Thursday, June 4, 2009

5 tips for soothing a colicky baby.

Colic. The dreaded, the mythical, the bane of parental existence... colic. It's such a cute little word when you look at it, yet the meaning it carries is ugly indeed. Crying. Your baby crying and there seems to be nothing you can do to help. The definition of colic is basically a baby who cries at predictable times during the day for around three hours at a time. There is no known cause or cure. Helpful huh? Of course colic has existed since babies have, and mothers over the years have learned a few things to try that might help you and your little screamer through the rough patches. Also, my 5 tips for gas and reflux can also be tried to help remedy colic.

1. The Superman hold.
Hold your baby tummy down, feet pointing at you, with one hand under her belly button and one hand supporting her head. Stand with your legs spread apart and swing your baby through your legs backward and forward, supporting the majority of her weight with the hand on her belly button. You can continue to hold her this way while seated, suspending her between your knees, bouncing a bit. The reason i think that this sometimes works is partly because it helps expel gas, partly because it provides a bit of warmth from your hand that may soothe your baby's abdominal muscles if they are sore and partly because the motion of swinging or bouncing can help a baby focus on her internal equilibrium which takes the focus off of whatever is causing the colic.

2. Examine your diet.
One possible explanation for colic is that it is actually your baby expressing discomfort because of food allergies. If your baby is bottle fed there are many other types of formula you can try, your pediatrician will be able to recommend one that is right for you and your baby. However, if you are breastfeeding, there are a thousand things it could be. Many mothers try to eliminate suspicious foods from their diet one at a time, which can take forever, and is still not guaranteed to help. I recommend a bland your diet for 2 days, then adding foods back in over a couple weeks. Try oatmeal (no milk or sugar) and an apple for breakfast, a baked potato with olive oil (no dairy) and roasted turkey breast for lunch and brown rice, carrots and grilled chicken (no onions) for dinner. As you'll notice the things cut out of this meal plan are dairy, wheat, legumes and most fruits and veggies. The fruits and veggies that are most often the culprit seem to be things like broccoli, onions, beans, acidic fruits, If you are on this diet for a couple of days and see no changes in your babies temperament then chances are it is not something you are eating, and you can either switch out the bland foods for other bland foods to rule out the few things that you were eating, or just go back to your normal eating habits. If your baby suddenly calms though, try reintroducing a few foods a day until your baby begins to be colicky again. Then slowly scale back to pin point which food was the issue. In rare instances there can be more than one allergen causing your baby discomfort, and quite often the cause is not rooted in your diet at all, but eliminating your diet as a cause will save you a lot of guilt and worry.

3. Try sleep-in-motion.
I am not a big fan of using sleep in motion (swings, cars, strollers), because of potential sleep problems that can develop as a result of over using it. However, there are times when helping your baby get some sleep (no matter how) outweighs everything else. First try the baby swing, since that will be the most convenient, then the stroller, and only as a last resort try the car. Though the car can often be the most effective, it is also the most work and the hardest on the environment. If you have a bicycle, and a baby-safe trailer, it is also a good method to try depending on the weather. After your baby is asleep, if you can stop the motion and they stay asleep I highly recommend it. Their sleep will be deeper and more restorative with less outside stimulation to contend with.

4. Use a hair dryer.
The most strange secret weapon against colic is sound. Though no one is certain why, the sound of a hair dryer, vacuum, car engine or fan can get your colicky baby's attention and calm their stress like nothing else. Though I'm sure there is a rational explanation for why this so often works, right now it seems a little like magic. Because leaving electronic devices running for too long both wastes energy and can be a fire hazard using a prerecorded source for the noise is the best option. You can record it yourself or buy recordings here. Just remember that keeping the noise at a fairly high level also seems to help. I recommend starting with the sounds on lower, and slowly turning it up until your baby begins to react positively. Before investing time or money in this solution try the real sound so you can be sure it will work for your baby.

5. A vibrating back massager on the tummy.
When all else seems to be failing, a technique that has worked for me a few times is to get a vibrating back massage device, wrap it in a towel to mute the strength of the vibrations, and apply it gently to your baby's belly. Be careful not to keep the massage device in any one place for too long (over 2 minutes), and try to keep the entire massage under 10 minutes. If you sometimes go as long as 15 it should be okay, but shoot for short sessions. If your baby responds well and falls asleep, stop the massage device and put it away.

Though colic is a difficult thing to go through with your baby, even if all the tips, tricks and hints in the world do not help you can at least take comfort in knowing that it does not last forever. Most colic resolves by 4 months, and %90 of cases resolve by 9 months. I know that it is a small comfort but sometimes even a distant hope is better than none at all. Always remember to keep an eye on your own stress and frustration levels. If you begin to be overwhelmed, laying your baby down in a safe crib and taking a short break, even while they are crying, to calm your nerves can make a huge difference to your ability to cope well with the stress of the situation.

Try to work together with your spouse or partner or supportive friend to give each other support and comfort, assigning blame and picking at each other, though natural, will only add more stress to the situation. Keep your spirits up, lean on each other and try try again until that magical day when your little human cacophony stops crying for no reason and spends the majority of his time being cute. Happy parenting!

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