Baby, Mind

‘Put her in the sling and start walking’: 7 practical tips for surviving the dreaded colic, from real parents…

Hats off to anyone who has endured the relentlessness of a colicky baby… Things are trundling along nicely, complete with the expected proliferation of leakages and broken sleep, and then it happens. Approximately four weeks in and your little bundle of joy starts crying. Incessantly.

Just as I was getting used to my second born not really doing much apart from sleeping, and furiously congratulating myself for having yet another good-natured baby, the wailing started. It was like clockwork. The mooching would start around 2:30pm, followed by fussing and then all-out caterwauling from 3pm until about 2am. This happened every day for the following two months. We nearly lost our minds.

The district nurse said it looked “like colic. There’s not much you can do about it apart from comfort her. She’ll grow out of it.” There was NOTHING we could do? Something had to be done, for the sake of sanity if nothing else.

Anyone else I frantically asked for advice said, “Maybe it’s reflux?!” Maybe it was, but nothing recommended for reflux seemed to appease her.

For the blissfully unaware; reflux is when a baby’s feed moves back into the oesophagus, usually when they’re lying down. The following tips might be deemed obvious, but always worth repeating…

• Feed your baby held in an elevated position and, preferably, keep them upright for another 30 minutes afterwards (sure what else would you be doing?!)
• Always burp baby a few times mid-feed. While it’s tempting to just let them have at it, especially if they’ve latched on well and you’re getting a crying reprieve, it’s pretty heartbreaking to see it all fly back up again. There’s more chance of that happening if they guzzle it in one go.
• It’s not always possible to feed your baby the second they start fussing, but bear in mind they may need more burping throughout as air is often swallowed while crying.
• If formula feeding, don’t be tempted to switch from the one you’ve been using to another “more suitable” one without having a chat with either a district nurse, a pharmacist, or a member of your chosen brand’s ‘helpline team’. Switching or mixing different strengths of formula willy nilly can cause constipation and further discomfort – for everyone.
• Over the counter remedies such as gripe water, Chamomilla, and colic drops can be purchased to make you feel proactive in your plight and can help alleviate the relentlessness momentarily – if only in the vain hope that they’ll work.

They’re essentially similar to the above, but require extra levels of sanity given the noise levels involved. Additionally, it’s worth considering some of the below in a bid to comfort a colicky baby.

• In my experience, colicky babies like being snuggled and swayed, particularly belly-down lying along your forearm.
• If your arms start aching (and they will) consider investing in a sling. I was always too tired to figure out the harness – plus it always felt like I was parachuting into the abyss. Slings, on the other hand, are more user-friendly… Either way, you’re reclaiming your hands. Always a bonus.
• Baths (for the baby) are good for relaxation, and they kill a bit of time.
• Gentle belly rubs.

In a quest to find some definitive guidance regarding how to comfort the colicky, I did some intrepid reporting (asked the parent’s WhatsApp group) for some pearls of wisdom. Between the standard “buy earplugs” and “drink all the wine” messages, there was practical advice.

Mary: “My aunt says babies don’t cry without a reason, but my mum had an awful time with one of us and she used to advise to feed, wind, change, repeat. If you start to lose it, put the baby in the cot and get yourself outside to calm down. Parents really need support, don’t they?”

Helen: “Step outside for a bit and breathe deeply, taking in all the oxygen you can! OR step outside for a few minutes and scream out all the co2 into the dark void of the night.”

Marcus: “Méabh cried and cried and we used to swaddle her close, then quickly swing her from left to right. She stopped… sometimes! We also put her in a sling and walked – for hours. A firm believer in the Fourth Trimester.”

Claire: “Unless there is actually something wrong, like hunger or reflux etc, I don’t think there is anything you can do to actually stop the crying. So, it’s just about getting through it the best you can without getting too frazzled. I’ve bought swaddles, tummy drops, gripe water, done baby yoga etc, and the ONLY thing that worked for me was time.”

Sarah: “We’ve only just come through it. My husband resorted to driving to Arklow a few months ago as the crying was every night, at the same time!! Eventually, she stopped. Time is the only thing.”

So, that’s it. Waiting for baby to grow out of this trying stage, while not snapping in the process, seems to be the only certainty when it comes to incessant crying.

As well as ensuring you take breaks however and whenever you can, do also bear in mind that colic can lead to bad sleeping habits. Thankfully, Stef was on hand with this helpful nugget…

“If it appears to be a habit, it can be broken. If they wake up around the same time every night, it’s a habit. Calum used to wake at 1am for no reason and balled. The Baby Whisperer book said to break their sleep pattern about 10 mins before they normally woke. Don’t wake them completely, just move them a little so the sleep pattern is disturbed. Do it for 3 nights. By night 4, it should stop. It worked for us, anyway! I couldn’t believe it. Worth a try.”

Did you try something that worked with your colicky baby? If so, please share below!

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