Over 40% of babies suffer from colic. It is normally considered to be colic if a baby cries for a period of up to three hours a day for more than three days a week. Colic is not a clinical term as there is no common cause. There are a variety of reasons why babies are thought to get colic they vary from intestinal gas, muscle cramps, allergies due to the foodstuffs Mum eats and even anxiety in the Mum herself.
Colic normally develops at three weeks and continues until about six weeks.
So what can a breastfeeding Mum do to help with colic?
- Colic can develop when a baby does not have a good latch as the baby will be gulping in air as she feeds. So make sure you get yourself really comfortable before breastfeeding, sit on a comfortable chair and have lots of pillows to lift the baby to your breast. Bring your baby to your breast and then ensure that as much of the aereola is in the babies mouth as possible! If you are struggling talk to a lactation consultant they can help or check with a friend who also breast fed. Remember bottle fed babies get colic too so it may not just be you!
- Breast milk changes throughout a feed with the majority of the fats and calories being given in the hind milk at the latter stages of the feed. So if you feed from both breasts at one feed then sometimes the baby may not be receiving all the fats that will ensure your baby is fully satisfied. So consider feeding your baby off one breast until your baby has completely finished. Even considering putting your baby back to the same breast after he has appeared to finish at one breast so that you ensure that your baby has all the nutrients and calorific content from the feed. If your baby is still hungry then feed him from the other breast.
- Your baby may be struggling because your let down reflex may be too powerful and your baby just cant cope with the fast flow of milk. So if your baby is gagging and choking at the breast consider changing your breast feeding position lying down on your side and feeding or even lying on your back and latching your baby on! It sounds strange but gravity will be working in your babies favour! Feed your baby before your baby is ravenous so your let down reflex is not quite so strong. It may be worth considering expressing your milk if you believe this may be the cause and then feeding your baby once the flow has slowed. You can always feed your baby with the expressed milk by bottle which may reduce the colic but this would be a last resort if you as a Mum want to continue breastfeeding as the baby may find the bottle easier to manage than the breast!
- Remember to wind your baby if your baby especially take more care if your baby has colic! I used to put my baby over my shoulder and rub her back. Or sit your baby on your lap holding her chin and rub her back but try to bring up some wind after a feed if the colic is due to wind this will help.
- Use your instinct as a breastfeeding Mum. What have you eaten? May your baby be sensitive to the dairy products in your milk? Although evidence suggests this is very unlikely it is always possible. Cut dairy products from your diet including the hidden dairy products in processed food for a period of 7 days and then gradually reintroduce the foods and see whether there is a change in your baby. Could certain fruit or vegetables upset them? There are some suggestions that cutting out all fruit from your diet in the first six weeks will help and other information to cut out certain vegetables and if this helps your baby and you give it a go. However always ensure that you are still taking on the essential nutrients needed for your baby and you to remain healthy. I would always suggest talking to your GP or your dietician if you believe any foodstuffs in your diet are causing the colic in our baby.
- For me as a breastfeeding Mum though the thing I found most helpful was not to worry I knew two of my babies would be very unsettled in the evenings so I just made time for it. I would make sure I got all those jobs done that I needed to before my baby became unsettled and then if I needed to feed for two or three hours then I did. Try really hard not to listen to those people saying oh your milk is no good or you are letting baby rule the roost…this is what you and your baby need!
- Also evidence suggests that babies who are carried cry less. Pop your baby in a sling and carry your baby if they seem to get distressed at a certain time of the day! I also would take them for a walk or even pop them in the baby seat in the car and take the for a drive to settle them…not always possible I know but sometimes anything is worth a try!