How to Handle… a Colicky Baby
Three takes on managing and curing colic
If your baby cries for more than three hours a day, more than three times a week and for more than three weeks in a row, she has colic… Which means you have a serious case of stress, exhaustion and—most likely—desperation, as well. Opinions differ across the medical community as to the causes of colic, but chances are you’re focused on one thing: finding relief for your little one (and for yourself). You’ve come to the right place. We turned to the pros—an infant sleep expert, a family physician, and an Ayurvedic pediatric specialist—for their tried-and-true colic cures.
Dr. Harvey Karp , author of the The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block
“Colic is a parenting nightmare, affecting 10 to 15 percent of babies. This terrible crying (and the exhaustion that accompanies it) can lead to depression, unsafe sleep practices, breastfeeding failure, obesity in parents, and even child abuse. Many parents fall for the mistake that this is normal… and nothing can be done to make it better. But that is a myth, and totally wrongf!
“The good news is that colicky crying is rarely caused by digestive distress (that’s why solutions having nothing to do with stomach pain—like running a vacuum cleaner or driving your baby around in a car—often stop the crying, fast). In most cases, the real cause of colic is that these fussy kids are under-stimulated; they miss the powerful rhythms and sounds of the womb. We can recreate that soothing environment for them, however, by using what I call the 5 S’s: swaddling, side/stomach position, swinging, sushing and sucking. Using the 5 S’s gives babies the comfort and security they’ve been crying out for, and provides parents enormous relief in knowing their infants are not in pain… not to mention by finally affording some sleep to the entire family!” (For more detailed information on the 5 S’s, click here)
Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a family physician in Lexington, KY, and co-author of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year
“My middle son had colic, and it was so stressful and frustrating to me that I swore I’d never have another child. (Wrong!) I felt helpless to comfort him when he would cry and fuss for hours on end— the worst feeling in the world for a mom. Our pediatrician pronounced him perfectly healthy and told me there was nothing to worry about—it was ‘just’ colic. He encouraged me to hang in there, take comfort in the knowledge that this too would pass, and realize that this wasn’t the worst thing my child would ever put me through!
“Knowing that my son was healthy gave me peace of mind, but I still had to deal with the near-constant crying and fussing. I found that burping my son frequently during feedings was very helpful. He would fuss when I interrupted his nursing to lay him across my knees to burp him, but it seemed to reduce the post-feeding pain and crying. The gentle pressure of my legs on his belly, combined with a little jiggling motion, helped him release any trapped gas and eased his discomfort. Soft vibration, gentle rocking and certain sounds—like the vacuum cleaner and the clothes dryer—also worked to comfort my son. But body contact soothed him more than anything else seemed to; I think I held him almost nonstop for the first six months of his life! When I needed to have both hands free, I’d put him in a baby backpack and let him ride around with me as I worked around the house. Sometimes he’d relax enough to doze off.
“I think it’s important to listen to your gut, and do what you feel is best for your child and yourself. The good news is that colic doesn’t last forever, and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t even last that long. Once you make it through this challenging phase, parenthood gets dramatically easier, and lots more fun!”
Dr. John Douillard, wellness expert, father of six, and author of Perfect Health for Kids: Ten Ayurvedic Secrets Every Parent Must Know
“If your baby is colicky, there is a reason—there is no such thing as a kid that ‘just’ has colic. In my practice, I typically find a handful of causes behind colic in babies, and they all stem from the digestive system. Few people realize that babies need water to digest well. There is a bicarbonate layer beneath the stomach that is 80 percent water; it’s the buffer for the stomach’s acid. No water means no buffer for the acid, which means poor digestion and colic. So, I always start with giving the child some water 15 minutes before feeding them; this allows time for it to fully hydrate the stomach lining. Then, I give a couple drops of an old Ayurvedic colic recipe just before feeding (if you’re breastfeeding, it may be helpful for you to drink this mixture, as well):
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/10 teaspoon (1 pinch) asafetida (a powerful digestive aid known as Hing in Chinese)
- 2 cups water
Combine the three herbs to make a powder. Boil the powder for 5-10 minutes in the water, reducing the water to 1-1/2 cups. Filter. When cooled, feed a few drops to the baby every 5-10 minutes until the colic subsides.
- Make another batch of the powder and mix with milk to make a thin paste.
- Apply to the baby’s abdomen during episodes of colic and leave on for about 1/2 hour.
- Repeat a few times a day if necessary.”
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