Colic and crying midwife Q&A

Midwife Nikki Khan answers your questions about colic and crying

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Q: My baby is now 18-months-old and has been diagnosed with colic basically since she was born and now three months on she still does not sleep more than 2 hours a night. Doctors have told me that she is in a routine now of only two hours sleep…. surely she needs more sleep than that! I certainly do. Any advice on getting her into a better sleep routine would be so useful.

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A: At 18 months old, it is unlikely that your daughter is suffering from colic. If she is presenting with colic-like symptoms at this age you should seek further medical advice as your daughter may be suffering from lactose intolerance. She will want to remain more alert during the day at this age now, so keep her busy and she should be more ready to sleep longer at night. Ensure you differentiate between day and night feeds (eg. night feed in a dark room can sometimes help.).

Q: Hi there, I have just changed to exclusive bottle feeding (was part and part before) for my 4-month-old baby and I have noticed that he is crying more in between feeds (but is ok during and straight after). Could this be colic? Also is it because of the bottles?

A: Colic normally starts to subside around 4 months of age, so it is unlikely to be colic. It may be that he is gulping in too much air when feeding, so always ensure the teat is full of milk and that you wind him regularly during the feed. Try keeping him upright for about an hour after a feed to aid digestion. Changing teats may also help.

Q: We have just started weaning our 6-month-old. He is grumpier than usual, dribbling and raising his legs to his tummy. Just wanted to know if this is weaning or colic or both and how to best help him with his discomfort?

A: As your baby is 6-months-old, it is unlikely to be colic, as colic normally subsides around 4 months of age. Weaning is a difficult time for some babies as they try out new foods. He may be a bit constipated, so check out his nappies. A gentle clockwise tummy massage about an hour after a feed may also help to aid digestion. Alternatively he may be teething, hence dribbling and being more grumpy than usual. If his symptoms of discomfort persist, he may be lactose intolerant and you will need to seek medical advice.

Q: Does it make a difference if you breast or bottle feed as to how likely colic will be?

A: One recent study concludes that babies who are not breastfed are almost twice as likely to have colic.

Q: I have a 3 week old, he sleeps all day, but around 3am he wakes up. I change him, he eats, but he doesnt go right back to sleep, he fusses until about 5… it’s almost impossible to make him comfortable, I normally feed him again before he’ll sleep. The only thing that helps is rocking him back to sleep. Are these colic symptoms?

A: Colic symptoms are characterised by a high-pitched inconsolable cry usually in late afternoon and evening associated with a bloated tummy and red face and your baby drawing up his knees to his chest. Babies can suffer from colic from 2-4 weeks of age to around 4 months of age. Keeping your son upright following a feed, can help aid digestion and some women find the use of a simethicone based product such as Infacol helpful as it can ensure the trapped bubbles of wind are easier for your baby to pass and so relieve the discomfort. You may have to feed him more regularly throughout the day and he may settle for longer periods at night. The symptoms you describe sound more like mild wind discomfort, so ensure he is latched correctly if breastfeeding or that the teat is full of milk to ensure he does not gulp in too much air when feeding.

Q: How long will colic normally last for? I am worried my baby (3 months) cannot get rid of her symptoms. Are there any quick fixes?

A: Babies suffer from colic between the ages of 2-4 weeks of age to around 4 months of age. There are several ways you can help to ease your baby’s discomfort . Anticolic massage techniques about an hour after a feed can help, combined with regular winding techniques throughout and after the feed. Also try keeping your baby upright for about an hour after the feed to help aid digestion.

Some mums find using a simeticone based product such as Infacol prior to the feed can also help alleviate symptoms. Other tips are ‘white noise’ such as the humming of a washing machine, which does help to settle babies in some cases. Time will tell I am afraid, but hopefully the symptoms should subside soon!

Q: My baby has recently started furiously crying early evening and I can’t seem to comfort him. His face becomes flushed and he seems very agitated. It upsets me so much because nothing I do seems to relax him. Is this colic and what should I do?

A: Depending on the age of your baby, the symptoms could be attributed to colic as babies suffer from colic between the ages of 2-4 weeks of age to around 4 months of age. Characteristically, the inconsolable crying is worse late afternoon and early evening as in your son’s case. If your baby is within this age range  then he may be suffering from colic. If so, anticolic massage techniques about an hour after a feed can help, combined with regular winding throughout and after the feed. Also try keeping your baby upright for about an hour after the feed as this can help aid digestion.

Check your latching technique if breastfeeding and if bottle feeding ensure the teat is always full of milk and anti-colic teats may also help!

