Coping With Colic
Tips for Comforting a Colicky Baby
If your baby is suffering from colic-like symptoms and no underlying cause has been identified, all that remains is to try to soothe her as best you can. Old wives -- and new moms -- swear by such remedies as simethicone drops, white noise, car rides, rocking, swinging, and fennel tea. In addition, the following strategies may help:
Smaller, more frequent feedings. Offering too much breast milk or formula can increase intestinal gas. Instead, try feeding your baby half as much but twice as often. An infant's stomach is the size of his fist. If you place your baby's fist next to a bottle filled with four ounces of liquid, you'll see why his tummy gets tense.
Colic carries. The football hold: Lay your baby stomach-down on your forearm, with her head cradled in your hand and her legs straddling the crook of your arm, and gently press your arm into her belly. The neck nestle: Snuggle Baby's head between your chin and your chest and croon a slow tune like "Old Man River" while swaying back and forth.
Colic dances. The type of choreography that works best to soothe colic mimics the motion that a baby experiences while in the womb: up and down, side to side, and forward and backward. My favorite dance is one that I call the elevator step. Holding your baby securely in the neck-nestle position, spring up and down, heel to toe, as you walk. Another comforting ritual is the dinner dance. Some babies love to breastfeed in a sling or carrier while you sway to music. Your movement plus his suckling will help settle even the most upset infant.
Baby bends. The gas pump: Lay Baby faceup on your lap and slowly pump her legs in a bicycling motion. The colic curl: Place Baby's back against your chest and encircle your arms under her bottom, then curl your arms up.
Baby bounces. Lay your infant tummy-down over a large "physio" ball (available through infant-product catalogs), place a securing hand on his back, and roll the ball in a circular motion (be very careful not to lose your hold on the baby). Or hold him in your arms and bounce up and down while you sit on the ball.
Tummy tucks. Place your baby stomach-down on a cushion or a warm (not hot) water bottle wrapped in a cloth diaper and rub her back.
Tummy touches. Sit your baby on your lap, place your palm over his navel, and encircle his abdomen with your fingers and thumb. Then lean him forward and gently press your hand into his tense belly. Or lay your baby on his back and picture an upside-down U on his abdomen. Using warm massage oil, gently knead his tummy with a circular motion, massaging clockwise (as you face him) along the lines of the imaginary U.
Warm caresses. A dip in the tub will relax both of you. Or try another proven fuss buster: While lying on your bed or the floor, hold your baby tummy to tummy and skin to skin with her ear over your heart.
Magic mirror. Hold your baby in front of a mirror and let him witness his own drama. Place his hand or bare foot against his image and watch him grow silent.
Babywearing. Think of pregnancy as lasting a year or more -- nine months inside and several months outside. One theory is that colic is a side effect of disorganized biological rhythms. During pregnancy, a baby's biological systems are automatically regulated. Birth disrupts this organization, but if parents extend the womb experience by "wearing" their baby a few hours a day in a sling or carrier, they may provide external regulation that helps organize her biological rhythms.
SWEET RELIEF AT LAST
When will it stop? Colic with no diagnosed medical cause tends to peak at 6 to 8 weeks and diminish by about 4 months. What's so special about 4 months? Around then, a baby develops more internal organization; his digestive system matures, and food sensitivities may subside; he can see clearly and is distracted from his fussing by the visual attractions around him; and he can play with his hands and engage in self-soothing finger sucking as well as waving his limbs in order to blow off steam.
As heart-wrenching as your baby's colic is now, remind yourself that it won't last forever. If you can get through this, the terrible twos will seem like a piece of cake.