What is Colic?

What is colic?

Colic is a term rather than an illness. The word colic comes from the Greek word, Kolikos meaning ‘Crampy pain’ and the root word means Colon in the human body but it can’t be proved that the gut has anything to do with ‘Colic’. We use persistent crying as the term as it best describes the experience. Whatever you call it, it’s incredibly distressing for both you and your baby.

So what do we know?

Sadly doctors don’t know exactly what infantile colic is, where the problem occurs in the body or what causes it. There are many theories but no guaranteed solutions.

The NHS share this on their website “All babies cry, but your baby may have colic if they cry more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for at least 1 week.” https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/colic/

Parents have shared the following feelings during their time in this situation:

  • Impairs breastfeeding
  • Isolates & casts parents into loneliness
  • Strains & break family relationships with feelings of failure as a parent
  • leads to physical and mental exhaustion
  • It creates desperation
  • Ruins everyday life
  • Destroys confidence and fuels low self esteem
  • Can leave parents with negative feelings and memories

We know research also shares it can create problems in later life for babies that have persistently cried for weeks in the early months of life.

So how do I know if my baby has ‘colic’?

These are the common symptoms of infantile colic:

Baby cries and often screams for long periods of time, are very hard to settle or soothe, it commonly occurs in early evening and baby displays some or all of the following:

  • Bring their knees up to their tummies
  • Arch their backs
  • Go very red in the face
  • Clench their fists
  • It’s hard to soothe or settle your baby

Opinions vary on how long this period of crying can continue for but most agree it passes by the time your baby is six months old.

Nicky explains what her experience and knowledge has taught her

“Birth trauma and the mechanics of birth create a lasting impact on the skull, deforming soft tissues and the corresponding strains which if left uncorrected then trigger the nervous system to move towards hypersensitivity – over stimulating the fight flight response = more episodes of crying and discomfort.

The Vagus nerve exits the skull at the base of the head and top of the neck and is commonly distorted after birth, especially births involving medical interventions and the guidance to lie a baby on its back for prevention of SIDS, can prevent the natural early expansion, realignment and rounding of the back of the head. This causes restrictions of the Vagus nerve which also communicates with the heart, stomach, digestive system. A response to discomfort experienced by a baby is that it will want to over eat i.e., it needs to ‘suck’ to find relief and a constant over feeding cycle then creates a triage of different challenges for parents and baby.

The last decade has seen an explosion of new research about the gut brain connection (Microbiome-gut-brain-axis or MGB Axis) and it is clear that the Vagus Nerve is the superhighway of information moving between the two areas and elsewhere. If the Vagus Nerve is low in tone (i.e. compressed) it is unable to stimulate the necessary production of co-factors throughout the body to create anti-inflammatory chemicals in the gut, providing a better environment for hosting helpful bacteria etc. This scenario if left unchecked creates ‘leaky gut’ which in turn increases digestive imbalances, for example, more production of methane has been found in the baby’s digestive tract. If the Vagus nerve is constantly in sympathetic activation (i.e.over stimulated through crying and discomfort), it affects this gut/brain axis.”

What can you do?

There are many products on the market that say they help with colic; anti-colic soothers, bottles, over the counter medications but from our research none of these products have solved the problem but we hope they help slightly as they’re expensive! GP’s don’t have a solution, as much as they want to solve the problem. Without knowing the exact cause of colic, it’s not possible to create a medication to solve it!

Some things you can do:

  • Ensure you have a good and varied diet during the antenatal and postnatal period to help grow and incubate the necessary helpful gut bacteria which then help to populate a new infant’s digestive tract through breast milk and skin to skin contact.
  • Supplementation with good quality probiotics taken by both mother and baby can assist in modulating persistent crying/colic but not in every case.
  • Visit a Craniosacral Therapist, Paediatric Chiropractor or Cranial Osteopath to rebalance the baby’s system and rectify strains.
  • Tiger in the Tree hold can comfort babies who are displaying ‘colic’ symptoms
  • Ensure you have support and when feeling overwhelmed it is important you take a good 15-minute break away from the situation, allow someone else to care for you and your baby at that time i.e. let them look after the baby. Or arrange for people to come and visit regularly to help out – then you are able to do something to help meet your needs and rest.
  • Take a bath, have a shower, go for a walk, take some deep breaths, stretch, pick up the phone and call a friend, try some Rescue Remedy, have a nap – any or all of these can help reduce the immediate stress reaction in yourself. Babies like young animals are very sensitive and pick up on what is going on around them.
  • Mindfulness Apps – lots to choose from, Headspace and others.
  • Massaging your baby will help – keep it short and not too demanding, i.e. massage their tummies, feet, hands – this level of focused touch will help you too, every baby is different, some respond more to movement, others touch, sound etc.  They will guide you. We have to remember if we had been scrunched up in a tight space for a few weeks – it will take a little while to unwind and loosen up our limbs whilst there is lots of growth happening too! There are lots of free resources online with Baby Massage routines or when you are ready; sign up for some classes and meet other parents too. Use a bit of natural cream or oil to help moisten and enrich their skins.  You can massage/touch your baby several times a day when you feel grounded and able to focus without feeling stressed. It is a calming moment for you and your baby.
  • Talk to your baby, engage them – I know it feels weird because they can’t yet answer you back but they will love it – imagine you are talking to a good mate and explaining what is going on, “I’m just going to change your nappy etc” the rhythm of your voice can calm them down. Singing can help too!
  • For some people and their babies Homeopathy works well – see a qualified practitioner who is experienced in working with children. Also, appropriate acupuncture/acupressure helps too.

One clear finding from our clinical study and research is when young babies use the Qudo Soother, they immediately relax which helps to ensure the parasympathetic system and it stimulates a strong cranial rhythm, naturally helping rebalance the baby’s body.

Click here for more tips from NCT

7 March 2022