Q: I am currently using Infacol, however, my baby still seems in a lot of pain and I can’t get her to stop crying. Can you help please?

A: Infacol works well for a lot of mums and works by breaking down the small trapped bubbles of wind into bubbles that are easier for the baby to pass. It may be that you need to combine other techniques to help move these trapped bubbles such as anti-colic massage techniques and keeping your baby upright for a short period following feeds. Also check out your latching techniques if breastfeeding and if bottle feeding ensure the teat is always full of milk to avoid your baby gulping in too much air. Anti-colic teats may also help.

Q: We have so far refused to practice the ‘cry-it-out’ approach to dealing with our 3 month old, despite the recommendations of others. Is it something worth considering in relation to colic?

A: The ‘cry-it-out’ approach is not something we recommend although some mums may recommend it, as you have found out.

Colic can be an exhausting and difficult time for both baby and parents and listening to the persistent cry can be very distressing. There are other proactive methods that my work. Anti-colic massage techniques about an hour after a feed can help, combined with regular winding techniques throughout and after the feed. Also try keeping your baby upright for about an hour after the feed to help aid digestion.

The good news is colic symptoms only last till around 4 months and then should gradually subside, so hopefully things should improve soon

Q: My niece is suffering from colic. A friend recommended that a constant noise in the home such as a vacuum cleaner/washing machine can help as it distracts the baby from the colic. Is this true or just a wives tale?

A: Some mums swear by this and it is commonly known as ‘white noise’. Not sure how scientific it is but mums often tell me it works to distract colicky babies, so my recommendation would be to try it and see if it works for your little one!

Q: A friend of mine’s baby had colic and she tilted the cot at an angle so her baby wasn’t lying straight, is this ok to do? Are there any dangerous sleeping positions?

A: The recommendations by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) and the Department of Health is that for the first six months, the safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in your bedroom
Other recommendations include to always lie your baby on his or her back to sleep and place your baby with his or her feet at the foot of the cot to prevent them wriggling down under the covers. Don’t fall asleep with your baby while sitting or lying on a sofa or armchair and don’t let your baby sleep with a pillow. Always use a firm mattress with a waterproof cover for your baby’s cot and make sure that bedding is tucked in securely ensuring that your baby’s head isn’t covered with bedding. Tilting the cot at an angle is not recommended. Hope that helps!

Q: My little girl is suffering from colic, she is currently sleeping in her carry cot I push a small cushion under it so it’s titled and I personally put her on her side or back although some times on her tummy if she has bad colic and hot water bottle or hot bean bag works wonders hope this helps.

A: Unfortunately we do not recommend using a cushion to tilt the head or the use of hot water bottles and beanbags to ease discomfort for health & safety reasons. With regards to tummy time, that is fine for a short period whilst she is with you but not to be laid to sleep that way. Also positioning her to sleep on her side can predispose to her rolling on to her tummy, which is also not recommended by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID) and the Department of Health.

There are other methods of alleviating colic which can help such as anti-colic massage techniques about an hour after a feed, combined with regular winding techniques throughout & after the feed. Also try keeping your baby upright for about an hour after the feed to help aid digestion.

Q: I have had 5 children with my youngest being 4 months. I have never had any issues with them suffering from colic and they have all been very quiet so I am not familiar with the symptoms to watch out for or how to ease them. I think that my youngest may have colic, as I do not breastfeed how can I tell?

A: Babies suffer from colic between the ages of 2-4 weeks of age to around 4 months of age. Colic most commonly occurs in the late afternoon and evening when your baby may cry out in pain, draw her knees up to her chest and go red in the face. Her tummy may be swollen or bloated as if she’s swallowed a lot of air, and she might pass wind more than usual.

Colic is usually recognised by bouts of inconsolable crying, often for hours at a time, for no specific reason – i.e. your baby is not hungry, overtired, needs a nappy change or has a raised temperature and can be extremely tiring for both parents.

The most likely explanation for colic may be the build-up of trapped wind in your baby’s bowel causing pain and discomfort in these early months due to the immature digestive system of your newborn.

Anti-colic massage techniques about an hour after a feed can help combined with regular winding techniques throughout and after the feed. Also try keeping your baby upright for about an hour after the feed to help aid digestion.

Some mums find using a simeticone based product such as Infacol prior to the feed can also help alleviate symptoms. Other tips are ‘white noise’ such as the humming of a washing machine or a drive in the car, which can help to settle babies in some cases!

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Also always ensure there is milk in the teat and that you wind your baby regularly!

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