Being a mum is hard enough, but when your baby goes through that stage of crying continuously like his heart is going to break, it can just about tip you over the edge. But how do you know it’s colic? “Colic is defined as crying that lasts for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, in a baby under 3 to 4 months,” says independent health visitor Nicola Joseph. It tends to happen more during the later part of the day too.
“A baby will cry frantically and may bring his knees up to his chest, clench his fists and arch his back,” says Nicola.
While experts agree on when colic happens, they remain divided as to exactly what causes it. Rapid feeding, too much air getting into your baby’s feed, wind and food intolerance are all mentioned. Joanna Cram, an osteopath and member of the British Osteopathic Association, has lots of experience in treating colic and says it could be down to your baby’s immature digestive system. “He can find it hard to break down the large enzymes in milk, which results in a spasm of the gut as the digestive nerves work overtime,” she says.
One thing’s for certain, until the day when an absolute cause is discovered, the only way to soothe your distraught colic-sufferer is by finding out what worked for mums who’ve been through it all before… and survived with their sanity intact. So, here are some tried and tested solutions.
“Massage helps release calming endorphins and the right techniques alleviate your baby’s wind,” says Nicola Joseph. “Speak to your health visitor about courses.”
Helen Gourley, 34, from Dunblane, used massage on Jake, 5, and Zoe, 11 months. “I’d really recommend it,” she says. “Both my children had colic and I found a really simple massage technique, which involved rubbing their tummies in a clockwise direction and then pumping their legs repeatedly, worked really well. I’d do this after every bottle and in the evening if they were really bad, and it helped to settle them. The children really enjoyed it too and they often ended up giggling rather than screaming.”
Colic calming rating – 9/10
Babies love eye contact when playing
Swinging your baby
The theory is that newborns miss the constant swaying motion they experience in the womb. “Anything that involves motion or movement can help soothe a colicky baby,” says Nicola. A hands-free option is a baby swing as used by Rachel Honour, 27, from Essex. “James loves the repetitiveness of movement that the swing gives,” she says. “And the bumper bar of teddies provides a good distraction from his constant crying. In fact, James gave us his first, and so far only, smile in his swing, so I’m convinced it’s helping him.”
Colic calming rating – 7/10
It might sound wacky, but placing your baby near something with a constant hum or vibration does alleviate colic symptoms. “The vacuum cleaner and washing machine seem to soothe babies as they make the same everyday sounds and movements he was used to experiencing when he was in the womb,” says Nicola.
Sarah Veness, 32, from Norfolk, mum to Archie, 11 months, found white noise was a big help. “When Archie was screaming all day with colic I did some research on the Internet and found white noise might help. So we popped him in front of the tumble drier and his crying stopped. As we couldn’t have the drier on all the time, I found Charlie the Sleepytime Bear, £26.75, which worked wonders. It’s a bear that plays lots of different sounds including white noise and as soon as we switched it on Archie stopped crying. We set it to either 30, 60 or 90-minute cycles and it really helped him settle down and fall asleep.”
Colic calming rating – 10/10
Go for a drive
“Being on the go seemed to help ease Joe’s colic, so driving around in the dark at night was a regular activity for us when he was really bad,” says Jane Vickers, 35, from Suffolk, mum to Joe, 4 months. “I think seating him in an upright position in his car seat was better for him than lying down, so that helped to settle him a bit too. I did feel slightly ridiculous going out so late and driving along dark country lanes, but you’ll try anything to stop them crying!”
Colic calming rating – 8/10