule this out, see your doctor.